Bonds, Alou Should Both Go
Alou has become a major embarassment to the Giants, primarily because of his over-the-top comments about “a messenger from Satan” in the wake of the Larry Krueger rant on KNBR, but also because of his managerial style. His mishandling of the pitching staff led to a public criticism by reliever Jason Christiansen. Though Christiansen is gone, his criticism showed that Alou no longer commands the respect of his players.
My assumption has been that the Giants would encourage Alou to take a settlement on his contract, which was extended through 2006 earlier this season, to defuse the controversy and problems Alou’s return would cause.
A different theory was advanced by my friend, Marty Lurie, who believes it would be unfair to bring in a new manager to have to deal with Bonds next year. It would be better to wait a year, when Bonds will be gone, to bring a fresh face into the manager’s office.
The question marks surrounding Bonds aren’t the only problems. Though the Giants have gone with the youth movement with their pitchers, two months late, they still have position players they can’t afford to dump. If they can’t trade either Edgardo Alfonzo or Ray Durham, they’ll have them both on the roster next season, at $6.5 and $7 million, respectively, which would chase Pedro Feliz back to the outfield.
That would make it awfully crowded. Randy Winn will be in center; he’s not the second coming of Willie Mays, but he’s better than anybody else the Giants have. Moises Alou will be at one of the corner spots because the Giants need his bat. That leaves Todd Linden, who’s looking more and more like a big hitter, the ball just jumping off his bat; Jason Ellison, who played well as a rookie before being demoted; and Feliz, who leads the Giants in home runs and RBIs.
And, of course, a man named Bonds.
BUT WILL Bonds be back?
He’s now taking batting practice, and there’s been much speculation that he’ll be able to return this month. Certainly, the Giants could use his bat because they’re still in the race in the pathetic NL West, but general manager Brian Sabean threw a little cold water on that yesterday, saying that everything Bonds is doing is in a controlled atmosphere. He isn’t having to make the starts and stops that would be required if he were running the bases or playing in the field.
Meanwhile, Bonds has been saying the Giants can’t trade him, and as a 5-and-10 player (at least five years with one team, 10 in the majors) he can block any trade. Not to mention that the Giants have absolutely no control over Bonds.
That doesn’t mean he’ll be in a San Francisco uniform for the 2006 season, though. It probably won’t be in the best interests of either Barry or the Giants.
Even last year, Bonds was pretty shaky in the field. He paced himself, going all out only for the most important plays. Giants managing general partner Peter Magowan said a good highlights video could be made of Bonds’ best plays, but it’s also true that a longer video could be made of those plays Bonds just let go.
So, if we’re talking of a Bonds who will be two years older than he was in 2004, who has come off three knee surgeries. . . How effective will he be in the field? Even if the Giants would be willing to let him imitate a statue in left field, could his knees hold up with the starts and stops?
There are other elements, too. One of the biggest reasons for injuries in baseball is the nature of the game, in which players spend so much time just standing and then are suddenly called on to make a quick movement. With Bonds, that’s multiplied because he walks so much. We know he’ll be on base frequently, so there will be many times when he’ll have to be almost stationary – until somebody hits the ball and he has to move suddenly.
If Bonds tries to play most of the games in left – even he admits he’d have to take more games off – I think the most likely scenario is that, after 2-3 games, his knee would swell up again and he’d have to take at least that much time off.
Being a part-time player and pinch-hitter wouldn’t give him much chance to pursue the Babe Ruth/Hank Aaron career home run records. So, it makes sense for both Bonds and the Giants to trade him to an American League club, where he could be the designated hitter.
That team won’t be the A’s, and the speculation that he’d go there is ridiculous. The A’s entire payroll is about $60 million. As much as general manager Billy Beane admires Bonds – he told me BEFORE Bonds started his big home run push that he was the biggest offensive force in baseball – the A's won’t add $18 million to that for one player.
Nor will it be the two highest revenue teams in the American League, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Both already have high-priced, productive designated hitters, Jason Giambi for the Yankees, David Ortiz for the Red Sox.
The only AL team that would be willing to pay Bonds’ salary would be the Anaheim Angels, whose owner, Artie Moreno, has already shown a willingness to expand his budget for a top-line player when he signed Vladimir Guerrero as a free agent. That would be a good fit for Bonds, who is making his home in the Los Angeles basin now.
I suspect Bonds is using his leverage with his public statements about not being traded, so the Angels would agree to extend his contract another year, which he will need to challenge Aaron’s record. I don’t know whether Moreno would agree to that, but even if he doesn’t, I think Bonds will agree to a trade because it’s better to be the DH every day than to sit on the bench unable to play consistently for the Giants.
IF THE GIANTS no longer had Bonds’ salary on their books, they’d have more payroll flexibility. They could also be more realistic about what they need in their everyday lineup, instead of just filling in with mediocre older players.
And, they could quietly get rid of Alou as manager. He was the perfect choice to replace Dusty Baker, but the events of the summer have dramatically altered that situation. It’s time for him to go.
TOMORROW: I had intended to write about the Cal quarterbacks today but didn’t get a chance to talk to Jeff Tedford yesterday. I’ll do that today and write about Cal tomorrow.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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