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Wednesday, November 13
Updated: November 14, 12:05 PM ET
Alou signs three-year deal to manage Giants

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Felipe Alou never envisioned it would happen this way, finishing up his baseball career right back where it all started nearly a half-century ago.

Wed., Nov. 13
As a counterbalance to the irrational exuberance that is bound to accompany the hiring of Felipe Alou, let me raise a couple of points that might be cause for concern if you're a fan of the San Francisco Giants ...

1. Alou is old. He turns 68 shortly into the 2003 season, and the list of 68-year-old managers is awfully short. Historically, even the greatest managers -- John McGraw, Joe McCarthy, Earl Weaver, Davey Johnson -- have generally dropped from the radar screen long before reaching their late-60s. Only Connie Mack and Casey Stengel were still winning pennants at those ripe ages.

2. Alou hasn't been successful lately. Maybe he just didn't have the players in Montreal, but Alou's last three teams went 65-97, 68-94, and 67-95.

Let's see ... Alou is pushing 70, he hasn't managed a winning team since 1996 ... who wouldn't want to hire him?

Alou was hired Wednesday to manage the National League champion San Francisco Giants, returning to the team he played for in the 1950s and '60s. He calls himself a "soldier of this game."

"I'm going back home to where I started and, hopefully, I'm going to end it right there," Alou said.

The former manager of the Montreal Expos takes over for Dusty Baker and inherits a team that came within six outs of a World Series title.

The 67-year-old Alou, the bench coach for Detroit last season, agreed to a three-year contract and becomes the oldest manager in the major leagues. He was 691-717 in 10 seasons managing the Expos.

The popular Baker did not have his contract renewed by the Giants. Baker is talking with the Chicago Cubs about becoming their manager. Alou's son Moises plays for the Cubs.

"I was happily surprised," Moises said. "For him to get a job with a team like the Giants is awesome."

Alou played for the Giants from 1958-63 as part of a 17-season major league career in which he hit .286 with 206 homers and 852 RBIs. He also spent 1970 and part of 1971 in the Bay area playing for the Oakland Athletics.

On the Giants, he joined brothers Matty and Jesus in an all-Alou outfield in some games. That's one of the highlights of his playing days in San Francisco, along with a string of nine consecutive hits.

"When I received the first notice that I might be the guy, or the club was interested in me, I was really shocked," he said. "I was working with a team in the Dominican Republic and was far from major league baseball."

It is the first time in nearly three decades that a manager takes over a pennant-winning team in the offseason. Alvin Dark became manager of the A's when Dick Williams retired following their 1973 World Series championship.

Wed., Nov. 13
Felipe Alou was a brilliant hire for the Giants. I have tremendous respect for Alou, one of the most brilliant strategists. Any manager would tell you that.

He is the opposite of Dusty Baker. While Dusty wears his emotions on his sleeve, Felipe is stoic, much like Joe Torre. He sits there in the dugout, but nothing passes him by.

I compare Felipe a lot to a manager I played for, Preston Gomez, who currently works for the Angels and has been a great advisor to Mike Scioscia. Gomez never got a chance to manage a good team. Felipe had one good club in 1994, when the Expos had the best record in baseball, but with a lack of talent after that, he never had a chance again. Now he does in San Francisco.

"We're obviously thrilled we're able to welcome Felipe back," general manager Brian Sabean said. "Everybody in baseball realizes what he's done in the game. It's thrilling because he's a Giant at heart.

"He calls himself a baseball soldier in conversation. He's more like baseball royalty to us."

Alou was fired by the Expos during the 2001 season, and was with the Tigers this year.

He is a native of the Dominican Republic. The Giants had hoped to replace Baker, who is black, with another minority.

Shortstop Rich Aurilia appreciated the Giants' speed in hiring a manager. The team announced Baker would not return last Wednesday.

"We were a few steps behind other clubs having been in the World Series," Aurilia said. "It's nice to know that they went out and got somebody who's well respected around baseball and has done a good job with his teams."

Alou has the challenge of dealing with Barry Bonds, whose dugout shoving match with second baseman Jeff Kent -- a free agent not expected to return to the Giants -- was a low point in the team's successful year.

He said he expected no problems.

"Barry Bonds and other players operate at a very high level, a level not many people have operated at in the course of their lives. I respect the way they operate," Alou said. "Myself, I was a decent player, but I didn't operate at that level."

Sabean is confident Alou can handle what has been at times a contentious San Francisco clubhouse.

"He dealt with an interesting, diverse group in Montreal and our clubhouse is one of the same," said Sabean, who interviewed Alou over two days in Florida. "I spoke of pedigree and blood lines, and it doesn't get any better than this. He's a guy who can and will make a difference."

Alou insists he has plenty of energy despite his age, and plans to fulfill all three years of his contract. Eventually, he will become a special assistant with the club, Sabean said.

Baker's differences with team owner Peter Magowan simmered all season, mainly about who deserved the most credit for the recent success. It even came up during the Giants' seven-game loss to the Anaheim Angels in the World Series.

Alou has not finalized his coaching staff, but said he would consider keeping members of Baker's staff in place.

"He knows the game very well, and was a great player when he played," Aurilia said. "It seemed like his players gave everything they had."

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