In my business view, I'm surprised General Manager Brian Sabean's not fired. I like Brian a lot, but the Giants personel decisions have been widely slammed by Giants fans.
Giants make 'painful' decision, won't renew Felipe Alou's contract
Henry Schulman, SF Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, October 2, 2006
(10-02) 12:46 PDT -- Felipe Alou's tenure as manager of the Giants ended after four seasons Monday with the club announcing that his contract will not be renewed.
The Giants issued a statement saying it has asked the 71-year-old franchise icon to remain in the organization in "an advisory role to the general manager and the baseball operations department." Alou said Sunday he would consider such an offer.
"Tough decisions are always painful, and this one is especially painful," general manager Brian Sabean said in a statement. "Felipe is a man of unquestioned integrity who has put his heart and soul into the Giants. He endured some injuries to key players over his tenure here and always kept the club in contention despite some difficult circumstances."
Alou could not be reached immediately for comment, but he issued a two-paragraph statement in which he said, "Even though I will not be the Giants' manager next year, I will always be a Giant. I feel blessed that I was able to manage again, especially here in San Francisco."
Alou had seen the writing on the wall for weeks, and before he managed his final game Sunday he said, "There are no hard feelings. Everything is cool."
The Giants are expected to conduct a thorough search for a manager, unlike 2002, when Alou was the only candidate interviewed.
Candidates are expected to include longtime major-league manager Lou Piniella, former Giants catcher and Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly, Angels pitching coach and former Giants pitcher Bud Black, longtime Giants bench coach Ron Wotus and perhaps former manager Dusty Baker, if some burned bridges can be reconstructed.
Piniella, Brenly, Black and Wotus all have told confidants they would be interested in talking to the Giants if Alou departs.
Alou said he is not sure what he wants to do but insisted he is not going to retire.
"I know I will get offers," he said. "I don't know if they will be managerial offers, but I believe there will be offers."
Asked if he would consider working for the Giants in a front-office or scouting job, Alou said, "I would say yes. If I'm not managing the team, I would say the Giants have the first shot, but I think it should be well-understood that I don't want to be a visitor making money. I want to be productive. I want to help the organization."
The Giants went 342-304 in Alou's four seasons as manager, the wins ranking sixth in San Francisco history. Replacing Baker after the Giants lost the 2002 World Series to the Angels, Alou guided the team to 100 wins and a National League West title in 2003, the last time they reached the postseason. They lost their Division Series to Florida.
In 2004, the Giants were knocked out of contention on the last day of the regular season. In 2005 and 2006, they posted consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1995 and 1996.
Sabean is expected to address the decision today, but it was not unexpected, given the team's record after 2004 and the perceived need for a change in the manager's office to go with an overhaul that will occur on the field. Players, who were not told anything official before they dispersed Sunday afternoon, expressed regret that their performance might have played a role.
"I don't think he's the reason the team failed," shortstop Omar Vizquel said. "Obviously, it's going to be a business decision. When a team doesn't get a winning record under a particular manager, they're probably going to look in a different direction."
Said outfielder Randy Winn: "Every time you step out on the field, your job is on the line -- yours, the GM's, the staff's. Unfortunately, when it does happen, it's really because of how we played. When you don't play as well as you're capable of, as an individual or as a group, it sucks that the manager has to pay."
Despite Alou's gilded history with the franchise and his 100-win managerial debut, fans and players did not warm to him as they did to Baker. Even during his division-winning debut season, Alou was criticized for his handling of the pitching staff. In 2005, some fans turned against him when he referred to KNBR talk-show host Larry Krueger as "satan" after Krueger's rant about "brain-dead Caribbean hitters" who play for the Giants.
"My only regret over the last four years is the thing that happened with the talk-show host," Alou said Sunday.
Whereas Baker was considered a "player's manager," many of Alou's players respected his knowledge of the game but considered him aloof, letting his many older players do their own thing, sometimes to the detriment of the team.
When one seasoned player was asked if Alou had "lost the room," he replied, "I don't think he ever had the room. That's not his style."
Alou had his frustrations, including a belief that his opinions were not always valued. As one example, clubhouse sources said Alou wanted the Giants to release Armando Benitez after the closer publicly ripped teammates and disrespected Alou while Benitez himself was blowing save after save, and Alou was frustrated that management did not comply.
Also, although he didn't say so directly, Alou was not always happy with the collection of players he was given, particularly those past their prime, with a mandate to reach the playoffs.
He alluded to that Sunday. Referring to players such as Marquis Grissom, Kirk Rueter, Edgardo Alfonzo and several relievers, he said, "I don't believe one manager enjoys having players die in their hands. I had here the last two years a number of careers finish here. ... Some of them were big players who reached the end of the line here. If you're talking about next year, we've got to make sure we have some guys we don't have to release in the middle of the season."