Street & Smith’s:
The Giants are thinking pennant and don’t care who knows it. This is the way one of their top men sees the 1967 picture: “The team that wins the pennant will have to beat us. The Pirates have been strengthened if Wills still can play a little bit. They score runs and their infield is the best in the league, but their pitching is a big question. If Ray Sadecki and Mike McCormick come up with good southpaw pitching, we could have the best staff in the league. The Dodgers shouldn’t be nearly as rough without Koufax. The Phillies may have been strengthened with those trades and the Braves always are rugged. The Cardinals may move forward with their changes. The Mets, Cubs, and Astros aren’t pennant contenders, but all are stronger than last year.”
The Giants have made few changes and their evaluation may be too high. Despite their ferocious hitters – Mays, Willie McCovey, Jim Ray Hart, and Tom Haller – they were tied for sixth with Houston in club batting, .252, and sixth in run production. A ragged defense frequently played tricks on the pitchers, particularly Bobby Bolin, who was only 14-10 despite a 2.58 earned run average. Only the Cubs and Astros made more errors than the Giants, who were ninth in the all-important double play column. Sadecki, who came from the Cardinals early last season, could have guaranteed a pennant for the Giants, but he posted an awful 5.92 ERA and was scratched in the closing weeks. And they just might have won the flag by keeping Orlando Cepeda. The 27-year old lefty was a 20-game winner in 1964 when the Cardinals won. McCormick, who signed with the Giants for a $50,000 bonus in 1956, won 13 for the Senators last year, including three shutouts. He and Sadecki are the Giants’ only established lefties and good ones are needed to keep southpaw batters from pulling balls toward right field where the strong crosswind gives them a boost. Marichal, with Koufax gone, becomes the league’s premier pitcher. In fact, his 26-8 record last year shaded Koufax’s 26-10, and Juan’s ERA of 1.87 better of than Sandy’s 2.33. Perry was 2.36 in his 20-10 performance. Bolin ranks No.3 on the staff. Sadecki and McCormick will be bidding for the fourth spot. Frank Linzy and Lindy McDaniel still are around for relief. Other veterans, neither impressive last summer, are Joe Gibbon, a lefty, and Ron Herbel. The Giants are excited over the prospects of Rich Robertson, signed out of Santa Clara, who was 13-6 at Phoenix in his first season, and Nestor Chavez, skinny 19year-old Venezuelan. The chit chat is that he’s a young Marichal at a comparable stage in Juan’s career.
Haller, who batted .219 and cracked 25 homers, has Bob Barton as a back-up receiver. Barton, a year ago, was rated by the Giants over Randy Hundley, whom they traded to the Cubs. After Randy’s smashing season with the Cubs they may be wondering if they sent the wrong man away. It’s McCovey at first base and Hart at third unless Jim Ray is switched to left field. The Giants’ big concern in spring training was the double play combination. Tito Fuentes is a flashy youngster who is improving both in the field and at the plate. Hal Lanier, who hit .251 in 1966, has become a switch hitter and batted .350 in the Arizona Instructional League last Winter with the turn-about style. Jim Davenport is available for full time duty if Hart goes to the outfield. Best of the infield youngsters, Bob Schroder, is rated a contender at second base. A slashing hitter, he batted .317 at Phoenix, but may be a year or two away.
Mays, who Leo Durocher said during the winter will be able to play when he has a beard reaching his knees, was in 151 games last year, hitting 40 homers and driving across 91 runs. Jesus Alou was below par at .259 last season and that’s why Herman Franks, the manager, might have a temptation to move Hart to the outfield. Ollie Brown showed enough after coming up from Phoenix to make it as an outfield regular. But he may be pressed by two kid fly chasers, Frank Johnson and Ken Henderson. Johnson was a standout at Phoenix, hitting .308. Henderson is a 6-foot-2 Californian who could be a good one. He has speed, hitting ability and a great arm. Newcomer Norm Siebern is counted on to give the Giants bench strength as a left-hand pinch hitter who can help where the club was weak last year. Norm also can fill in at first base.
An opposing player laid down a perfect bunt to squeeze home a runner against the Giants in an exhibition game, and a wise guy from San Francisco said, “You’d never see one of our players do something like that.” The Giants failed to win the pennant the last two years partly because they could not execute the little plays that win championships. Sure, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Jim Ray Hart and Tom Haller hit a total of 129 home runs last season. But the Giants bunted poorly; they stole fewer bases than any team in the league; and only the Cardinals, Mets, and Cubs had a lower team batting average. Yet Mays and McCovey and Hart and Haller again will hit plenty of home runs, and so will Outfielder Ollie Brown, whom they call “Downtown” because of his prodigious homers. Jesus Alou, who was injured most of last season, looks like a sharp hitter again; he was the subject of a spring-training psych job by Manager Herman Franks. Hal Lanier, who has regressed since his good rookie season in 1964, is switch hitting now. There are only two veterans on the bench, Jim Davenport and Norm Siebern.
The Giants may have the top pitching staff in the league. Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry are the best one-two combination, and Bob Bolin, the third man, should have been 19-5 instead of 14-10 last year. The fourth starter will be Ray Sadecki, who was wild high all spring, or Mike McCormick, who no longer can throw hard, or Ron Herbel. The bullpen of Lindy McDaniel, Frank Linzy and Bill Henry is one of the league’s finest. But the fielding defense is inadequate. Catcher Haller permits too many passed balls and stolen bases. Second Baseman Lanier, who seems to play in short right field all the time, and Shortstop Tito Fuentes are a weak double-play combination. Third Baseman Hart and First Baseman McCovey are no better than adequate at their positions. The outfield defense is good, but that’s mostly because Mays is in center.
Despite their home run power and superior pitching, the Giants will be lucky to win with that atrocious infield and their perennial inability to make the little plays that bring pennants.