Sabean ready for new approach in '07

Sabean ready for new approach in '07

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants general manager Brian Sabean has had to watch his team come up short the past two years when the older-veteran project ran out of gas and when the injury-plagued Barry Bonds could no longer be the centerpiece of a mediocre ball club.

On Monday, a day after the 2006 season ended, Sabean announced that the Giants were not going to renew manager Felipe Alou's contract through 2007. This just didn't mean a new coach at the helm of San Francisco but a transition into putting a different type of team in front of the orange and black faithful at AT&T Park.

"We know that older and experienced hasn't worked," Sabean said on Monday. "We finished third [in the National League West] and below .500, and we have been extremely disappointed. I know that the fans have a lot invested in the team, and we have an objective to put the best possible team on the field. Whoever gives us the best chance to do that we are going to pursue."

The Giants had three outfielders this season over the age of 40 and another eight players that are 34 years or older that play consistently.

Managing general partner Peter Magowan echoed Sabean's thoughts on the future of the Giants and said that the plans with Bonds may have to change.

"I think we need to go in a new direction," he said. "We have -- for a long time -- had a strategy that has worked well until the last two years, when it hasn't worked so well. 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 the past couple of years. Now we do need to get younger and healthier.

"The players [we are going to pursue] are going to be -- on the whole -- younger and healthier, and they're not [going to be here] for a year or two filling a role to backup a star player but [rather] to be key parts of the team for a number of years."

During the 2005 season, Bonds was the center of attention during the home run chase to No. 715 and was a big reason why San Francisco ranked seventh in attendance at 38,645 per game.

Bonds is one of the several free agents for the Giants, and Magowan said signing Bonds will have more do the Giants trying to return to the playoffs rather than selling tickets for a possible homer No. 756.

"It's a tough decision," Magowan said. "A decision will be made on what gives the Giants the best chance to win and not on a decision on what give the Giants their best chance to fill a ballpark. I feel the best marketing for the Giants is to win, whether Barry fits into that plan or not will depend on whether he gives us a chance to win, not whether he brings three million people into the ballpark to watch him in a home run chase.

"He's one of 11 parts to the piece of the puzzle. He's not even the centerpiece to this puzzle; there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, and there are a lot of holes to fill."

Other free agents include the Giants' top two run producers in 2006 in Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz. Durham, 34, and Feliz, 31, combined for 48 homers and 191 RBIs on the year and though Sabean wants to change the look of the Giants, he realizes a total restructure will be difficult with a limited free agent market.

"How are you going to build a competitive lineup with just the free agent market?" Sabean said. "If we don't bring back any of our free agents, it's going to be difficult to have a productive lineup. It's one thing to have one or two [older veterans] than to have seven or eight of them."

The most positive part of the Giants' transition is that they may already have a big part of their new "centerpiece" filled with young righty Matt Cain.

Cain has said in the past that he feels he hasn't earned the "ace" nameplate yet, but his numbers in the second half of the season may have Giants fans thinking otherwise. Cain, who turned 22 on Sunday, led the Giants with 13 wins and allowed just one earned run in six starts from Aug. 17-Sept. 14.

"He has certainly pitched like an ace," Sabean said. "I think the sky is the limit. He has improved from month to month in front of our eyes. He pitched in some of the biggest games that we needed."

Ryan Quinn is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.