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Wednesday, November 13
Updated: November 16, 11:36 AM ET
Giants made the right move in hiring Alou

By Jayson Stark

You can't have just anybody manage a team like the San Francisco Giants.

Not with Barry Bonds on the premises. Not when you're talking about a team so loaded with veteran players that all the Giants' rookie position players combined got fewer at-bats this season than Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Not when your talking about a team whose key players come from hometowns as diverse as Villa Clara, Cuba and Los Altos Hills, Calif.

No, the Giants needed somebody with stature. They needed somebody with instant credibility. And they needed somebody who could convince the Dusty Baker Fan Club that the franchise won't plunge into McCovey Cove now that there's a guy managing without a toothpick dangling from his lip.

Felipe Alou
At the age of 67, Felipe Alou is now the oldest manager in the majors.

In other words, they needed somebody like Felipe Alou.

When the Dusty Era ended last week, the Giants' brain trust -- GM Brian Sabean and ever-astute assistants Ned Colletti and Dick Tidrow -- gathered to kick around ideas and kick around names. There was no doubt in any of their minds that they needed to hire someone who had managed before and, with any luck, had managed successfully before.

Well, let's face it, friends. It's not as if there are 200 guys riding around on the BART trains who meet that description anymore.

There were other names on the Giants' list -- Jim Fregosi, even Davey Johnson. But the more they thought about it, the more sense Felipe Alou made.

His Giants roots traced back more than 40 years. His son, Moises, had once played with Bonds in Pittsburgh. He was a man whose integrity was unquestioned by anyone who had ever known him, played for him or bumped into him in a convenience store.

He was a manager who could command the respect of veteran players the minute he tried on his cap. But he was also a manager who spent 10 years in Montreal pointing young players named Guerrero and Walker and Martinez down the highway to stardom.

So on Sunday night, Sabean hopped aboard a red-eye to Florida. After two days of hanging out with Felipe Alou, he knew he had his man.

"Brian is a very intuitive guy," Colletti said Wednesday. "He reads people very well. And every conversation I had with Brian over the last couple of days, when he talked about Felipe, his voice got stronger."

Still, it would have been hard for the Giants not to be concerned that Alou would turn 68 next May. Or that almost two dozen managerial jobs had opened up, and Alou's name had barely been mentioned for any of them.

So they talked with people around the sport who had known him forever, who were familiar with everything about him -- including his final years in Montreal, when there was talk of Alou losing his fire.

Alou leads the way
Felipe Alou's season-by-season record as a manager:
Year Team W-L Pct. Finish
1992 Expos 70-55 .560 2nd
1993 Expos 94-68 .580 2nd
1994* Expos 74-40 .649 1st
1995 Expos 66-78 .458 5th
1996 Expos 88-74 .543 2nd
1997 Expos 78-84 .481 4th
1998 Expos 65-97 .401 4th
1999 Expos 68-94 .420 4th
2000 Expos 67-95 .414 4th
2001 Expos 21-32 .396 5th
Alou's career managerial record is
691-717, .491.
* -- Strike-shortened season

What they concluded was that while Alou may have lost his love of managing a team doomed to failure -- if not contraction -- he had never lost his passion for baseball. And never will.

Well, he isn't managing Fernando Seguignol and Trace Coquillette anymore. He isn't managing in an empty track-and-field stadium anymore. He isn't managing a team getting ready to trade away Barry Bonds and Robb Nen for prospects.

He is managing a team that went to Game 7 of the World Series, plays in one of the three most beautiful ballparks ever built and orbits around one of the two or three or four greatest players of all time.

Not that Felipe Alou won't have his challenges ahead. He needs to follow Dusty Baker, which won't be easy. He needs to keep his superstar happy, which can always be a challenge.

He needs to be able to use his storied presence with Latin American players to reach Livan Hernandez and Felix Rodriguez. If Jeff Kent and David Bell are among the Giants on the way out, then Alou has to get the most out of Pedro Feliz and Ramon Martinez and whatever veteran bat the Giants bring in to fill Kent's best-supporting-actor shoes.

Alou will have to deal with the age questions. And it will take a while for the that's-not-how-Dusty-would-have-done-it talk to wear off. But given their options, the Giants made a tremendous hire.

"I think we're sending a message that we're all business," Sabean said Wednesday, "and that this man is somebody who can take us back to the World Series."

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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