Giants Scouting Woes. . . and Much More
by Glenn Dickey
May 05, 2005

WHY CAN’T athletes stay in shape? Armando Benitez’s excessive weight was certainly a factor in his hamstring injury. If he’s that heavy at 32, I shudder to think what he’ll be like at 50.

Then, there’s Ray Durham. When he was with the A’s for half a season, they planned to try him in the outfield if they could re-sign him because he wasn’t a very good second baseman. At the time, the word in the baseball world was that Durham would have injury problems because he didn’t work out in the offseason.

The Giants signed him to a big contract, anyway, along with Edgardo Alfonzo, whose power production had fallen off sharply. With the Giants, Durham has been injured frequently. When he’s played, he’s made occasional brilliant plays but misfired frequently on routine ones. Alfonzo has continued to put up middle infielder numbers.

A member of the Giants organization once told me that their scouts don’t sit with other scouts at games because they don’t want to share information. The Giants might want to re-think that position because it seems they’re not getting information everyone else has.

NO INSURANCE? When Benitez was injured, the question arose again: Why didn’t the Giants have insurance on his contract?

The answer is the same as it was for Robb Nen: The premiums have risen sharply for those policies and there’s a clause in them that says there will be no payoff if there’s a “pre-existing medical condition.” There probably isn’t a pitcher in the majors who doesn’t have that.

LOVE THAT SCHEDULE: The only good news for the Giants lately has been their schedule: They’re 8-1 against the Rockies and Pirates, the two worst teams in the National League, and they get the Pirates again next week and the Rockies the week after. They will have to play the big boys soon, though, and they’re currently 6-12 against teams that aren’t the Rockies or Pirates.

BARRY’S FUTURE: A reader wondered if the Giants would trade Barry Bonds to an American League team if it appears he won’t be able to play in the field even when he returns. Not likely. Bonds’ contract, which runs through 2006, is $18 million a year, which is too much for even George Steinbrenner to pay for a designated hitter.

STILL A PUZZLE: The fourth inning of the Giants Wednesday loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks was a microcosm of Brett Tomko’s career. Tomko had retired 11 straight hitters when Luis Gonzalez bounced a chopper off Durham’s chest (see first item), that was ruled a hit. The Diamondbacks followed with five more hits to score four runs.

Even Tomko can’t explain why he so often blows up just when he seems to have everything going right, but that’s the reason he’s won just 73 games in seven seasons, though he has the pitches to be consistently in the 15-18 win range in a season. If he hasn’t figured it out by now, at 32, he never will.

LONG SEASON: The A’s, who have wasted many good pitching efforts because of their inability to hit in clutch situations, broke out with 10 hits and seven runs Wednesday – but then gave up 16 runs to the Texas Rangers.That’s an ominous sign, because one definition of a bad team is that it can’t put good hitting and good pitching together. And now, they play the Yankees and Red Sox for the next 12 games. By the end of this month, they’re likely to find themselves in a hole they can’t get out of.

AMAZING STORY: Even though Kenny Rogers beat his team again in his latest outing at the Coliseum, A’s general manager Billy Beane can’t help admiring him. “It’s been six years since he was here, and we thought he was just about through then, but he’s still cranking it up to 90-91 when he has to,” Beane said. “He’s amazing. He was pitching when I was playing, and that was 16 years ago.” Beane claims to be 1-for-2 lifetime against Rogers. “I bring that up every time I see Kenny,” he said.

STEROID HYSTERIA: Now, as we learn more and more about steroids, it’s becoming clear that they’ve been used for a long time and by all sorts of players, even skinny leadoff men and pitchers.

This should be a health issue, nothing more. Steroids need to be regulated (or banned) because they can cause damage to an athlete’s body. And, that lesson should definitely be taught to high school athletes by their parents and coaches.

It should not be an issue about records. It’s impossible to determine how much help any individual player got from steroids, so saying Bonds – the focal point of all this – should have an asterisk after his marks or be denied admission to the baseball Hall of Fame is just plain stupid.

PERFECT SPOT: New 49ers coach Mike Nolan showed his sense of humor when he talked about the 49ers practice facility, which is directly in the flight path of airplanes from the San Jose airport. “This is a perfect place to get ready for games,” he said. “The noise gets the players ready for the crowd noise, and the wind gets them ready for Candlestick.”

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