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BASEBALL EXTRA | AROUND THE NATIONAL LEAGUE

Giants Come Up Big in Face of Detractors

June 08, 1997|ROSS NEWHAN

The surprising start of the San Francisco Giants has doused the firestorm that greeted new General Manager Brian Sabean's decision to trade Matt Williams last winter. The deal brought the Giants three-fourths of their infield and a valuable relief pitcher in Joe Roa.

Sabean said at the time that he wasn't an idiot, and many people are now apologizing for thinking and saying he was. He also guaranteed that the Giants would be the most improved team in baseball, and they are.

The regular lineup includes only one home-grown player, Bill Mueller, who platoons at third base.

The point has been made that this is a group of largely discarded or demeaned players with something to prove, a theory that first baseman J.T. Snow, who came in a trade from the Angels, disputed during the Giants' stop in Los Angeles last week.

"The business about someone giving up on you or not wanting you, I don't know how long that can drive you," Snow said. "I just think this is a group of guys who want to play and don't have to be pushed. We don't do anything spectacular, but we do a lot of things well.

"Sometimes, where there's not a lot of expectation, you can quietly sneak up on people, and pretty soon they're saying, 'Hey, that team's for real.' Hopefully, that's where we're getting. It's been fun."

Veteran relief pitcher Rod Beck agreed.

"If we had the same group of people we did last year, we wouldn't be doing as well," Beck said. "We needed the change. I miss Matt Williams as much as anyone, but when Matt and Shawon Dunston and Robby Thompson went down with injuries last year, we basically became a triple-A team.

"We didn't have the people to fill in. We didn't have the depth. We needed to get healthy. We needed people with track records.

"I mean, Sabean said he wasn't an idiot and everyone ran with it, but now they're apologizing. He's done a hell of a job and done it within a budget too. We're a team to be reckoned with. We can compete with anyone."

*

A 3-2 loss last Tuesday to the Pittsburgh Pirates left Steve Trachsel, the Chicago Cubs' All-Star game pitcher of last year, with a 3-5 record--three of the losses resulting from blown saves by Mel Rojas. In his last five starts, Trachsel has a 2.02 earned-run average.

"I read it and hear it every year, people saying he doesn't have a .500 record, he's a below-average pitcher, stuff like that," Trachsel said.

"It's frustrating. I've been here four years now. One of these years, they say, it's supposed to catch up. If that's true, I have about 40 wins coming one year."

*

It started in April, when Cincinnati's Deion Sanders stole second and third in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies and taunted pitcher Curt Schilling. Then, last week, Schilling and Sanders kept reporters busy after Schilling threw a pitch toward Sanders' head as Sanders squared to bunt. Sanders got the bat up, fouling the pitch off, then walked to the mound, carrying the bat. Benches emptied but nothing happened.

Said Schilling: "That guy doesn't tackle with pads on. What's he going to do, arm-tackle me? It's no secret. This ain't a 16-game NFL schedule."

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