Giants Manager, A's, Raiders
by Glenn Dickey
Oct 11, 2006

LOU PINIELLA as the next manager of the Giants? Don’t bet on it. Ron Wotus, who has managed in the minors and been the bench coach on the major league level, is a much more likely choice.

Piniella is a good friend of Giants general manager Brian Sabean from their days in the Yankees organization, so they met while Piniella is in the Bay Area to work on the telecasts of the ALCS in Oakland. But Piniella has said that, if he gets back into managing, he wants to be with a contender. The Giants do not fit that description.

Now that they’ve finally realized that their plan of building with superannuated veterans has failed, the Giants have a huge rebuilding job to do, without the means to do it. The free agent market is shaping up as a weak one, with only Alfonso Soriano a hot item. Since the Giants have said they won’t have another contract like Barry Bonds ($18 million a year) that takes them out of the Soriano Sweepstakes.

Though they’ve talked of rebuilding with young players, their farm system isn’t producing anything but mediocre players. Pedro Feliz is the only legitimate starting position player produced in the 10 years Sabean has been GM. (You can, of course, go back even further, beyond Sabean’s tenure.) They’ll probably try to re-sign Feliz, who can be a free agent, though he’s a limited player – good glove, some power, a hacker with a low OBP. They’ll probably also extend the contract of Shea Hillenbrand, a good average hitter but another hacker with a low OBP, below average power for a corner infielder and a mediocre defensive first baseman. Feliz and Hillenbrand are hardly building blocks for a contending team, but they’re better than anything the Giants can get out of their system.

The Giants have concentrated on pitching with their draft picks, but Matt Cain is the only one of the young pitchers who does not have a question mark behind his name.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have several good young prospects. They’ll be better next year. So will the Colorado Rockies, a young team. The Giants finished just half a game out of the NL West cellar this season. They’ll be lucky to escape it next season. Hardly the kind of team Piniella is looking for.

That hasn’t stopped the speculation, of course. My favorite is the notion that the Giants would sign Piniella and then trade for Alex Rodriguez. Don’t hold your breath.

WOEFUL WEST: The NL West did get two teams into the postseason, the Dodgers and Padres, who won one game out of the collective seven they played. Actually, that’s one more than I thought they would, and it really shows how dismal the Giants were, as they finished 10- 1/2½mes behind these two teams.

BONDS BACK: I get e-mails from Giants fans on both sides of the Bonds issue, more from those who want him back. Sometimes I ask those who want to see him go when they last went to a Giants game. The answer is usually something like five years ago, 10 years ago or, most common, something like, “I used to go to a lot of games but I moved out of the Bay Area several years ago, so I just follow them through the newspapers and TV these days.”

On the other hand, when I go to the park, I often walk around and talk to fans who love Bonds. Of course, you can also hear that through the reaction when he comes to bat – and the mass exodus after his last at-bat.

Which group of fans do you think will carry the most weight with the Giants as they decide whether to bring Bonds back?

A DIFFERENT GAME: The A’s postseason play so far perfectly illustrates what a crapshoot the playoffs can be. In the regular season, there are wild swings from game to game, but they even out over the 162-game season. In the short postseason series, there isn’t time for that.

The Minnesota Twins, for instance, were the best team in baseball from June 1 on, with good pitching, timely hitting and a strong defense. But they unraveled in the divisional series, defensively and offensively.

Tuesday night, it was the A’s turn to self-destruct, as they set a record by going 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Barry Zito had his worst postseason effort. He started strong, retiring the first eight hitters, but that was probably a result of the early start, when the sun reflections prevented hitters from getting a good look. Once the Tigers could see clearly, they tore into Zito, who also got squeezed by the home plate umpire, I thought.

It’s anybody’s guess what will happen next. When I talked to Joe Morgan before the game, he thought it depended on which Tigers team showed up – the one which couldn’t beat Kansas City in the last weekend of the season or the one which dominated the Yankees in the divisional series. Turns out there was another question: Which A’s team would show up? If the A’s team which looked so good against the Twins doesn’t show up tonight, it will be a short series.

BASEBALL ACADEMIES: In Latin America, baseball academies for youngsters are common; there are three in the Dominican Republic alone.

Concerned about the falloff of American blacks in baseball, Morgan has talked to commissioner Bud Selig for years about establishing some academies in this country. “We’ve got one, in Compton,” he said, “so I guess that’s progress.” When I noted that nothing happens fast in baseball, Morgan said, “Unless it makes money. Then it gets done immediately.”

ARE WE TALKING 0-16? Yes, the Raiders coaching is dreadful. Both Art Shell and offensive coordinator Tom Walsh are hopelessly behind the curve. That has shown most obviously the last couple of weeks because of the lack of adjustments, as the Raiders have blown halftime leads against the Browns and 49ers.

But the sad fact is that Al Davis can’t get a good coach to come to the toxic wasteland in Oakland. Sean Payton didn’t want any part of the Raiders when he was a Dallas assistant, and now, he’s doing a fine job in New Orleans. Bobby Pitino considered it before he came to his senses, which left Davis little choice but to bring back Shell. I doubt that Shell will last beyond this year, but it’s unlikely the Raiders will get anybody better – unless Davis finally steps down.

Meanwhile, the Raiders’ media guide has a raised finger signaling No. 1. What timing. Unless, of course, they were predicting the first 0-16 finish in league history.

PATRIOTISM OVERLOAD: I thought of Samuel Johnson’s famous quotation, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” when I heard of Selig’s edict that “God Bless America” be played before the seventh inning of every postseason game.

Of course, baseball has long wrapped itself in the flag. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt urged owners to continue their seasons during World War II, the owners decided to play the National Anthem before the start of every game. The practice continued after the war and was extended to every sport.

There is no logical reason for this. It’s not played before the start of a play, symphony or opera. It should be reserved for appropriate occasions. Playing it before every athletic contest cheapens it. And going beyond that with “God Bless America” really is overkill.



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