Catcher's Interference: No Nen doesn't doom Giants

Remain calm, Giants fans. The Nenth inning will be missed in 2003, but the Giants braintrust may have something up their sleeves (or at least look like they do).

FLORIDA - Amidst all the euphoria surrounding the Giants fast start came word of Robb Nen's season ending surgery before their game with the Florida Marlins. Giants' trainer, Stan Conte, didn't even attempt to mask the severity and significance of the injury. "Make no mistake about it, this is a serious surgery," Conte said. "There are no guarantees in any of this, and Robb knows that. Is it career-threatening? Absolutely."

But is it necessarily season-ending for the Giants? Not by a long shot, and look no further than the front office as the concrete reason why the Giants will be able to absorb an otherwise crippling blow.

Prior to the 2002 season, Magowan boldly declared in Spring Training that the team he saw stretching and playing long toss in Scottsdale was the best team he'd ever put on the field. This irked some like, say, an overly sensitive and egomaniacal ex-manager who will remain nameless. It irked me, too. Why? I saw yet another version of a first round three-games-and-out playoff squad, if they were lucky to get that far. But Magowan, Sabean, Baer and Co., knew otherwise. After all, what did I know? The toughest decision I've made watching baseball is choosing between a Coors and a Corona.

The patience and know-how shown prior to 2002 will pay off in spades during the Closer Crisis of 2003. One year ago, this would have devastated the team. Now, the Giants are another year older and loaded top to bottom with veteran depth and promising youngsters posting the best record in the NL. Sabean should stand pat and let his jockey, Felipe Alou, ride his horses all the way… to July. At that point, he can take inventory and see if Joe Nathan, Felix Rodriguez and Tim Worrell continue their run of closing out victories as they are currently. So far, their contributions are a combined 4-1 record and a 1.50 ERA. Stellar. If the Giants soar to a commanding lead in the NL West prior to the trading deadline, they'll have the luxury of having out-of-contention, payroll-paring teams dangle front-line closers and starters around the All Star break.

I'd expect that the team proposing a deal that would want to involve one of the three and/or a combination of one of the Giants' promising prospects, like Ainsworth, Foppert, Bonser, Williams, etc. Sabean, though, has always managed to get more for almost embarrassingly less (See: Jason Schmidt for Armando Rios). One thing's for sure: The ownership and front office will have the poker faces and temerity they displayed in 2002 to make the right decision, and that might be for them to simply sit back and enjoy the dog and pony show getting staged by other teams with expendable but proven talent.

Keith Larson writes for SFDugout.com because he's lived and died with the Giants since 1972. He welcomes all words of praise and insult at keith49ers@yahoo.com, but mentioning anything having to do with Game 6 is to be done with extreme caution.


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