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2005 San Francisco Giants

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The 2005 San Francisco Giants will boil down to just one man: Barry Bonds. With him, they could be playoff-bound. Without him, well, they're the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sounds bad? Compared to available replacements like Pedro Feliz, Bonds is worth an extra 10 wins to the Giants. Provided he's even a shadow of his former self, every fortnight that he drags himself onto the field makes the Giants a game better.

Think the Giants can compete without Bonds? Think again. Let's face it -- we all know the Giants are an old team and, as a group, they won't be as good as last year. All of the other regulars -- Alou, Grissom, Snow, Durham, Vizquel, Alfonzo and Matheny -- look to be declining this year, either through failing skills, time lost to injuries or both. The Giants spent $60 million on medium-profile free agent acquisitions in the off-season: three-year contracts to closer Armando Benitez, shortstop Omar Vizquel, catcher Mike Matheny and a two-year deal for rightfielder Moises Alou, but these signings did little to alleviate the team's expected decline. Plus, the Giants intentionally gave away their first-round draft pick, yet again.

In 2005, only Benitez will significantly upgrade his position compared to the 2004 team. At $4 million, Mike Matheny -- however nice he may be -- is worse than A.J. Pierzynski, who signed for one year, and $2.25 million with the White Sox. Even at age 38, Omar Vizquel is much better than either Deivi Cruz or Neifi Perez, but it will be tough for him to match Cruz's one-year 2004 wonder. Alou is almost 40, a poor defensive leftfielder who now has to play rightfield, and his hitting will look much worse in San Francisco than it did at Wrigley Field. At this point, his incremental value over Dustan Mohr and Michael Tucker is negligible. Put these acquisitions together, and the 2005 Giants are 2-3 wins better. In 2006, their value will be negative, but we're in win-now mode, so we'll ignore that and every other management mistake until later.

Now, if you're going to tie up $60 million in the off-season, there are other ways to do it. For example, the Giants could have tried to sign J.D. Drew, who got a 5-year, $55 million contract from the Dodgers. Drew would have improved the Giants by 2-3 wins on his own in 2005, and he would have held that value for the next 2-3 years. With Drew, you assume a large injury risk -- but it's certainly no worse than what we'll be looking at for a bunch of guys in their late 30s and early 40s. Drew's upside is also higher than that of four individual players taken together. Vlad Guerrero was similarly available after 2003, and the Giants didn't even try.

Anyways, I'm not the Giants' GM (not unless I win that contest to be the new GM), so I can't change them. If Barry comes back in the next month or two and we're treated to rubber chickens, splash hits, fireworks and bad disco music, then this team has a chance. If anything else happens, it's time to blow up the entire organization a la Disco Demolition Day. If this team is going to finish 77-85, I'd like to see them do it with Todd Linden, Yorvit Torrealba and Jesse Foppert, not with the aging masters of deferred compensation.

Chris Rock noted that there used to be a question about who was better: Michael Jackson, or Prince. In the long-run, of course, Prince won that one hands-down. But there is still the question of whose methods are better: Brian Sabean or the 'perfessers' over in Oakland. If Barry Bonds misses most of this season, plays less than outer-worldly, or (say it ain't so) takes early retirement while the Dodgers and the A's battle for playoff spots, well, let's just say it's obvious who's going to be Prince.

Send flowers, chocolates and pleadings for Barry's speedy recovery to [email protected]. Also, please check out Glenn Dickey's new website: Glenn has been entertaining Bay Area sports fans for 33 years.