LOS ANGELES -- Next March 31, the Giants will open the 2008 season where they ended it Sunday with a 11-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. But San Francisco intends to feature a decidedly different look when it returns to Dodger Stadium. First and foremost, the Giants won't have Barry Bonds. The all-time home run leader's departure alone will force the Giants to reshape themselves. Their new guise, manager Bruce Bochy hopes, might confuse observers accustomed to the franchise's historic emphasis on power. "There are some things that we want to change, especially the brand of ball we want to play," Bochy said. "Because, let's face it, it's going to be a different team. It's going to be more oriented toward pitching and defense. Even though we ran more this year, we have to improve on some fundamentals -- situational hitting, bunting, defense, execution of pitches late in the game."
As much as the Giants want to forget their 71-91 record and last-place finish in the National League West, their braintrust must draw from the dreadful memories to evaluate players before making the personnel changes that general manager Brian Sabean has all but promised. "We know we have a lot of work to do," Bochy said. "When you have the type of year we've had, this winter's going to be busy." Some players, too, will spend some time replaying this year's setbacks for constructive purposes. "Most of those games you do want to forget," said Kevin Frandsen, next season's probable starting second baseman. "But the fact of the matter is, you have to see how we lost them and look at yourself and see how you contributed to that. It should leave a bitter taste in your mouth, if you're a competitor. I know management's not happy at all. They set up a good team. I think all of us need to go back with a chip on your shoulder for next year. We need to do something special to get us back into the playoffs where San Francisco belongs." The Giants resigned themselves to their fate long ago. They fell under .500 for good on May 27, moved permanently into last place on June 6 and began trailing the West leaders by double digits on June 17. "It just wears on you, especially since it was pretty much over for us early on," infielder Rich Aurilia said. Yet they never grew numb to the frustration. "It's weird. You don't know what's a worse feeling, going home after having a season like we did or going home after something like '02, when you get so close to winning," Aurilia said. Bochy managed four last-place teams during his 12 seasons with San Diego. But this trip to the cellar galled him more than any other. "This is probably the most difficult, because I really feel this was a better club than how we played this year," he said. "That's why, [speaking] for myself and the staff, we have a lot of work to do and it starts before Spring Training. It's going to start this winter." It actually started in early September as Bochy began playing younger Giants more frequently. The process continued Sunday as the Giants lashed 18 hits to support Barry Zito (11-3), who worked eight innings for the third time this season. "A lot of guys were dying to get out of here," Zito said. "I was taking it as seriously as any other start." Randy Winn also was serious -- for a half-inning. He lined a first-inning RBI double to lift his average to .300, then left the game to ensure that feat. Winn, who went 12-for-21 in his final six games to bat .300 for the second time in three years, became the first Giant besides Bonds to reach that level with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title since Marquis Grissom (.300 in 2003). Winn said he wasn't certain he had hit the mark. "But I had a good idea," he said. "Boch had told me how close I was. But I had not done the math." A pair of home runs accented the victory. Facing D.J. Houlton for the first time since last Aug. 13 in a Triple-A game, when the right-hander broke his jaw by hitting him in the face with a pitch, Frandsen belted a two-run, sixth-inning homer. Frandsen celebrated by shaking his fist toward the Giants' dugout. Frandsen emphasized that Houlton wasn't trying to hit him last year. "But it still happened, right?" he added. "You don't forget those things. The first time you come up against him was a little eerie. ... I was more pumped up about that any hit this year." Omar Vizquel marked what might have been his final plate appearance as a Giant by launching a two-run homer in the fourth inning, his fourth round-tripper in 513 at-bats this season. The Giants happily mobbed Vizquel, who's eligible for free agency, when he returned to the dugout. "Omar's such a great guy. Everybody loves him," Winn said. Vizquel has no idea whether management loves him enough to re-sign him. Tempered by experience, the 40-year-old shortstop reiterated his desire to stay with the Giants but didn't grow emotional about it. "I know how business works. So I don't really feel that sentimental," Vizquel said. "Regardless of what happens, I'm going to come back and try to make it a better year next year, wherever I am." The Giants share that desire for improvement, particularly after a season in which every other team in the division finished above .500. "That should light a fire," Frandsen said. "We should be up there, too."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.