Deflated Giants face difficult offseasonPosted: Monday October 28, 2002 3:02 AM
Updated: Monday October 28, 2002 6:30 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Brian Sabean reached over to Rich Aurilia, and the two men embraced in a quiet clubhouse. Sabean laid a tight fist on Aurilia's chest; Aurilia gave Sabean a tight smile. And then Aurilia went one way, Sabean the other.
Nobody knows what's going to happen with the San Francisco Giants next year. Heck, nobody knows what's going to happen with the Giants next week. Peter Magowan, the owner, doesn't know. Sabean, the general manager, is in the dark.
Dusty Baker ... Dusty Baker is wondering right there with the rest of us.
The National League champs are one big question mark right now. They're either a one-hit wonder, a big fear of many, or, somehow, they'll patch things together and be a World Series contender for at least a couple of more years.
Where it stops, nobody knows.
"For me, I'm going to go home and spend time with my family," said Aurilia, the Giants' shortstop, one of the key members of the team that will be back next year, "and not think about baseball."
The last thing any of the Giants wanted to think about Sunday, after losing a heartbreaking Game 7 and the World Series to their coastal competitors, the Anaheim Angels, was next year or the year after. The Giants were on top of the baseball world just a few days ago. They were eight outs away from a World Series championship.
Their terrible collapse in Game 6 -- you can call it a miraculous Angels' comeback, if you'd rather -- took the heart out of them. And then, in Game 7, they managed only a run on six hits in slipping quietly into defeat, 4-1.
Still, after the game, dressing quickly to get the heck out, the questions surrounding their future would not go away.
"You wonder," admitted Sabean, whose own future with the team is a little cloudy. "Obviously, if I come back, there's nobody I'd like to work with more than Dusty."
Sabean grabbed Baker shortly after he left the field Sunday. There was not a lot that could be said. The biggest question facing the Giants, of course, surrounds Baker, the deft-handed manager who took a team full of stars, kept them happy (for the most part) and edged them into the World Series. He becomes a free agent in a matter of days, and the Giants -- specifically, owner Magowan -- have not paid him the attention he wants.
Before the game, Baker was asked what he wanted to hear from Magowan or others.
"I don't know," Baker said. "If somebody wanted me back, then they would … a lot of times you wouldn't wait until the last minute to tell them."
Then there's the matter of Jeff Kent, the surly second baseman who served as a set-up man to slugger Barry Bonds for most of the year but who also will be a free agent.
Sabean's contract is up, too. There are others. There are so many questions.
"If you're asking me if I'd like those guys back, of course I would," Aurilia said. "They're a big part of this team, a big part of this whole organization.
"But it's not my decision to make."
In the next few days, certainly into the next few weeks, Baker either will be courted to his liking or he won't. Other teams will no doubt make a run at him.
Kent, though Bonds says the Giants should keep him, may just as likely leave. Sabean has done a solid job, but work on a new contract for him still has to be done.
The questions will all be answered, one way or the other, but it will take a while. It will take a few days, at least, to get over this World Series loss and move on.
"It's rugged," Sabean said. "We all hope to be in this position, and when you get here and get so close and it doesn't happen, it's a gut check. You feel for so many people. The whole organization has put so much into it."
Some teams you know will be back the next year. The Yankees always come back. The Angels, this year's champs, will be back nearly intact next season, though there's no guarantee of anything in the American League West.
No one knows about the Giants. Not yet, anyway.
"I don't know," Baker said after the loss. "There hasn't been time really to think about those things."
And then he said something else. Like so many things about the Giants, though, it was hard to figure exactly what it meant.
"See you guys," Baker said, "next year."