The Giants’ embarrassing 3-4 week against the two worst teams in the National League is a preview of things to come. This is not a team headed for the postseason.
Of course, the Giants were without Barry Bonds for five games, but if they’re counting on Bonds to make a big difference, they’re dreaming. Because of Bonds’ age and three knee operations, it was assumed before the start of the season that the Giants would be lucky to have him for 110 to 120 games. Pushing it to give him his chance to pass Babe Ruth in career homers, manager Felipe Alou played him 48 of the first 58 games. Now, Bonds has missed the last five games. Alou has a choice: Either rest Bonds more frequently or expect to have him out of the lineup for extended periods.
Bonds is not the offensive force he was in the 2000-04 period, either. Because National League managers were slow to recognize that, they ordered Bonds walked frequently early in the season, which actually worked to the Giants’ advantage because it gavethem more baserunners. The Giants have scored 61 runs in innings in which Bonds has walked.
The A’s, reacting to the Bonds that is and not the Bonds that was, pitched normally to him. Since then, NL managers have also pitched to Bonds. They’ve finally realized that Bonds is now a hitter who can hurt you occasionally with a home run but can no longer do that consistently.
And that once again blows up the Giants’ master plan of building a lineup around Bonds.
Without the 2004 Bonds, the Giants don’t scare anybody. Moises Alou is a fine hitter, but if he’s the top hitter in the lineup, he’ll be the one teams pitch around, not Bonds. Alou’s injury history is worrisome, too. Since starting to play regularly in 1992, he’s had only five seasons in which he played as many as 140 games. He missed two seasons entirely. Last year, he played in just 123 games. He just come off the disabled list and don’t bet he won’t go on it again.
Who else can supply the power? The Giants once projected Pedro Feliz as a 30-homer hitter. But in the last two seasons, when he had more than 500 at-bats each year, Feliz has hit 22 and 20. This year, he’s hit nine in 248 at-bats. Clearly, his optimum total is in the low 20s range and the Giants don’t like to bat him higher than seventh because his penchant for trying to pull low, outside pitches leads to rally-killing double plays.
The Giants also had high hopes for Lance Niekro, but Niekro has continued the injury pattern he had as a minor leaguer. Worse, he now appears to be the latest in a series of Giants prospects who hit well in the high minors but not in the majors (see Damon Minor, Todd Linden).
Without the pickup they needed from their younger players, the Giants are stuck with an old, old lineup. Those players are already tired; Steve Finley, for instance, is mired in an 0-for-17 slump.
If the older players are tired in June, it will be even worse in September — and you won’t have to worry about those World Series ticket applications.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.