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1 San Francisco Giants

April 04, 2005
April 04, 2005

Table of Contents
April 4, 2005

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1 San Francisco Giants

With its star knee-deep in rehab and turmoil, a contender plays the waiting game

As a teenager Moises Alou was walking along the beach in the Dominican Republic with his father, Felipe, one day, when the older Alou picked up a rock and threw it far into the sea. Felipe was in his late 40s at the time, but he still had enough of an arm after his 17-year major league career to fire the stone a long way. Without a word Moises picked up a rock and flung it, Felipe remembers, nearly twice as far.

This is an article from the April 4, 2005 issue Original Layout

That was a couple of decades ago, but Felipe, now the Giants' manager, remembers the episode because it told him two things. One, that Moises might have the physical ability to be a big league ballplayer someday. "The other thing," Felipe says, "was that he liked to be challenged."

At 38 Moises still likes a challenge, and he has an even bigger one than he expected to face when he signed a two-year free-agent contract with San Francisco in December. The Giants brought him in to fill the important fifth spot in the batting order, behind Barry Bonds. But with Bonds out indefinitely after a knee operation--his third time under the knife since the end of last season and second in two months--San Francisco doesn't need Alou to protect Bonds: They need him to be Bonds.

At least they need him to do a reasonable imitation until the 40-year-old slugger returns to the lineup. Alou isn't likely to duplicate Bonds's 45 home runs, .812 slugging percentage and major-league-record 232 walks in 2004. But he did hit .293 with 39 homers (a career high) and 106 RBIs (five more than Bonds) for the Cubs last season. "Moises will hit," says Felipe. "He's always been able to hit, and all you have to do is look at what he did last year to know that he's still dangerous. He may be older, but you don't forget how to hit overnight."

If Alou fails to approach his '04 numbers, it may have less to do with his age than with his new address, spacious SBC Park. Alou was much less productive on the road last season (.247, 10 homers) than at hitter-friendly Wrigley Field (.339, 29). If Bonds is out until midseason or longer, as he morosely indicated he might be to a group of reporters on March 22, San Francisco becomes a far less clear-cut favorite in the NL West. But Bonds's pessimism notwithstanding, the Giants think the original timetable set for his rehabilitation, which would get him back in action in early May, still holds.

Most of his teammates think Bonds's ominous assessment was an indication of his growing frustration over his balky knee and the steroid innuendo that dogs him. "I think it was one of those rehab days where the media caught him at the wrong time," Moises said the day after Bonds made his pronouncement. "Maybe he's not optimistic about [his knee] right now, but that's a natural feeling. Everybody's dealing with what we've got here, but we know that Christmas is coming--and we're going to get a big gift."

When and if Bonds does return, the geriatric Giants will have a particularly elderly outfield with 37-year-old centerfielder Marquis Grissom flanked by Bonds in left and Alou in right. Their inability to cover as much ground as they once did could undermine a solid pitching staff.

Still, San Francisco would gladly watch a few more fly balls fall in the outfield in exchange for seeing Bonds send even more balls flying out of the park, and Alou is eager to fulfill the role as Bonds's second banana for which he originally signed on. "I know why I'm here, and I know what's expected of me," he says. "This is a job I know how to do."

It was probably inevitable that Alou and Bonds would one day play together in San Francisco, because both have Giants pedigrees. Bonds's father, Bobby, spent seven years with the team, and Alou's father and two uncles, Jesus and Matty, are all former Giants. The Alous made history in 1963 as the only three brothers to play in the same major league outfield. "But they never won a World Series in San Francisco," says Moises. "That's the history I would like to make." His chances to do so depend largely on whether he spends the bulk of the season batting behind Bonds or in place of him. --Phil Taylor

In Fact

Righthander Jason Schmidt's 251 strikeouts last season were the most by a Giants pitcher since Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson had 259 in 1908.

Enemy Lines

an opposing team's scout sizes up the Giants

"Barry Bonds changes the game. His OBP makes his teammates' numbers well above average. He's so physically gifted he'll come out of this knee [rehab] just fine.... Moises Alou is going to have fun adjusting to rightfield, especially in their ballpark. You don't know if the ball is going to hit a chain-link fence or brick--it's a nightmare.... Pedro Feliz is a valuable guy, because he can play first, third, or go into the outfield. With enough at bats, he'll hit 25 home runs.... Mike Matheny adds a lot at catcher. He handles the pitching staff well and is a Gold Glove guy.... People don't understand how good Omar Vizquel is. He has the best hands in the game.... Jason Schmidt pitches well into the eighth inning with a good fastball. Brett Tomko is starting to mature and has the stuff to be successful. Kirk Rueter wins with below-average stuff. Jerome Williams has great command and a good feel for pitching.... Armando Benitez has blown some big games, but he has one of the highest save percentages in baseball. He throws a splitter and a slider at any time. Look for a very good year from him."

The Lineup

projected roster with 2004 statistics

Batting Order

2B Durham

SS Vizquel

1B Snow

LF Bonds

RF Alou

CF Grissom

3B Alfonzo

C Matheny

MARQUIS GRISSOM

B-T R

PVR 121

BA .279

HR 22

RBI 90

SB 3

BARRY BONDS

B-T L

PVR 45

BA .362

HR 45

RBI 101

SB 6

MOISES ALOU [New acquisition]

B-T R

PVR 47

BA .293

HR 39

RBI 106

SB 3

OMAR VIZQUEL [New acquisition] 

B-T S-R

PVR 234

BA .291

HR 7

RBI 59

SB 19

RAY DURHAM

B-T S-R

PVR 70

BA .282

HR 17

RBI 65

SB 10

EDGARDO ALFONZO

B-T R

PVR 187

BA .289

HR 5

RBI 50

SB 0

J.T. SNOW

B-T L

PVR 163

BA .327

HR 12

RBI 60

SB 4

MIKE MATHENY [New acquisition]

B-T R

PVR 266

BA .247

HR 5

RBI 50

SB 0

BENCH

PEDRO FELIZ

B-T R

PVR 97

BA .276

HR 22

RBI 84

SB 5

MICHAEL TUCKER

B-T L-R

PVR 241

BA .256

HR 13

RBI 62

SB 5

DEIVI CRUZ

B-T R

PVR 346

BA .292

HR 7

RBI 55

SB 1

2004 RECORD

91--71

2nd in NL West

MANAGER

Felipe Alou

third season with San Francisco

ROTATION

View this article in the original magazine

21

2

2

47

0.82

1.29

RH Jim Brower

218

7

7

1

1.35

3.29

LH Jason Christiansen

251

4

3

3

1.67

4.50

New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws IPS: Innings pitched per start WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 69)

COLOR PHOTOJOHN BIEVERBE BARRY Brought in to protect Bonds in the order, Alou instead will serve as the big bat in the lineup until the slugger's return.COLOR PHOTOJOHN CORDES/ICON SMIBenitez