Giants say goodbye to Alou after 76-85 season
SAN FRANCISCO -- Nobody in the Giants' front office is blaming Felipe Alou for San Francisco's failures the past two seasons. Owner Peter Magowan is willing to take the heat for that.
in four major pro sports
"He's every way a victim of circumstances," general manager Brian Sabean said. "He knows he had four good years here. The last two were rugged."
The change had been expected for some time, with the 71-year-old Alou's contract expiring. He said he would like to stay in baseball in 2007, possibly with the Giants, the franchise that signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 1955. And Sabean already has offered Alou another job.
After winning 100 games and the NL West in his first season in 2003, the Giants did not make the playoffs in Alou's final three years. He had a 76-85 mark in 2006, ending his tenure with a 342-304 record.
"I'm proud of my behavior, my respect to the game, people, to the cities and countries, the flags," Alou said last week. "I don't like .500. A .500 man to me is mediocrity. You don't choose your tools."
Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou were each let go by their teams Monday. Both managers reached the postseason in 2003, their first season with the Cubs and Giants, respectively, but neither returned to the postseason in any of the next three seasons.
Over the last 50 years, only one other manager made the postseason in his first year with a team but then managed that club for at least three more seasons without making it back to October baseball. John McNamara won the NL West with the 1979 Reds, but they were swept by the "We Are Family" Pirates in the NLCS and then did not return to the postseason with the Reds, who let McNamara go in the middle of the 1982 season with Cincinnati 34-58.
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Alou, the winningest Latin American manager, replaced Dusty Baker after the Giants lost the 2002 World Series. Hours before the Giants announced that Alou was gone, the Chicago Cubs let Baker go as their manager -- and San Francisco didn't rule out talking to Baker about their new managerial opening.
Los Angeles Angels pitching coach Bud Black is considered a candidate to replace Alou, while Bob Brenly, Lou Piniella and Giants bench coach Ron Wotus also could be in the mix. Sabean confirmed Wotus is on the interview list.
"It was very difficult. Obviously you can tell from my voice that I'm still shaken today," said Sabean, who told Alou on Saturday night he would not return. "Felipe is a man of unquestioned integrity who has put his heart and soul into the Giants."
The split with Alou is the first major move in what promises to be a busy offseason in San Francisco. The most closely watched decision will be whether the Giants decide to bring back slugger Barry Bonds, who needs just 22 homers to break Hank Aaron's career record of 755 and has been plagued for years by allegations of steroid use.
Alou, who returned home to Florida after Sunday's season finale against the wild-card Dodgers, asked for privacy Monday and issued a statement through the club.
"Even though I will not be the Giants manager next year, I will always be a Giant," Alou said. "Ever since I was signed by the Giants as a student out of the University of Santo Domingo, I've always considered myself a Giant."
The 42-year-old Bonds is eligible for free agency after the World Series. Age, a balky knee and sore elbow have diminished his skills since he won four straight NL MVPs from 2001-04.
After missing all but 14 games in 2005 following three operations on his right knee, Bonds batted .270 with 26 homers and 77 RBI in 367 at-bats in the final season of his five-year, $90 million contract.
Sabean has said Bonds would likely have to take a pay cut to stay with San Francisco. Magowan said Monday that if Bonds is back the slugger will not be the centerpiece of the roster any longer -- even if he becomes the all-time home run king.
"I think we need to go in a new direction," Magowan said. "We have for a long time had a strategy that has worked well until the last two years, when it hasn't worked so well. The strategy has been one of having a great player -- maybe the greatest player in the game -- at the centerpiece and filling in with veteran players."
Alou, who began his big league career with San Francisco in 1958, was the personal choice of Magowan and Sabean. That made the decision to move forward without Alou in the dugout even more difficult.
"It was a very sad day for me," Magowan said. "I told him in no way did I think the failures of the team were his fault."
Alou dealt with numerous controversies during his tenure, especially the past two seasons when injuries and steroid allegations followed Bonds.
"No job is perfect," Alou said Sunday. "I don't believe one manager enjoys having players die in their hands. I had a number of players the last two years who had their careers end here."
When hired, Alou was excited to take over a team that had the financial resources to acquire and retain star players. That wasn't the case in his 10 years managing the Montreal Expos, who fired him in 2001.
"He's a credit to the organization as a baseball man and as a man," said Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, Alou's former teammate. "He was the right person. He's a Giant and he cared about the team. He gave everything he had and he's a great ambassador for baseball."
Alou was reunited with his son, outfielder Moises, before the 2005 season and the pair spent the past two seasons together -- with Moises often bringing his father food before games.
"I'm thankful we got to be together," Moises Alou said. "I felt when I played for him in Montreal, the time went fast and I didn't appreciate it enough. That has been a highlight in my career."
Moises Alou is among the 11 Giants who could become free agents -- a list that also includes ace Jason Schmidt, second baseman Ray Durham, outfielder Steve Finley and third baseman Pedro Feliz. The Giants will have a similar payroll for next season -- around $85 million, Sabean said.
In 17 major league seasons as a player, Felipe Alou was a career .286 hitter with 206 home runs, 852 RBI and 2,101 hits. He is 1,033-1,021 as a manager.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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