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2 San Francisco Giants A return to 1997 form by lefty Shawn Estes could mean a return to the playoffs

All the king's horses and all the king's men are trying to put
lefty Shawn Estes back together again. From a University of
Northern Colorado sports psychologist to Giants manager Dusty
Baker to fans on the streets of San Francisco, the effort to
rebuild Estes after his great fall in 1998 is as large as what's
at stake. No player means more to the Giants' improving upon
last season's 89 wins than Estes. "If people want to put that
kind of pressure on me, that's fine," he says. "I expect that
out of myself."

From an All-Star season in '97, when Estes went 19-5 with a 3.18
ERA and San Francisco won the National League West, Estes sank
to 7-12 and 5.06 last year, when the Giants lost a wild-card
playoff to the Cubs. He missed eight starts because of a
strained muscle in his throwing shoulder and suffered from lack
of control and loss of confidence when he was on the mound.
"Living in the city where I play, I couldn't forget last year,"
he says. "But I have to say, when the fans reminded me of it,
they were very supportive."

At the suggestion of a former teammate, Estes, 26, met several
times with sports psychologist Ted Bashore to improve his
concentration through deep-relaxation exercises. Estes begins
each day with 15 minutes of visualization exercises. When he's
on the mound, he begins each pitch by saying a key word to
himself: strike. "My goal this year is to have a purpose behind
everything," Estes says.

Baker, with the input of pitching coach Ron Perranoski, also has
tried to lessen the pressure on Estes. He cut down on Estes's
innings in spring games while emphasizing his side work.
Moreover, after making Estes his Opening Day starter last year,
Baker dropped him to the fourth slot in his rotation this
season. "The plan is to pitch me against other teams' Number 4
starters instead of Number 1's," Estes says, "so for the first
couple of months I can get my confidence and rack up a few wins

Baker has a reputation for getting his players to respond as if
every day were the 15th and the 30th of the month. He calls his
players "Dude," quotes to them allegories from the Bible and
takes them fishing to offer advice or friendship. Despite the
Giants' middle-of-the-pack payroll ($48 million this year), only
the Braves and the Astros have won more National League games
over the past two seasons than the Fabulous Baker Boys. "Dusty
has a knack of getting everyone to play for him," San Francisco
righthander Mark Gardner says. "If a guy has the smallest
competitive bone in his body, Dusty will find it, and that guy
will step up and do what he's asked."

Baker is the point man for the shrewd front-office team of owner
Peter Magowan, general manager Brian Sabean and assistant G.M.
Ned Colletti, which has created such a welcoming environment
that players typically take below their market value to play for
the Giants. Gardner, for instance, re-signed in November for $5
million over two years, a bargain for one of only 12 pitchers in
the majors to win 12 games and have an ERA lower than 4.50 in
each of the past three seasons. Gardner had been a career 41-48
pitcher when he came to San Francisco in '96 at age 34. He is
37-22 since. "I'm comfortable here," Gardner says, adding that
front-office personnel frequently call to ask about his wife,
Lori, who underwent a successful liver transplant in February

Likewise, outfielder Ellis Burks accepted a two-year, $10.6
million deal after playing 42 games for San Francisco last year
following his trade from Colorado. "This is the place I wanted
to play," Burks says, "so I didn't concern myself with what was
going on in the market." Burks, who had off-season surgery on
both knees, is one of four hitters in the middle of the Giants'
lineup who have knocked in 100 or more runs in a season, with
leftfielder Barry Bonds, second baseman Jeff Kent and first
baseman J.T. Snow being the others.

Following on the heels of the second-highest-scoring team in San
Francisco history (only the '62 version scored more runs), the
Giants should again be a dangerous offensive club. Their
bullpen, which led the league with a 3.16 ERA, is another
strength. Whether they can avoid finishing their first decade
since the 1940s without winning a postseason game depends on
their starting pitching. That's where Estes comes in. "To me,"
says Gardner, the Opening Day pitcher, "Shawn Estes is still our
Number 1 starter." If so, the Giants could engage in their own
visualization exercises, with the key word being October.


COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE After winning 19 games two seasons ago, Estes produced only seven victories last year.


By the Numbers

1998 Team Statistics (NL rank)
1998 record: 89-74 (second in NL West)

HOME RUNS 161 (7)
OPP. BATTING AVG. .259 (8)
ERA 4.19 (7)
FIELDING PCT. .984 (2)

A Giant Difference

Barry Bonds's batting average was more than 100 points higher
last year with Jeff Kent behind him in the batting order (.323)
than without him (.220). San Francisco's winning percentage was
also 161 points higher in Kent's starts, the third highest such
differential among teams with a player who started between 100
and 135 games and spent time on the disabled list last season.

Team Player W-L Pct. W-L Pct. Diff.

Padres Ken Caminiti 82-44 .651 16-20 .444 .207
Orioles Brady Anderson 65-56 .537 14-27 .341 .196
Giants Jeff Kent 77-57 .575 12-17 .414 .161
Royals Hal Morris 56-60 .483 16-29 .356 .127
Devil Rays Wade Boggs 46-61 .430 17-38 .309 .121
Athletics Miguel Tejada 52-52 .500 22-36 .379 .121
Marlins Craig Counsell 38-63 .376 16-45 .262 .114
Expos Henry Rodriguez 68-49 .581 22-24 .478 .103
Blue Jays Darrin Fletcher 65-49 .570 23-25 .479 .091
Rockies Larry Walker 59-60 .496 18-25 .419 .077

Next Up...

Four years ago Giants manager Dusty Baker asked a young
outfielder, "What's your name, son?" The outfielder replied, "My
name is Marvin L. Benard, and I was born to play major league
baseball." Benard's always had the right initials and a lot of
desire, but at 5'9" and being a 50th-round draft pick, his road
to the bigs hasn't been easy. After spending parts of three
seasons with the Giants, he finally stuck with San Francisco for
an entire season last year, at age 29, and hit .322 in 58
starts. Nevertheless, he is battling Stan Javier and rookie
Armando Rios for playing time in '99. "I know I might get 500 at
bats--or 100," he says. In either case he'll be ready.

Projected Roster With 1998 Statistics

Manager: Dusty Baker (sixth season with San Francisco)


CF Marvin Benard L 139 .322 3 36 11
3B Bill Mueller S-R 193 .294 9 59 3
LF Barry Bonds L 11 .303 37 122 28
2B Jeff Kent R 21 .297 31 128 9
RF Ellis Burks R 57 .292 21 76 11
1B J.T. Snow S-L 164 .248 15 79 1
C Brent Mayne L-R 290 .273 3 32 2
SS Rich Aurilia R 273 .266 9 49 3


OF Stan Javier S-R 228 .290 4 49 21
IF Charlie Hayes R 268 .286 12 62 2
C Scott Servais[1] R 347 .222 7 36 1
IF Wilson Delgado(R)* S-R 360 .277 12 63 9
OF F.P. Santangelo[1] S-R 382 .214 4 23 7


RH Mark Gardner 89 13 6 6.4 1.40 4.33
LH Kirk Rueter 56 16 9 5.7 1.33 4.36
RH Russ Ortiz 189 4 4 5.8 1.54 4.99
LH Shawn Estes 110 7 12 5.8 1.54 5.06
RH Steve Soderstrom* 210 11 4 6.0 1.25 4.05


RH Robb Nen 8 7 7 40 0.95 1.52
RH John Johnstone 222 6 5 0 1.25 3.07
RH Julian Tavarez 230 5 3 1 1.55 3.80
LH Rich Rodriguez 275 4 0 2 1.36 3.70
LH Alan Embree[1] 288 4 2 1 1.47 4.19
RH Felix Rodriguez[1] 323 0 2 5 1.66 6.14

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)
*Triple A stats