The hated Dodgers, who were hung over from their celebration at the Giants’ expense Saturday, trotted out what essentially was there Triple-A team for the final game, but still managed to complete a three-game sweep in San Francisco, winning 4-3, to close out the season finale.
What a fitting way to end a dreadful 2006 season.
Ace right-hander Jason Schmidt, one of 11 pending free agents for the Giants, made what many perceive as the final start of a successful five and half-year career in San Francisco.
The 33-year-old starter, to his credit, turned in a customary “quality start,” going six innings and allowed three runs before departing from a 3-3 tie. He struck out seven and walked three, but settled for yet another no-decision.
“I really wanted it, but this was a typical finish the way the season has gone,” Schmidt told the Associated Press. “I have no idea what will happen. I'll just have to wait and see. It's hard to say goodbye because we don't know what the future brings. Everybody's unsettled.”
What’s even more unsettling is the direction San Francisco will be heading toward this winter. After failing to make the postseason for the third consecutive year, the team desperately needs to inject some new life into the ballclub.
Giants vice president and chief operating officer Larry Baer visited the TV booth during the game and offered some perspective on their offseason plans and the almost-certain shakeup of the team’s roster.
“When you have 11 of them, you know they all won’t come back,” Baer said of the impending free agents. “We have a lot of turnover to address and we’re going to address it quickly and aggressively.
“From our perspective, 2007 begins next week, in 24 hours, maybe 48 hours, and a lot of work (needs) to be done to put the team back to where we know it can be, and should be, and will be.
“There’s emotion behind these players from the fans,” Baer said of the relationship the fans develop for their beloved Giants. “It’s different from other sports because baseball is everyday and the fans get attached to the players.”
Schmidt, who has been the beneficiary of a love fest with the fans, will surely command a multitude of offers from many teams when free agency begins and thus may have to part ways with the player-fan relationship.
“I had the time of my life here, my family as well -- the people, the fans,” Schmidt told MLB.com. “They've been unbelievable in the city. I can't give enough thanks, and hopefully I can come back and return the favors. You never know.”
Barry Bonds, another star on the bubble, returned the favor to the cheering, faithful fans of San Francisco when he came out for a curtain call in the bottom of the sixth.
The 7-time All-star hit a hard shot down the right-field line for what could have been his final hit as a San Francisco Giant. He then departed to a rousing, standing ovation from the hometown crowd of 42,831 fans, who were screaming the traditional chant of “Barry! Barry!” in unison.
Bonds’ manager Felipe Alou also quite possibly made his final appearance wearing a Giants uniform when the 71-year-old manager said as much Saturday night of his plans to step down from his skipper position completely.
It was a bittersweet ending for the Giants manager as he witnessed his team fall flat on their faces during the most critical stretch of the season. San Francisco dropped 13 of their last 15 games to end the 2006 campaign.
“When I saw that the Rockies got beat, I knew we'd stay away from last place,” Alou told MLB.com. “It was nothing to be proud of, but being in last place would be the last slap in the face for the year.”
The Dodgers would provide that last slap to the face as they pushed across with the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh off losing pitcher Brad Hennessey (5-6) to secure their ninth victory in 10 games to close out the season.
Los Angeles reliever Chad Billingsley (7-4) picked up the win in relief, while fellow bullpen arm Joe Beimel picked up his second save of the year.
The Dodgers will head to New York to face the favored Mets in Game 1 of the NLDS Wednesday at Shea Stadium. Meanwhile, the Giants will pack and go their separate ways, many heading home and unsure of their destinations when the 2007 season opens.
“We don't know what the team will look like next year, but we always wish for the best,” said Omar Vizquel, who is signed through 2007. “We'll probably welcome a lot of new people here, so we can't wait until Spring Training to begin.”
Game Notes: Former Giant Kenny Lofton stole his 32nd base in the eighth, his 599th of his career, but failed to reach No. 600 when he was gunned down at third base. ... San Francisco center fielder Randy Winn missed his second consecutive contest with a strained left calf. ... Pedro Feliz, another Giants free agent, recorded two RBI to reach 98 for the season. He was 1-for-17 on the homestand and hitless in his previous three games. ... Vizquel finished the season with a .295 batting avg. after going 0-for-3. The gold glove shortstop needed to go 3-for-3 to get to .300.
Quoteable: Moises Alou told MLB.com that batting .300 is “a great thing to see on the back of your baseball card, but today it was the last thing on my mind. I was going to go home happy with .299. It's nice to finish .301, but the thing that makes me more proud is my career is at .301 after 16 years.”
On sharing the dugout with his father Felipe for two seasons with the Giants: “It was nice getting to see my dad every day, feeding my dad almost every day, saving money on my phone bill because I didn't have to call him. It's a good feeling to do that.”
SFDugout.com player of the game: With so much turnover on the horizon and nary a strong effort from the team Sunday, we have to give the nod to the entire 2006 team for an entertaining season. The Giants fell short on expectations, but still played their hardest despite obvious, glaring team weaknesses.
Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at email@example.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.
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