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Giants say goodbye to Alou after 76-85 season

SAN FRANCISCO -- Nobody in the Giants' front office is
blaming Felipe Alou for San Francisco's failures the past two
seasons. Owner Peter Magowan is willing to take the heat for that.

The club cut ties with Alou on Monday, a day after the team
finished its second straight losing season. San Francisco is
committed to moving forward with a younger roster, and likely a
younger manager.

"He's every way a victim of circumstances," general manager
Brian Sabean said. "He knows he had four good years here. The last
two were rugged."

The change had been expected for some time, with the 71-year-old
Alou's contract expiring. He said he would like to stay in baseball
in 2007, possibly with the Giants, the franchise that signed him
out of the Dominican Republic in 1955. And Sabean already has offered Alou another job.

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.

"I'm proud of my behavior, my respect to the game, people, to
the cities and countries, the flags," Alou said last week. "I
don't like .500. A .500 man to me is mediocrity. You don't choose
your tools."

Alou, the winningest Latin American manager, replaced Dusty
Baker after the Giants lost the 2002 World Series. Hours before the
Giants announced that Alou was gone, the Chicago Cubs let Baker go
as their manager -- and San Francisco didn't rule out talking to
Baker about their new managerial opening.

Los Angeles Angels pitching coach Bud Black is considered a
candidate to replace Alou, while Bob Brenly, Lou Piniella and
Giants bench coach Ron Wotus also could be in the mix. Sabean
confirmed Wotus is on the interview list.

"It was very difficult. Obviously you can tell from my voice
that I'm still shaken today," said Sabean, who told Alou on
Saturday night he would not return. "Felipe is a man of
unquestioned integrity who has put his heart and soul into the
Giants."

The split with Alou is the first major move in what promises to
be a busy offseason in San Francisco. The most closely watched
decision will be whether the Giants decide to bring back slugger
Barry Bonds, who needs just 22 homers to break Hank Aaron's career
record of 755 and has been plagued for years by allegations of
steroid use.

Alou, who returned home to Florida after Sunday's season finale
against the wild-card Dodgers, asked for privacy Monday and issued
a statement through the club.

"Even though I will not be the Giants manager next year, I will
always be a Giant," Alou said. "Ever since I was signed by the
Giants as a student out of the University of Santo Domingo, I've
always considered myself a Giant."

The 42-year-old Bonds is eligible for free agency after the
World Series. Age, a balky knee and sore elbow have diminished his
skills since he won four straight NL MVPs from 2001-04.

After missing all but 14 games in 2005 following three
operations on his right knee, Bonds batted .270 with 26 homers and
77 RBI in 367 at-bats in the final season of his five-year, $90
million contract.

Sabean has said Bonds would likely have to take a pay cut to
stay with San Francisco. Magowan said Monday that if Bonds is back
the slugger will not be the centerpiece of the roster any longer --
even if he becomes the all-time home run king.

"I think we need to go in a new direction," Magowan said. "We
have for a long time had a strategy that has worked well until the
last two years, when it hasn't worked so well. The strategy has
been one of having a great player -- maybe the greatest player in
the game -- at the centerpiece and filling in with veteran
players."

Alou, who began his big league career with San Francisco in
1958, was the personal choice of Magowan and Sabean. That made the
decision to move forward without Alou in the dugout even more
difficult.

"It was a very sad day for me," Magowan said. "I told him in
no way did I think the failures of the team were his fault."

Alou dealt with numerous controversies during his tenure,
especially the past two seasons when injuries and steroid
allegations followed Bonds.

"No job is perfect," Alou said Sunday. "I don't believe one
manager enjoys having players die in their hands. I had a number of
players the last two years who had their careers end here."

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.

"He's a credit to the organization as a baseball man and as a
man," said Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, Alou's former teammate.
"He was the right person. He's a Giant and he cared about the
team. He gave everything he had and he's a great ambassador for
baseball."

Alou was reunited with his son, outfielder Moises, before the
2005 season and the pair spent the past two seasons together -- with
Moises often bringing his father food before games.

"I'm thankful we got to be together," Moises Alou said. "I
felt when I played for him in Montreal, the time went fast and I
didn't appreciate it enough. That has been a highlight in my
career."

Moises Alou is among the 11 Giants who could become free agents
-- a list that also includes ace Jason Schmidt, second baseman Ray Durham, outfielder Steve Finley and third baseman Pedro Feliz. The
Giants will have a similar payroll for next season -- around $85
million, Sabean said.

In 17 major league seasons as a player, Felipe Alou was a career
.286 hitter with 206 home runs, 852 RBI and 2,101 hits. He is
1,033-1,021 as a manager.