Giants part ways with Alou; Bonds no longer centerpiece

October 3rd, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Giants part ways with Alou; Bonds no longer centerpiece

By Andrew Baggarly
San Jose Mercury News
SAN FRANCISCO - The San Francisco Giants spent most of the past decade filling cracks around Barry Bonds. After two consecutive losing seasons, they acknowledged Monday that it's time to condemn the house.
The team made it official that Felipe Alou would not return as manager in 2007, then owner Peter Magowan declared that Bonds, a free agent, is no longer its centerpiece.
"We need to go in a new direction," Magowan said. "The strategy has been one of having a great player - maybe the greatest player in the game - at the centerpiece and filling in with veteran players. For a long time that worked well. It caught up with us in the last couple of years. And now we do need to get younger and healthier."
Bonds is the biggest of the club's 11 free agents, and Magowan did not rule out re-signing the 42-year-old left fielder for one more season - but only if it makes sense in the context of building a winning team, and not because Bonds is 22 home runs away from breaking Hank Aaron's career record.
"It's a tough decision, but . . . it's not going to be made on the basis of what gives the Giants the best chance to fill up a ballpark, or some marketing situation," Magowan said. "I feel the best marketing for the Giants, and I've always felt this way, is to win. Whether Barry fits into that plan or not will depend on the baseball evaluation of whether he will be able to give us a better chance of winning or not. Not whether we have a better chance of drawing 3 million people to the ballpark to watch him pursue a home-run chase.
"I think we can get 3 million people into our ballpark . . .by fielding a team that the fans believe has a chance to win."
Magowan made it clear that Bonds would be considered a complementary player - and paid like one - if he returns.
"I can't predict what the odds are, whether he'll figure in or whether he won't figure in," the owner said. "He's one of 11 parts of a piece of a puzzle. He's not the only piece of the puzzle. He's not even the centerpiece of the puzzle."
General Manager Brian Sabean faces a roster overhaul but his first task is to replace Alou, who had spent four seasons on the Giants bench. Sabean and Magowan said Alou's departure was not a reflection of job performance, but part of their shift in philosophy.
"If we're going to be (acquiring) players that we expect to see around here for three, four, five, six years, it would just make sense to have a manager who we think might be there for that kind of period of time as well," Magowan said.
Sabean's voice trembled with emotion as he described a Saturday night meeting in which he informed Alou of the club's plans. He described walking out of the ballpark with the esteemed 71-year-old manager after Sunday's season finale.
"It was quite an experience," Sabean said. "It was a life experience."
Sabean offered Alou a position in the organization and pledged to make a trip to Florida over the winter to lay out a concrete proposal. Magowan predicted Alou would accept the offer.
The club issued a brief statement from Alou in which he thanked the organization and said he would always consider himself a Giant.
Sabean said he regretted that the organization left Alou twisting in the wind, but said he wanted to make sure the news would stay private until the appropriate time.
"He was ready for this," Sabean said. "The failing of the last two ball clubs certainly don't fall in his lap. He's in every way a victim of circumstance. He understood more than anybody the shortcomings he was dealing with so he was very relieved especially at the end of the night to know he was going home."
Added Magowan: "I told him that in no way did I think the failures of the team were his fault. If anything, they were my fault."

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