Armchair Manager #2: The Alou Era

Better base running, management said, after signing Felipe Alou to a three-year deal. More hitting-and-running, more bunting, more small ball, they promised. And less waiting for the three-run jack. To back it up, Giants General Manager signed speedy Ray Durham and Jose Cruz, Jr. as well as Edgardo Alfonzo, widely known for his timely clutch hitting.

So far, so good.

All right, so the Giants have been hitting homers, but it's not like they're living and dying with them anymore. Small ball has been a reigning theme. The Giants executed a successful double steal in God knows how many years. And how about Yorvit Torrealba's two out bunt with a man on third on Sunday's game against the Dodgers? With J.T. Snow being the man on third no less. Barry Bonds has already snagged 3 bags - all without a throw from the catcher. Durham has, as advertised, been setting the table up for the big fellas - Rich Aurilia, Bonds, Alfonzo, and Cruz.

And that's not where it ends either. The signing of Alou has brought changes other than just a new style of baseball.

The skipper has been using the bench far more wisely than former manager Dusty Baker did. Instead of tossing out the "Sunday forfeit lineup" Giants fans were so accustomed to, Alou has been spot starting his bench players to keep them fresh. He also has been using them at the right times, giving his bench players a good matchup against a pitcher.

Alou's use of the younger players has also been extremely laudable. Though Benito Santiago was available and rested for Sunday's game, the manager decided to go with Torrealba (who played a huge role in the victory), knowing the young catcher had been looking forward to the start. Most importantly, Felipe has been playing the "hot hand" and switching the lineup around as necessary. After having a four-hit game, Pedro Feliz immediately had another start - though he floundered, having an 0-fer night the next game.

The placement of Ryan Jensen on the DL has raised many questions among fans, especially considering Jensen's poor starts. Hot pitching prospect Jesse Foppert was called up, possibly to take Ryan Jensen's slot in the rotation. Unfortunately, Saturday's rainout pushed the rotation back a day, so Giants fans may have to wait a bit longer to see the future stud debut. Foppert will not be starting on Monday as originally planned. The young righty may come out of the bullpen, as the Giants bullpen is once again spent after the long 12-inning game where all relievers, except for Chad Zerbe, were used.

The main thing Alou embraces that Baker shied away from - second-guessing. Alou openly admits and accepts that he will make mistakes as a manager and is willing to take criticism. In his ten-year stint here in San Francisco, Dusty Baker developed a great distaste for what Alou knows is simply part of the job.

This is the way baseball is supposed to be played. Good, clean, fundamental baseball. More aggressive baserunning - heck, more baserunning altogether. (No more Sonny Jackson either.) It's hard to judge only after 12 games, but Felipe Alou just may have the right mindset to help the Giants "bring it home."

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