The first move in the Giants’ rebuilding program for next season should be to replace manager Felipe Alou.
In an era where relievers are as important as starters, Alou wears out his bullpen. It isn’t just his maneuvering, sometimes putting in a reliever for just one batter. He also has relievers warming up even when they don’t go into a game, which takes its toll.
For instance, he had two pitchers warming up in the ninth inning of Matt Cain’s 6-0 shutout of the A’s on May 21. Cain had baffled the A’s the whole game, yielding just one hit. Even if he had gotten into trouble in the ninth, with that six-run cushion, Alou had plenty of time to get somebody warm in the bullpen. As it happened, Cain coasted through the ninth, too.
The latest example: Alou went through so many pitchers in Sunday’s 12-inning road win over the New York Mets that starter Noah Lowry would have had to pitch if the game went to the 13th inning.
Relievers can’t wait to get away from Alou. Scott Eyre opted for a free-agent contract with the Chicago Cubs, though the Giants offered him more money to stay, ostensibly because he wanted to be closer to his family. Not that much closer; his family is in Florida.
Those who leave often do better elsewhere, as with Tyler Walker, who has nine saves in 10 opportunities for Tampa Bay. Few of those who have stayed have had two good seasons in a row. Now, the Giants have some good young arms in the bullpen — such as Jeremy Accardo, who saved Sunday’s game — but how long will it be before Alou burns them out?
He’s doing the same thing with position players. When Moises Alou went on the disabled list, his father responded to that crisis by playing Barry Bonds, Steve Finley and Randy Winn more. Bonds will be 42 in July, Finley is 41 and Winn, a relative youngster, will be 32 on Friday. Bonds is hitting just .256 with seven homers, Finley is hitting .269 after enduring a 6-for-41 stretch and Winn, who hit .359 in 58 games for the Giants last year, is hitting .265.
By the end of May, all these players were exhausted. Meanwhile, 28-year-old Jason Ellison did not start a game until the last day of May.
Felipe Alou plots his moves to win a single game, instead of looking at the 162-game season. But he has an old, old team. These players — except for shortstop Omar Vizquel,who has somehow turned back the clock at 39 — need to be rested often so they can stay fresh. If they’re tired in May, what do you think they’ll be in September?
The Giants are in good shape now with an easy schedule coming up in the next 19 games, which will give them a chance to gain ground on division-leading Arizona. But even that won’t help much if they’re exhausted going into the stretch run.
Alou won’t change. He doesn’t listen to anybody, certainly not to his own players, to whom he seldom talks. So, after the season, the Giants will have to make a change, to a manager who understands that wearing out your car early is no way to win a long race.