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Year One A.B.

Giants will have more fun, fewer runs without Bonds

Posted: Monday March 10, 2008 1:31PM; Updated: Monday March 10, 2008 8:17PM
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Bengie Molina
Bengie Molina has never hit 20 home runs or slugged .500, but he could be Barry Bonds' replacement as the Giants' cleanup hitter.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images Sport
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Things are quiet around the Giants now. It's the quiet after Barry Bonds.

The clubhouse is more spacious and relaxed without the security detail, the national media and the entourage (to be fair, those bozos preceded Bonds out the door by a year). Bonds was a force, and his absence after 15 seasons with his hometown team is now the biggest story in the room.

"Barry was fine here," says manager Bruce Bochy. "I have tremendous respect for what a great player Barry Bonds is. He did all I asked. But we have moved on. We'll have to find a new identity. You'll see a different culture. I think you'll see personalities come out. The fact of the matter is, this isn't Barry's club anymore.''

Both for good and bad, it isn't.

The good part is, as veteran outfielder Dave Roberts acknowledged, some players will feel more comfortable around the clubhouse.

"It's not his fault. It's not like he walked around being a grump," Roberts said. "But with his physical presence and his track record, he was intimidating to a lot of people. That's just the way it is."

The bad part is, he's left a void in the team's lineup bigger than the Bay.

"We'll have to replace that power and that's never easy," said Bochy in his usual, understated way.

Without Bonds, everything changes. There is no bona fide power hitter, and really, no one even resembling a No. 3 or 4 hitter. For now, catcher Bengie Molina, who's never hit 20 home runs or slugged .500, could bat cleanup. Trying to scrape together runs with a lineup like that is "going to be a struggle," one Giant confided.

The hope is that without Bonds, nobody's going to be standing around waiting for the big home run. So the plan is to play National League-style baseball, to execute and do the little things to win.

"We'll play a different type game, a different brand of ball," said Bochy. "When you don't have the power, you're going to have to get more creative in how you score runs. We have to execute. That's going to be vital for us.''

"We're going to have to do a lot of bunting and hitting and running,'' second baseman Ray Durham said. "It won't be easy. But it's been done before and it can be done again.''

"Guys are going to feel more accountability," Roberts said. "When you've got a Barry Bonds, a lot of deficiencies can be overlooked because he can do so many great things with a bat. We can't wait for Barry to do it anymore. I think that will make everyone better. Our margin for error is going to be small. That said, there's no reason we can't execute and do things to play winning baseball."

The problem isn't just the departure of Bonds, whose baggage has prevented him from getting a job elsewhere. The Giants have done a poor job drafting and developing positional players, maybe the worst of any team. Yet they do have reasonably high hopes for outfielders Rajai Davis, Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz ("he has the best approach of the group,'' one scout said) and first baseman Dan Ortmeier.

Another issue is finding enough playing time for the kids, what with free-agent signee Aaron Rowand and holdover Randy Winn expected to be regulars in center field and right. They surely tried finding takers for Winn and Roberts, but outdated contracts make them difficult to deal. "Getting those kids at-bats is going to be the biggest challenge,'' Bochy said.

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