Giants’ year a lost cause

When the baseball season began, the Giants had big plans. A roster composed of veteran players, sprinkled with some youngsters, especially young pitchers, looked promising. Barry Bonds, although not at full speed, seemed determined to push distractions aside and continue his pursuit of Hank Aaron. Most felt the team could, at the very least, win the National League West. Sadly, it hasn’t worked out that way.

The Giants have been a major disappointment this season and the roster strategy employed has backfired. First and foremost, Barry Bonds hasn’t been totally healthy, which alone has caused major problems forthe team. Couple his ineffectiveness with the injury problems of Moises Alou and the predicted potent offensive threat has been virtually non-existent. Heck, the Giants are one of the poorer homer-hitting teams in all of baseball. Let’s face it: When your two most productive offensive weapons are shortstop Omar Vizquel and second baseman Ray Durham, you know you’re in trouble.

Further, the Giants’ starting pitching has been very inconsistent despite having the sixth-best ERA in the National League. Compound that with the inconsistency of the middle relievers and there is real cause for concern. Amazingly, all of the talk about the poor performance of closer Armando Benitez being a major reason for the Giants’ struggles just isn’t true. Sure, he’s blown a number of saves and that has hurt, but the Giants are actually one of the more successful teams in the National League when it comes to saves converted vs. saves blown.

The area that has hurt the Giants most has been offense. They are one of the best defensive teams, but when at the plate, the team pales in comparison to the rest of the league. In five offensive categories — batting average, runs scored, home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage — San Francisco ranks no better than 12th out of 16 teams. So, even when the starting pitching is good, the hitting usually hasn’t been. Then, when the hitting has been outstanding, the pitching has faltered. The team has failed to get it all going right at one time for any prolonged period. Consequently, the Giants aren’t even a .500 team anymore.

To make matters worse, there existed a false sense of success around the trade deadline. Despite playing poorly, the team wasn’t that far out of first place. Consequently, management didn’t make any trades for the future. So, with the failure of the original personnel plan and no trades in 2006, I would bet that we will probably see a totally new club for 2007 and this was a wasted season.

Former Warriors star Rick Barry is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. E-mail him at rbarry@examiner.com.MLBSan Francisco Giantssports

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