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March 12, 2004
Team Health Reports
San Francisco Giants
CL Robb Nen
Every March, there's some college basketball team that climbs on the back of some player and makes a run deep into the tournament. It happens nearly every year and probably always has, but it's burned into my memory with the Kansas Jayhawks' championship run behind Danny Manning. Now known as "Danny and the Miracles," Manning simply carried an inferior team to the top.
Baseball has similar runs from time to time--Orel Hershiser's amazing run through the 1988 season comes to mind. But as the Giants essay in BP04 shows, General Manager Brian Sabean and Assistant General Manager Ned Colletti are expecting more from Barry Bonds, even as he becomes less likely to be able to deliver. Bonds' homers may defy gravity, but there's a point where his body will no longer be able to defy age.
Finding a player that can be called "comparable" to Bonds is only possible in baseball superlatives. Names like Ruth and Williams are valid, but for our purposes, let's look at the man Bonds is chasing: Hank Aaron.
YEAR NAME AGE HR VORP YEAR NAME AGE HR VORP ------------------------- ------------------------- 1954 Aaron 20 13 9.1 1955 Aaron 21 27 50.8 1986 Bonds 21 16 18.2 1956 Aaron 22 26 52.4 1987 Bonds 22 25 20.7 1957 Aaron 23 44 71.8 1988 Bonds 23 24 39.9 1958 Aaron 24 30 61.1 1989 Bonds 24 19 21.7 1959 Aaron 25 39 81.8 1990 Bonds 25 33 68.8 1960 Aaron 26 40 53.2 1991 Bonds 26 25 61.4 1961 Aaron 27 34 55.2 1992 Bonds 27 34 94.1 1962 Aaron 28 45 71.4 1993 Bonds 28 46 104.9 1963 Aaron 29 44 78.9 1994 Bonds 29 37 65.6 1964 Aaron 30 24 56.8 1995 Bonds 30 33 64.0 1965 Aaron 31 32 61.2 1996 Bonds 31 42 86.3 1966 Aaron 32 44 47.6 1997 Bonds 32 40 86.6 1967 Aaron 33 39 62.9 1998 Bonds 33 37 84.7 1968 Aaron 34 29 46.9 1999 Bonds 34 34 37.9 1969 Aaron 35 44 57.7 2000 Bonds 35 49 80.1 1970 Aaron 36 38 53.2 2001 Bonds 36 73 154.0 1971 Aaron 37 47 77.1 2002 Bonds 37 46 146.6 1972 Aaron 38 34 40.1 2003 Bonds 38 45 114.6 1973 Aaron 39 40 48.3 1974 Aaron 40 20 16.5 1975 Aaron 41 12 9.0 1976 Aaron 42 10 5.3As this shows, Bonds certainly had a higher peak value, but the age comparison is the one that has to worry Giants fans. Let's credit Bonds and his workout regimen at getting him not only the higher value, but an extra year of slope when the inevitable decline comes. It's likely that when Alex Rodriguez breaks the home run record in a few years, it will be Bonds he passes last.
I'll take a brief trip into the world of steroids here. Sadly, addressing Bonds and a few other players in the came can't be done without staring down this issue. I'll remind everyone that there's no definitive study on the effects of steroids or even strength on the game of baseball. I'll invite anyone to try to keep up with Barry's workout regimen. Finally, I'll demand that you look at the steroid situation like we should look at baseball: with an open mind and focused on the facts.
Yes, there are other players on the Giants. Some of them even have injury concerns. With Stan Conte leading the medical team, don't expect the flukish injury results of last season to recur, but he's going to have to work hard with this bunch. The pitching staff is the biggest concern, with Jason Schmidt coming back off of elbow surgery. Schmidt should be OK and the early results are good, but he won't be "full go" on Opening Day. Expect a slower start, and enough risk factors to net him a red light.
More concerning for the rotation were the repeated shoulder problems that put Kirk Rueter down at times last season. He'll bear a close eye, but Rueter is the type of pitcher that works more on control and guile than any physical gift. He can probably lose something and remain effective, especially in This Week's Phone Company Park.
Robb Nen is a big glowing question mark. Comments made by Conte were misinterpreted to be overly negative, but in fact, no one will know how well Nen can pitch until he actually gets to the mound. Nen is currently working towards a return, finishing up an interval throwing program and starting some mound work. The signs are starting to look positive, but this is pure risk--an all-or-nothing arm on a closer.
Dustin Hermanson has been injury-prone at multiple points during his career, and while he was effective when healthy, he wasn't often healthy. He'll duel for a spot with Kevin Correia, but a commitment to conditioning is a definite positive. His red-light status is based on his history and because he's years removed from clearing 150 innings, something he'll be asked to do if he stays in the rotation.
Beyond Bonds, there's a number of expected yellow lights on this team. Again, having Stan Conte on hand makes any yellow light less serious. Alfonzo has back issues, Durham has ankle issues, and Marquis Grissom is still Marquis Grissom. Jeffrey Hammonds predictably is hurt already, this time with a broken thumb. Expect something else to go wrong later his year.
The Giants often seem risk averse, running their team under the principles of modern portfolio theory and hedging with a strong front office and medical staff. In the NL West, they'll go as far as Barry carries them.