Giants legend Willie McCovey talks Panda, Dodgers and his Cove

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Using forearm crutches, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey carefully and slowly ascended the steps of the home dugout at Scottsdale Stadium.

Age and injuries have taken a certain toll on a man who hit 521 home runs.

At 72, and after multiple surgeries on both knees, "Stretch" isn't as nimble as he once was. McCovey's mind, however is full of opinions about the Giants.

While every team has former players who are cool, the Giants seem to have cooler ones than most teams. McCovey, Willie Mays, Will Clark, Gaylord Perry, Vida Blue, Orlando Cepeda — they all did something around the park this past weekend.

He retired in 1980, but McCovey is so beloved in the Bay Area, they're still naming giraffes after him.

As he sat in a comfy looking office chair in front of the Giants dugout and watched batting practice, McCovey touched on an array of subjects — from the Giants' chances in 2010 to the body of water named after him beyond right field at AT&T Park. An even 50 home runs have landed there on the fly since the park opened. Pablo Sandoval(notes) has hit the past two.

About Panda, McCovey says: "It seems like he's having fun all the time. That goes a long way in this game. This is a kid's game. It's like with Willie [Mays]. Willie used to have fun playing. Some guys play like it's a job or something. You've got to have fun."

On Bengie Molina(notes): "It's good to have Bengie back. It's hard to lose 20 home runs and, what, 80 RBIs from a year ago?"

On Buster Posey(notes): "With all the press you get these days, sometimes you become a star before you take one at-bat. So much has been written about him before he even came out of college that everybody thinks he's going to jump in and be a superstar right away. Who knows? We don't really know what he's going to do."

On the Dodgers: "The Dodgers have some good young players, but I don't think their pitching staff is as good as ours."

On the NL West: "It's a better division than we get credit for every year. All I ever hear is 'the West is a weak division,' yet we still beat all the teams in the other division.

On McCovey Cove: "A columnist, Mark Purdy of the [San Jose] Mercury News, came up with the idea of what to call it. The Giants asked me and I gave them the OK."

On chasing home runs hit into the water: "They got their own kayaks. Some people will do anything to get a baseball, as you probably know."

On chasing the home runs himself: "Jump in? I can't swim. I'm not going to jump in any water — I can't swim. Do I look crazy enough to jump into a cove? C'mon, you got to be kidding me! Why would I do a thing like that? Even if I could swim, why would I do that?"

OK, maybe that last question was a stretch.

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