Alou returns to Giants as special assistant
SAN FRANCISCO -- Felipe Alou has worn a baseball uniform for more than a half-century, and he might pull one on again this spring in a new role.
Alou formally rejoined the San Francisco Giants on Friday as a special assistant to general manager Brian Sabean, a move that was in the works since the team decided in October that Alou would not return as manager.
"It was meant for me to finish my baseball career as a Giant the way I started as a Giant," Alou said. "I hope I'll be doing enough to help the organization. This is a position that was offered to me the day I took over as manager of the team. It's been there for a few years. ... I really like the team's chances. We are on the comeback trail."
The job will allow Alou -- set to begin his 52nd season in professional baseball -- to do a variety of tasks. He will have flexibility in his travel schedule and spend most of his time on the West Coast, have the chance to scout, work with players in the majors and minors and offer input on team personnel decisions.
Alou was contacted by a few clubs this winter, but his heart was in San Francisco.
"I wouldn't go to an Eastern team just to be closer to home," he said. "I know the people. They know me. It would be hard for me at this stage to go into a new system with new people and a new uniform. I think it's kind of too late for that."
Sabean lost a top assistant when Pat Dobson, one of four pitchers to win 20 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 1971, died suddenly Nov. 22 from leukemia at age 64. He was a special assistant to Sabean last season, his ninth with the club.
Sabean has long considered Alou a confidante, and it was tough on the GM to move in a new direction with the former manager.
"He's always been that way," Sabean said. "Not only his experience but the kind of man he is. ... It's a great comfort for the organization."
The club cut ties with Alou on Oct. 2, one day after the team finished its second straight losing season. But management made it clear Alou wasn't to blame for the team's failures and injury problems. The Giants then hired Bruce Bochy away from the rival San Diego Padres to be their new skipper.
The change had been expected for some time, with the 71-year-old Alou's contract expiring. He had said he would like to stay in baseball in 2007, probably with the Giants -- the franchise that signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 1955. Sabean immediately offered Alou another job, though Alou wanted any deal to be on his terms.
After winning 100 games and the NL West in his first season in 2003, the Giants did not make the playoffs in Alou's final three years. He had a 76-85 mark in 2006, ending his tenure with a 342-304 record.
Alou, the winningest Latin American manager, replaced Dusty Baker after the Giants lost the 2002 World Series. Alou began his big league career with San Francisco in 1958 and was the personal choice of owner Peter Magowan and Sabean. That made the decision to move forward without Alou in the dugout even more difficult.
Alou dealt with several controversies during his tenure, especially the past two seasons when injuries and steroid allegations followed slugger Barry Bonds. The seven-time MVP has agreed to a $16 million, one-year contract to return to the Giants for a 15th season and resume his chase of Hank Aaron's home run record of 755.
"Bochy won't walk him intentionally this year. Barry really made life impossible for Bruce as a hitter," Alou said. "They're going to have a good time together. I'm glad Barry's coming back. I'm pretty sure he's going to have a good season for the Giants. He should be a lot healthier. Hopefully he will break the record."
When hired, Alou was excited to take over a team that had the financial resources to acquire and retain star players. That wasn't the case in his 10 years managing the Montreal Expos, who fired him in 2001.
In 17 major league seasons as a player, Alou was a career .286 hitter with 206 home runs, 852 RBIs and 2,101 hits. He is 1,033-1,021 as a manager.
"I am truly overjoyed to have Felipe remain with the Giants organization," Sabean said. "As he was during his four years as our manager, Felipe will continue to be a huge asset for the ballclub going forward."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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