Bruce Bochy is obviously an optimistic man. He’s been watching the Giants from the San Diego dugout for the last 12 years but still opted to leave a team that had won two straight NL West titles to come to a team and organization in disarray.
The Giants have an old lineup that has staggered to two consecutive seasons well below .500 and finished a half-game out of last place in the NL West in 2006. There will have to be substantial changes in their roster if they are to get back into contention.
And not just in the playing roster. Bochy has to make one important change among the coaching staff — replacing pitching coach Dave Righetti.
For 20 years, the A’s have shown the importance of a good pitching coach. In the mid-’80s, Dave Duncan revived the careers of veteran pitchers Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart and Rick Honeycutt, as he did again this year with Jeff Weaver, a key part of the St. Louis Cardinals’ drive to a World Series championship. More recently, Rick Peterson developed the Big Three of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. And Curt Young has done a nice job with young pitchers Rich Harden, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton and Huston Street.
Meanwhile, the Giants have long touted their young pitching. But at this point, Matt Cain is the only one who’s prospered. There are several reasons for the failures of the young pitching, but it’s obvious that Righetti hasn’t been much help. He should be replaced.
Bochy’s hiring seemed predestined because Sabean had long been impressed with his managing style, watching him in the many encounters between the Giants and Padres. I would guess that most of the “interview” process consisted of Sabean getting Bochy’s evaluation of the current Giants roster and what needs to be done to improve it. There was an urgency to that because Bochy is now in Japan to manage the U.S. all-star team in the Japan series.
Ironically, Ken Macha was originally selected for that but had to be replaced when he was fired by the A’s.
The free-agent market looks thin this year. Of the 83 players who had declared for free agency as of Sunday, only Alfonso Soriano would be a significant upgrade for the Giants. Soriano had 46 homers and 41 stolen bases and he played surprisingly well defensively as a left fielder. Apparently, he still considers himself a second baseman, although nobody who has seen him play that position does. He’s the kind of offensive player the Giants could build around. But since Sabean has declared they won’t pay any “Bonds-type” salaries next year, he’s probably out of the Giants’ price range.
Of the others, Nomar Garciaparra, who hit .303 with 20 homers and 93 RBIs, would be an upgrade over Shea Hillenbrand. But Garciaparra’s injury history makes him a risk. Some observers like Texas center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., whose dad played for the Giants. Matthews hit .313 with 19 homers and 79 RBIs for the Rangers. But those figures come with an asterisk because half his games were in the very hitter-friendly Rangers park.
Bochy obviously left the Padres because he felt he would be out after next season, but as he watches the Giants season unfold in 2007, he may regret his decision.