Cracked Acta 

Unless Brian Sabean is a lad insane, or at least one who pushes things to the edge, the Giants' managerial search is down to four candidates: Mets coach Manny Acta, Angels pitching coach Bud Black, Padres lame-duck manager Bruce Bochy, and Giants coach Ron "Ronnie" Wotus.

Others could emerge, but time's running short. The Giants ideally need a manager in place by the end of the month so the rest of the rebuild can get underway.

Ann Killion of the Mercury News has some words of advice for whoever signs on: Beware Bonds.

If Barry comes back -- and it seems more "when" than "if" -- it should only be a one-year tour of duty, after which the new skippah would have full control of his clubhouse. Yes, but three of the four managers on the short list would be first-time MLB managers, which means short-term contracts. Very short-term. Perhaps only one year, and we'll see after that.

If you were Manny Acta, would you want your first managerial job to coincide with, and only with, Barry Bonds's Final-Year Freak Show? If you were Ron Wotus, would you want to feel like the organization man being asked to bridge the gap between the Bonds and Non-Bonds Eras, with the unspoken implication that once Bonds goes, Giants brass can go out and get a more experienced candidate?

Whoever signs on would no doubt want a multi-year deal. Duh. Any manager in any situation would, but with the 2007 San Francisco Giants there's added incentive. The front office should recognize that '07 could be a disaster, or at least a distraction, and that the real work starts in a Bonds-free '08.

Put in that light, Bochy has the most leverage to ask for such a deal. Watch that man: He's a known quantity, he's won pennants with relatively weak squads, and he'd attract free agents who like his style, according to Mark Sweeney: "I think he would have a lot of clout in signing free agents, because a lot of guys would say they would play for him. He's definitely a players' manager. That goes a long way, especially with the type of players we have in San Fran. He's a good fit."

What does that mean, by the way: "the type of players we have"? Players who prefer working for a nice guy? Was this a dig at Felipe's standoffishness?

There's no panic in Detroit with Jim Leyland sitting pretty, but with the A's, Rangers, Nationals, and perhaps Padres all looking for new managers, the Bonds factor may weigh heavily. Only a masochist, a rookie manager with no other options (some poor little greenie), or a retread looking for a job, any job, would gladly take on a year of Bonds with no guarantee of contractual light at the end of year-long tunnel.

The candidates circle, the open chairs beckon, everyone weighing their options and glancing back over their shoulders. Will the Giants' chair be filled by the last man standing?


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