Giants cultivate foundation of leaders
Solid veteran clubhouse presence encourages team unity
LOS ANGELES -- At times like these, the Giants could use a little veteran leadership. Fortunately for them, they have a lot of it.San Francisco took a 2-5 record into Tuesday's scheduled off-day, but manager Bruce Bochy tried to plant positive thoughts in players' heads after Monday's 11-1 loss to Los Angeles by essentially telling them to relax. If Bochy needs to reemphasize that notion, he can call upon any of several Giants for help. Catcher Bengie Molina, winner of the last two "Willie Mac" awards as the team's most inspirational player, counsels position players as well as pitchers. He also won a World Series ring in 2002 with the Angels. Infielder Rich Aurilia, who has spent all but three of his 14 Major League seasons with San Francisco, knows how things are done around the Giants. Right fielder Randy Winn can offer a broad spectrum of perspective from having played in both leagues and being a switch-hitter. Center fielder Aaron Rowand enjoys relating to fellow players and, like Molina, played for a World Series champion, in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox. Shortstop Edgar Renteria, another member of a World Series winner (Florida, 1997), has served as a magnet for younger Spanish-speaking players. There are also utilityman Juan Uribe, who in the privacy of the clubhouse is a fountain of humor and good cheer; left-hander Barry Zito, who has built a wealth of experience in 8 1/2 Major League seasons; and Randy Johnson, the future Hall of Famer who has shared pitching wisdom with various Giants -- and whose very presence commands respect. "There's a lot of leaders on this team," Rowand said recently. "I think the teams that are good are the teams that have a clubhouse full of leaders." Last spring, new to the Giants after signing a five-year, $60 million contract as a free agent, Rowand made an overt effort to build clubhouse chemistry by organizing bowling nights and other team-bonding activities. This year, he didn't have to work so hard, since many of the Giants developed a sense of unity toward the end of last season. After struggling through most of the year, San Francisco finished 28-27 over the season's final two months. "I think people are more comfortable around each other and with each other," Rowand said. Comfort might seem elusive for the Giants' younger regulars, such as first baseman Travis Ishikawa, second baseman Emmanuel Burriss and third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who have yet to establish offensive consistency. Nevertheless, each is just a solid week or two away from truly cementing themselves in the lineup. "We're at a totally different place than we were last year with those guys," Winn said. And if they need occasional guidance, they usually can find it a locker or two away. "We all have our niche of what we can do," Aurilia said of himself and the other Giants veterans. "All of us are different personalities. I don't think any of us is afraid to say anything. At the same time, none of us is a really loudmouthed, vocal leader. But we try to lead by example, by the way we play and by the way we handle ourselves. It's nice when some of the young guys ask you questions, because that shows they want to learn." Different leadership models work for different teams. Winn recalled that when he played for the Seattle Mariners, Bret Boone served as the dominant vocal center of the clubhouse. At the same time, a layer of secondary leaders such Dan Wilson, John Olerud, Edgar Martinez and Jamie Moyer provided further stability. Leadership-by-committee, Winn said, seems to suit the Giants. "I think we're all approachable and wise in the game of baseball and able to help when people have questions," he said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.