Mailbag: Picking an all-time team

Mailbag: Picking an all-time team

Even though I bleed black and orange, I have looked at other teams' Web sites and I've noticed a lot of all-time team debates. So my question is, who is on your all-time San Francisco Giants team? [Mine is] first base -- Willie McCovey, second base -- Jeff Kent, shortstop -- Omar Vizquel, third base -- Matt Williams, catcher -- Benito Santiago, left field -- Barry Bonds, center field -- Willie Mays, right field -- Bobby Bonds, starting pitcher -- Juan Marichal, closer -- Robb Nen.
-- Chris C., Benicia, Calif.

Although addressing current events is Mailbag's chief function, this subject is appropriate given this year's 50th anniversary celebration of the franchise's first season in San Francisco. I think Chris' squad is as good as it gets, although I'd be tempted to make a couple of changes, partly for sentimental reasons. At shortstop, my mind says Vizquel, particularly after watching him daily for the last three years. But my heart screams Chris Speier, a three-time All-Star as a Giant. I keep a letter in my personal archives from ex-manager Charlie Fox, who named Speier, then a rookie, as the most valuable player of the '71 division championship team. Behind the plate, one must consider Bob Brenly, Tom Haller or Dick Dietz (again, on a sentimental basis). And as superb as Nen was, I'm sure a large number of Giants loyalists still dream of Rod Beck on the mound in the ninth inning.

I know it's early in Spring Training, but Travis Denker has looked good. Do you see him as the Opening Day third baseman?
-- Josh G., Sacramento, Calif.

Yes, I do -- for Connecticut in the Double-A Eastern League. Don't get me wrong; Denker looks like a future Major Leaguer, possibly the near future. I like his assertiveness in the batter's box. Manager Bruce Bochy compared Denker to Randy Ready, who was a useful performer in the bigs for 13 seasons. But Denker has never played above Class A, so logic dictates that he needs more Minor League seasoning.

I have to tell you, after watching Eugenio Velez play last year, I was impressed with his speed, but certainly not his baserunning skills. His "non-steal" in one of his pinch-running assignments didn't strike me as tremendously smart. He was put in specifically to get into scoring position, and then didn't even attempt to steal, despite several chances, until the point was moot. It is going to be difficult for me to get too excited about him until I see that he can be smart and fast.
-- Steve G., Canyon Country, Calif.

Maybe you would feel better about Velez had you watched him steal three bases and force a catcher's throwing error Sunday against the Cubs, or if you consider that he was 14 of 15 in thefts in the Arizona Fall League. I don't recall the botched pinch-running stint you cited, but I'll take your word for it, because Velez has played only 18 regular-season games above Double-A and still must polish various facets of his game. And we all know that there's a vast difference between basestealing and baserunning. That said, Velez is as fast as anybody I've seen in a baseball uniform since Deion Sanders. Moreover, his baserunning instincts are better than Deion's. I don't think Velez will disappoint you much longer.

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How would getting Joe Crede help the team at all? He's 30, which isn't terribly old, but if we extended his contract, it would go into his mid-30s. Isn't this what the Giants are supposedly trying to stop doing? And if we didn't extend his contract, he'd just be here for a year. That means we'd just be getting another one-year rental to fill one of our position gaps by trading away more valuable prospects, which especially makes no sense on a non-competitive team. Either way, he doesn't look to be that much of an upgrade over Pedro Feliz. Wouldn't it be better for us if we got someone like Andy Marte of the Indians, who is very young and very cheap? I don't genuinely care who else the Giants would get, but I just don't want to see another Shea Hillenbrand.
-- Josh F., San Francisco

Your reasoning is extremely sound. In fact, general manager Brian Sabean has said on multiple occasions that, ideally, he'd acquire a position player who could provide long-term rather than short-term help. That would mean avoiding anybody with Crede's contract status. But I suspect that the Giants will consider him seriously if they believe that having another experienced hand will help the team's development overall by easing pressure on the younger players.

Am I in the minority when I say "small ball isn't all ball"? As much as I would love to see the Giants finally utilize the speed they keep touting, the team needs another bat. Bengie Molina and Aaron Rowand by themselves won't be able to produce enough homers. What are the Giants' chances of acquiring another big bat before the games count?
-- Justin D., San Francisco

Pretty slim, I'd say. Unless they get Joe Crede.

Why not play one of our catchers at first base? Who has a better arm to relay throws home from the right fielder? Who can stop a low throw from an infielder? A catcher can field a ground ball better than other players.
-- DeWayne G., Sonora, Calif.

Actually, Eliezer Alfonzo has worked out at first base occasionally, and Guillermo Rodriguez spent some time there during winter ball in Venezuela. I doubt that either of them will replace Dan Ortmeier as the likely starter, but manager Bruce Bochy wants to employ your logic to broaden his personnel flexibility.

From what I've read, it seems like Brian Wilson is set to be the closer and Tyler Walker is set to be the eighth-inning setup man. Where does Brad Hennessey fit in? I know he didn't have a great season last year, but it seems like quite a demotion for a relatively young pitcher.
-- Mark S., Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Hennessey will still occupy a prominent bullpen role. Expect to see him a lot in the seventh inning, which is another important "bridge" inning. Walker and Wilson can't pitch every day, so Hennessey should receive occasional action in the eighth and ninth, also. Regarding Hennessey's 2007 season, I thought it was definitely above-average, especially since he was still undergoing the transition from starting to relieving. He saved 19 games in 24 chances, not bad for a first-time closer.

With the Giants not doing much in free agency this year and having several expiring contracts after this season (Rich Aurilia, Ray Durham, Steve Kline), do you see the team being major players in free agency next year? If so, who could be available?
-- Luke B., Arcata, Calif.

The Giants might chase a free agent or two, if they believe that's all they would need to become contenders. Obviously, much depends on what happens this season. If youth remains a big part of their plan, and I assume it will, free agency isn't consistent with that. A handful of marquee free agents will be available, such as Mark Teixeira, Jim Thome, Adam Dunn and Joe Nathan. Dunn, whom the Giants inquired about in trade talks in previous years, might be on their radar, but Teixeira, expected to be the most pursued free agent on the market, is probably bound for a big market and huge bucks.

Jonathan Sanchez, with his great stuff and inconsistency, reminds me of another young pitcher who seemed to have turned a corner last year: the Mets' Oliver Perez. Perhaps figuring out what the Mets coaches did with Perez would stimulate similar growth with Sanchez. It seems like he has so much unused potential.
-- Craig B., San Francisco

Excellent comparison. The Giants think that Sanchez will steady himself once he begins repeating his delivery, which is a challenge for any pitcher. He seemed fine in his bullpen and batting-practice sessions early in camp, but even he admitted that he abandoned proper mechanics in his first exhibition outing last Friday against the Cubs (one inning, three runs). As much as the Giants cherish Sanchez's talent, you have to wonder how long they'll remain patient.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.