2 San Francisco Giants In this one-star system the supporting players will make or break the season

April 04, 2004

Shortly before Opening Day last season Giants assistant general
manager Ned Colletti asked new manager Felipe Alou whether he
preferred to carry 11 or 12 pitchers. Alou answered by telling a
story about a ruthless 14th-century Haitian ruler who ordered a
hilltop castle to be built. Twenty-four men were pushing a huge
boulder up the hill when one man stumbled and fell, causing
others to topple on him and the boulder to bound down the hill.
The ruler took half the men and killed them. The other half
promptly moved the boulder up the hill without a problem.

"Sometimes," Alou said, "you have to take less to get more."

The moral of the story can be applied to the Giants as well. Last
season, for instance, they won 100 games even though Jason
Schmidt was their only pitcher to win more than 10 games, no
player drove in 100 runs and the team finished last in the league
in stolen bases. "We were a good team, but the reason why we won
100 games was the manager," Colletti said. Alou's club won almost
70% of its games decided by one or two runs (49-22).

Of course Alou, who seems to push the right buttons with his
lineup and the use of his bench, gets more than a little help
from Barry Bonds, the leftfielder who has put up three dominant
seasons since turning 37. (He turns 40 in July.) In just those
past three seasons Bonds has hit 164 homers, reached base 989
times and posted three of the top seven OPS marks (on-base
percentage plus slugging percentage) in history.

San Francisco's blueprint has been to surround Bonds with
complementary players rather than add another star. They had no
interest in spending to get free-agent outfielder Vladimir
Guerrero this winter. Why go there when journeyman Michael Tucker
(55 RBIs for Kansas City in 2003), oft-injured Jeffrey Hammonds
(cut last year by Milwaukee) and Dustan Mohr (36 RBIs in 121
games with Minnesota) will do?

No supporting players are more important than Ray Durham and
Edgardo Alfonzo, each of whom is coming off a subpar season.
Durham, 32, broke down physically. He went on the DL for the
first time in his career in May with a jammed right ankle, played
with hip bursitis in August and went back on the DL that same
month with a right hamstring strain. The leadoff hitter who had
scored 100 runs and stolen at least 23 bases for six straight
years scored just 61 runs and stole seven bags. "It's huge,"
Colletti said of a Durham comeback. "If he's the same player he
was before he was hurt, that's just as important as whoever hits
behind Barry. If Ray's on base ahead of Barry, that's more likely
to force teams to pitch to Barry."

Alfonzo gets the RBI opportunities that come with hitting behind
Bonds. Not only did Alfonzo, 30, have to rally to hit .259 last
year, but he's also been mired in a strange three-year decline
during what typically are the prime ages for a hitter. Over the
past three years, the first two with the Mets, Alfonzo, who in
1999 and 2000 hit .313, while averaging 26 homers and 101 RBI,
has hit just .270 and averaged 15 homers and 62 RBIs.

Alfonzo hit .167 in his first month with the Giants and stood at
.236 with only five home runs at the All-Star break. The third
baseman, who lives in New York, said the separation from his wife
and two young sons caused him anxiety, and he began to hit better
after they joined him in San Francisco in late June. Privately,
though, the Giants noted that Alfonzo reported to last year's
camp in poor condition and needed to play himself into shape. "I
did more work over the winter and feel real good now," Alfonzo
says. "I did a little more hitting than I usually do in the
winter too."

Said Alou of Alfonzo's 48-RBI second half last year, "We finally
saw the player we were [expecting]. I'm not looking for the long
ball. I'm looking for the big hit."

The Giants have other issues besides what they can expect out of
Durham and Alfonzo. Schmidt is nursing a sore right shoulder and
closer Robb Nen, who has had three shoulder surgeries in three
years, will open the season on the DL. Brett Tomko and Dustin
Hermanson make for questionable depth in the rotation. But as
long as they have Bonds, with eight guys in uniform beside him,
the Giants can push the boulder up the hill again. --T.V.

COLOR PHOTO: ELIOT J.SCHECHTER/GETTY IMAGES FLEETING IMAGE The Giants need a healthy Durham to provide a spark in the leadoff spot and on the base paths. COLOR PHOTO: JEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES PIERZYNSKI

IN FACT
Barry Bonds's OBP topped .500 for the third time, a feat only Ted
Williams (three) and Babe Ruth (five) achieved.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Giants

"A lot of guys griped last year about Felipe Alou's not
communicating. They were used to Dusty Baker, who was one of the
boys. Alou is confident in his decisions and never lets a
player influence him to change his mind. A lot of these guys
need someone to pat them on their backs and tell them
everything's going to be O.K.... A.J. Pierzynski is not great
defensively and is known to be mouthy. It'll be interesting to
see how he fits in.... With all the BALCO stuff Barry Bonds
hasn't been a happy camper. He's going to pass Willie Mays in
home runs and nobody's talking about it.... No one thought
Marquis Grissom would have the year he had last year. Can he do
it again?... Neifi Perez is a big defensive upgrade over Rich
Aurilia at short, but he won't give you the same offensive
production.... The bullpen should be strong. Felix Rodriguez is
working on a changeup, though he doesn't seem to have
confidence in it yet.... Kirk Rueter goes out and competes, but
is he the guy you want out there in a best-of-five series? Not
for me."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2003 statistics

BATTING ORDER

2B Durham
1B Snow
CF Grissom
LF Bonds
3B Alfonzo
RF Tucker
C Pierzynski
SS Perez

MARQUIS GRISSOM

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 97 .300 20 79 11

BARRY BONDS

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L 10 .341 45 90 7

MICHAEL TUCKER [New acquisition]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 198 .262 13 55 8

NEIFI PEREZ

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 335 .256 1 31 3

RAY DURHAM

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 141 .285 8 33 7

EDGARDO ALFONZO

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 164 .259 13 81 5

J.T. SNOW

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L 231 .273 8 51 1

A.J. PIERZYNSKI [New acquisition]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 182 .312 11 74 3

BENCH

PEDRO FELIZ

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 184 .247 16 48 2

DUSTAN MOHR [New acquisition]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 255 .250 10 36 5

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Jason Schmidt 3 17 5 7.2 0.95 2.34
LH Kirk Rueter 81 10 5 5.4 1.48 4.53
RH Jerome Williams 109 7 5 6.2 1.26 3.30
RH Brett Tomko 183 13 9 6.2 1.52 5.28
[New acquisition]
RH Dustin Hermanson 181 3 3 5.6 1.37 4.06

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Robb Nen* 103 6 2 43 1.14 2.20
RH Matt Herges 127 3 2 3 1.23 2.62
RH Felix Rodriguez 175 8 2 2 1.44 3.10

(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*2002 stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 142)

2003 RECORD
100-61
first in NL West

MANAGER
Felipe Alou
second season with San Francisco

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)