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Series Thirty-Two: Marlins at Giants

The Marlins are still out West, so that means more late starts. But it's only three more games (plus an off-day) and then the Marlins come home for what should prove to be an important (albeit brief) homestand; the Fish will play three games against the challenging (at least for them) Pirates and then against the fading Nationals. A four or five win homestand will be needed in order to solidify the Marlins' positioning in the post-season race.

But before they can get to that, the Marlins will have to play a set in San Francisco. In anticipation of the series, we sat down with the Giants' Lou Seal.

: Welcome to FishStripes, Lou. Tell us a little bit about your name, as I'm sure that it goes over the heads of most of our readers.

: No problem. First off, my name is somewhat humorous - at least to some people - as, when said aloud, it sounds something like "Lucille". However, my affiliation with the Giants has much more to do with San Francisco's baseball history than my funny name. You see, back in the days before the Major Leagues reached the West Coast, San Francisco always had a club in the Pacific Coast League. Now, the PCL still exists today, of course - as one of the AAA leagues. But back in its heyday, the PCL was a glamorous league that we like to think was the equivalent of the Big Leagues - the PCL was just out West.

San Francisco's team was named the Seals. One famous Seals' story involves Seals' outfielder Vince DiMaggio arranging a tryout for his kid brother. That kid went on to make the club and eventually amassed a 61-game hitting streak, something that he was later almost able to duplicate in the Majors. You know Joe DiMaggio and his 56-game hit streak with the Yankees. We PCL aficinados saw something better. In addition to Joltin' Joe's great hit streak, we saw a lot of great baseball. Joe wasn't the only great who played in the PCL; I'd encourage everyone to read up more on the history of the league. There's really some great stuff.

So the Giants keep me around to entertain the kids and to remind everyone that baseball in San Fran goes back farther than just Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, and all of the other Giants greats.

: Interesting stuff, Lou. Speaking of Giants greats - is Barry Bonds still tearing it up this year? I feel like Barry's fallen off the map.

: Nope. No Barry so far this year. We may not get to see him at all this season. He's recovering from a series of offseason knee surgeries and related complications. All of this is putting his chase of Hank Aaron's home run record in some serious jeopardy.

: How are the Giants faring without him?

: It's been rough. The Giants are not used to struggling. During Barry's tenure as a Giant over the past decade (plus), the Giants have only played one dozen games when they weren't in playoff contention. That's a really small number - especially when you consider that some teams, like Tampa and Kansas City, total more than that number on a nearly annual basis.

The Giants are only eight games out of the division lead, but they're twelve games under .500. If you're being realistic, we all know the Giants have no playoff aspirations. Here's a quick fact that makes it pretty clear: the Giants haven't won a home series since late May (5/24 - 5/26) when they took two of three against the Dodgers. It's hard to consider yourself a contender when you can't win at home.

I know that the Marlins, playoff series notwithstanding, generally feel that they've struggled against the Giants, but the Fish own a 28-21 record against in San Francisco. The Giants have won only 4 of the 15 series the teams have played out West (regular season only - and there were three series splits).

: That sounds pretty bleak. Are there any bright spots?

: Yes, there are. The Giants aren't getting many runners on (they've lost 35 games when they scored 4 or fewer runs), but when they do get men on base, they've been fairly effective at driving them in. The Giants lead the league in batting average with runners in scoring position (.287); over the past 53 games, the Giants have hit a round .300 in such situations.

On an individual level, former Marlin Moises Alou has stood out. Maybe he's enjoying the opportunity to play for his father again (as he did in Montreal). Lance Niekro, yes - of that Niekro lineage, has also been a pleasant surprise at first base.

Starting pitching, even Jason Schmidt, hasn't been a strong suit for the Giants this year, but some names stand out in the bullpen: Scott Munter and Scott Eyre are two guys who are accumulating a lot of holds and have low ERAs. They go about accomplishing their tasks quite differently; Eyre is something of a power pitcher (8+ K/9), while Munter is more of a finesse pitcher (2.5 K/9). Munter's a rookie, so don't feel too badly if you've never heard of him.

: The Giants are an interesting case for the rest of baseball in that they financed their new stadium on their own. Granted, that was done in a different time (late 90s) when the economy was somewhat different, but the Giants still got it done. Not only that, they built a beautiful ballpark in a picturesque setting that everyone raves about. Is everything about SBC (formerly Pac Bell) Park as idyllic as it seems?

: We're about to find out pretty quickly. One of the keys that helped to make the ballpark successful (i.e. what helped the Giants to be able to afford it) were personal seat licenses and multi-year contracts for season tickets. They were a win-win for the team (as it generated solid, dependable revenue) and the fans (as the longer you agreed to buy tickets, the better the prices you received). During the stadium's first few years (and while Barry Bonds was dominating all of baseball) this was a great thing.

However, the longest deals were seven-year agreements. Those will be up at the end of next season and ticket holders will have to sign new agreements. Many likely will, but the catch is that the ticket prices catch up to market value when the new deals are signed. For 2006, many premium ticket holders are receiving a significant discount to the market price for their tickets because of their contract (as they are this year and have in recent seasons). But for 2007, that discount will effectively go away (although by the end of their new contract - at least in theory - they should be benefitting from the discount once again).

What remains to be seen is how enthusiastic folks will be to pony up the big bucks this year with the team being less competitive than it has been in a long time and with Barry's future somewhat in doubt.

: Interesting stuff, Lou. Thanks for your time.