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2008 San Francisco Giants
A New Era Dawns in The City by the Bay 2008 Spring Preview
by Richard Van Zandt,
March 15, 2008

As the 1992 season came to a whimpering end for the last place Giants, so, too, it appeared, did their time in San Francisco. Owner Bob Lurie had an agreement in place to sell the team to Vince Naimoli, who intended to move the club to Tampa Bay. Sixteen years earlier, Lurie himself had purchased the team from Horace Stoneham for $8 million as they were on the verge of being sold and moved to Toronto. However, after four failed attempts to get public funding for a much needed new stadium, Lurie had had enough, and the end once again appeared near for big league baseball in The City by the Bay.

That’s when Peter Magowan and his group of 20 investors stepped up with an offer, and Major League Baseball stepped in to orchestrate the sale of the club to Magowan’s group for $100 million (less than Naimoli had offered Lurie). At least in the short term, baseball in San Francisco had been saved, and for an encore, Magowan went out and signed the reigning NL MVP right out from under the noses of the New York Yankees, and he did it by signing him to the richest contract in baseball history.

Of course, I’m talking about Barry Bonds. History – for better or worse – is something that Giants fans would quickly get used to seeing him make. He would win the MVP Award again (his third) in his first season with the team, leading them to 103 wins. In 1998, he became the first player in history to hit 400 home runs and steal 400 bases, and he’d later become the only one to reach 500/500. He would play 15 years in San Francisco and win four more MVP Awards to give him a total of seven. His heroics even prior to any steroid allegations helped Magowan to secure funding for the first privately financed ballpark since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, guaranteeing baseball’s future in The City for decades to come. And of course, tainted by those same suspicions of cheating, Bonds in 2007 became baseball’s all-time home run king.

2007 Standings - NL West W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA Pyth W Pyth L
Arizona Diamondbacks 90 72 0.556 - 50-31 40-41 712 732 79 83
Colorado Rockies 90 73 0.552 0.5 51-31 39-42 860 758 90 72
San Diego Padres 89 74 0.546 1.5 47-34 42-40 741 666 89 73
Los Angeles Dodgers 82 80 0.506 8.0 43-38 39-42 735 727 82 80
San Francisco Giants 71 91 0.438 19.0 39-42 32-49 683 720 77 85

In 2008, however, a new era will dawn in San Francisco; an era without Bonds.

Giants Trivia
Who was the last Giants player to start in left field on Opening Day before they acquired Bonds?
Answer Below
GM Brian Sabean has stressed that the ’08 Giants will be built on pitching, speed, and defense, and they appear to have good portions of each. Then again, he also said the team would begin to focus more on developing and getting younger. He then went out and re-upped with soon-to-be 41-year old Omar Vizquel before signing 30-year old free agent Aaron Rowand to a five-year deal.

One thing you can count on in 2008 is that manager Bruce Bochy’s Giants, minus Bonds, will struggle to score runs.

2007 Starter    Bengie Molina
Projected 2008 Starter   Bengie Molina

In the first year of a 3-year, $16 million deal, Molina hit 19 home runs and led the Giants with 81 RBI. He batted .315 with runners in scoring position, including .338 with two outs, to sustain a reputation for clutch hitting. On the other hand, he was sloppy behind the plate. He had the fourth highest ratio of wild pitches plus passed balls per game (.460) in the majors, and his 24 combined errors and passed balls were second only to Miguel Olivo’s 28. His 16 passed balls tied him with Olivo for the most in baseball and seven of his eight errors were on throws. Quite possibly the slowest runner in the entire game, Molina is slated to bat cleanup for the Giants in ’08 after posting a measly .298 on-base percentage last year and slugging just .433.

Key Transactions
Acquired Pos.
Aaron Rowand CF
Departed Pos.
Barry Bonds LF
Pedro Feliz 3B
Ryan Klesko 1B
Russ Ortiz RHP
Travis Blackley LHP
Scott Atchison RHP
Scott Munter RHP
Non-Roster Invitees Pos.
Bartolome Fortunato RHP
Victor Santos RHP
Keiichi Yabu RHP
Brian Bocock SS
Emmanuel Burriss SS
First Base
2007 Starters   Ryan Klesko, Rich Aurilia
Projected 2008 Starter   Dan Ortmeier

The Giants’ third round selection in 2002, Ortmeier seems to be the Giants firmest commitment to development after the club resisted the temptation to sign another aging veteran this winter to split time at first base. Six-time gold glove winner J.T. Snow took Ortmeier under his wing late last year when the club moved him from the outfield and has tutored him throughout the winter on the nuances of the position. A 26-year old switch-hitter, he hit .287 and slugged .497 in 157 at bats last year, but he also drew just seven walks and whiffed 41 times. At 6-foot-4, Ortmeier runs very well for his size and has power from both sides of the plate. If he can improve on his discipline, he could become the club’s first homegrown everyday position player since Bill Mueller.

Second Base
2007 Starter   Ray Durham
Projected 2008 Starters   Ray Durham, Kevin Frandsen

Durham endured a miserable 2007 season and will be hard pressed to keep his job. The 36-year old veteran batted only .160 and slugged just .237 in his final 57 games last year while Frandsen, who turns 26 in May, hit .367 with a .990 OPS in his last 31. Frandsen will also see time at third base this season, but if the club is truly serious about developing and getting younger, they won’t let Durham’s $7.5 million salary stand in Frandsen’s way. His hard-nosed style of play draws comparisons to former Giants second baseman Robby Thompson, and his youthful enthusiasm would clearly be a benefit to this still-aging lineup.

Third Base
2007 Starter   Pedro Feliz
Projected 2008 Starters   Rich Aurilia, Kevin Frandsen

With Pedro Feliz gone, the Giants will likely turn to 36-year old Rich Aurilia on Opening Day, but Frandsen will likely see a good amount of time there as well. After revitalizing his career in Cincinnati, Aurilia returned to San Francisco last year and got off to a hot start. But a neck injury wrecked his homecoming and he finished with a .252 batting average and just 5 home runs in 99 games. Though he has shown the aptitude to play third, he’s done it only 121 times in his 13 major league seasons and is at best, average defensively.

Kevin Frandsen
Frandsen, meanwhile, was voted the best defensive 3B in the WAC Conference when he was in college at San Jose State, yet is better suited to play second. The team could also end up going outside the organization to fill the position with Joe Crede of the White Sox having long been rumored to be a player the Giants have interest in. Crede, however, would have to first show that his surgically repaired back is sound. The Giants have also been scouting Brandon Inge of the Tigers.

2007 Starter   Omar Vizquel  
Projected 2008 Starter   Omar Vizquel 

Without possessing quite the range he used to have, at 40 years old, Vizquel was still one of the top defensive shortstops in the game last year. His .986 fielding percentage ranked second in the majors to Troy Tulowitzski’s .987 mark, while his .886 revised zone rating was second to none. His 9 errors were also the fewest among all qualified shortstops. Age clearly caught up to his bat, however, as he hit just .246/.305/.316 while playing in 145 games. His $5.2 million option for 2009 becomes guaranteed if he plays in 140 games this season, although the 11-time Gold Glover will miss at least the first week after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee earlier this spring. Initially, the club had planned to go with Frandsen at short until Vizquel returned, but that plan was scuttled after Frandsen struggled at the position.

For now, the Giants appear set to choose from non-roster invitees Ivan Ochoa, Brian Bocock, and Emmanuel Burriss. Bocock (6th rd) and Burriss (1st rd) were both selected in the 2006 amateur draft. Burriss has the higher upside and is the likely shortstop of the future, but Bocock now seems to have the early advantage in camp due to his defensive prowess.
Trivia Answer
Mike “Tiny” Felder was the last Giants player to open the season in left field prior to Bonds’ arrival in 1993

Continue reading to Part Two

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