Monday, November 5, 2012

Comment: Brian Sabean's Place in Baseball History

Brian Sabean has been the General Manager of the San Francisco Giants for the past 15 years.  During that time, I think it is safe to say that he has been one of the more polarizing figures in Giants history, possibly even in baseball history.  Throughout most of baseball history, except for a handful of groundbreaking thought leaders, most GM's labored behind the scenes out of the public eye receiving little praise for success and little blame for failure.  Success and failure in the field of general managing is difficult to quantify because there are so many confounding factors, such as payroll constraints and meddlesome ownership, and because many of the activities that characterize a good general manager, such as building and maintaining a good scouting staff often bear fruit long after the GM who executed these duties has retired or moved on to anther organization.  GM's serve at the pleasure of team ownership, a notoriously fickle, self-centered, short-sighted and meddlesome lot.  Brian Sabean is a bit unusual in that he is one of a very few GM's with a long enough tenure at one team to be able to assess his full body of work, and even then the story gets murky at times.

Brian Sabean's career in baseball management started out in scouting for the New York Yankees and he rose to the position of Scouting Director with them and played a major role in scouting and drafting the nucleus of the great Yankee teams of the late 1990's.  In 1993 he was hired by Giants GM Bob Quinn to be scouting director and assistant GM and succeeded Quinn as GM in 1997.  At the time, the Giants had suffered through losing seasons 5 of the previous 6 seasons despite the presence of Barry Bonds on the team since 1993.  Sabean immediately set about to distribute payroll more evenly throughout the roster and traded Matt Williams for several players including Jeff Kent.  He used the draft and farm system as a source of trading chips to acquire multiple players such as JT Snow, Livan Hernandez, Robb Nen, Jason Schmidt and others who would help send the Giants into postseason competition multiple times over the next several seasons including a bitter World Series loss to the Angels in 2002.

With Barry Bonds career moving into its final stages, Sabean foresaw a post-Bonds team built around homegrown pitching and had a cadre of young pitchers in place headed by first round draft picks Kurt Ainsworth and Jerome Williams plus 4'th round pick Jesse Foppert known to Giants internet fans as AFW.  In a run of monumentally bad luck, the Bonds era ended prematurely when Barry got a nasty infection in his knee after arthroscopic surgery and all 3 of Sabean's prized young pitchers careers were cut short by injuries and poor conditioning.  Sabean desperately tried to hold things together by signing multiple veteran free agents at the expense of draft picks, the whole thing collapsed into 90+ loss seasons in 2007 and 2008.  Big money contracts to Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand with poor on-field production from these players helped to fuel fan anger and frustration.  Calls from internet based Giants fans and local media for Sabean to be replaced as GM mounted.

Giants ownership refused to fire Sabean, though, and instead gave him a contract extension.  Meanwhile, Sabean stuck to his plan for the post Bonds era by continuing to draft and develop pitchers such as Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner.  After the 2007 draft, he hired John Barr a more offensive minded scout, away from the Dodgers to be the his scouting director and Barr drafted Buster Posey in his first draft in 2008.  The Giants improved to 88 wins in 2009 and broke through with their first World Series Championship in 2010 and repeated that feat in 2012 largely on the strength of the young pitching core that Sabean constructed after the end of Barry Bonds' career and the unfortunate collapse of AFW.

So, where does all this leave Brian Sabean in the history of baseball GMs?  As I said earlier, GM's have only recently operated in the public spotlight as the Information Age has made their work more accessible to the public and the rise of sabermetrics and fantasy baseball has created millions of people who literally think they know as much about building a baseball team as the people who do it in real life.  I was able to identify just 4 modern GM's who are current members of the Hall of Fame, Larry MacPhail, Lee Macphail, Branch Rickey and curiously, Pat Gillick.

BRANCH RICKEY, of course, was probably the greatest GM in the history of the game.  He invented the concept of the farm system in building the St. Louis Cardinals into the "Gashouse Gang" of the 1930's.  As GM of the Dodgers, he broke the unwritten rule prohibiting the hiring of African-American players by hiring Jackie Robinson  and he was an early pioneer in signing international prospects when he signed Roberto Clemente while he was GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

LARRY MACPHAIL was an executive with the New York Yankees who brought in some innovations such as regular televised games and flights between cities for road games as well a maintaining excellent Yankee teams.

Larry's son, LEE MACPHAIL was also a Yankee executive and later laid the groundwork for the great Baltimore Orioles teams of the late 60's and 70's.

PAT GILLICK built the Toronto teams of the 1990's and later contributed to a WS win for the Phillies in the 2000's.  Gillick's resume seems a bit thin compared to many other GM's who are not in the Hall of Fame.  It remains to be seen if Gillick is an anomaly or the first of many modern GM's who are eventually inducted.

What about other GM's who are not in the HOF?  I started out researching this by trying to think of teams who have enjoyed sustained success in the past 50 years or so, thinking that maybe there was a pretty good GM behind that successs.  Here are some of the names I came up with:

BOB HOWSAM- Howsam was a Branch Rickey protege who was almost singlehandedly responsible for building the great Cincinnati Reds teams of the 1970's known as the "Big Red Machine".  Prior to that, he played a role in putting together the Cardinal teams of 1967 and 1968.  Howsam was particularly a thorn in the collective Giants fans side as he was responsible for acquiring Orlando Cepeda and George Foster from the Giants for the Cards and Reds respectively.  Howsam was extremely conservative in his general outlook and was not able to adjust to the realities of free agency and he was unable to carry the success of the Big Red Machine to a new generation.

BING DEVINE- Devine built the Cardinal team that won the World Series in 1964, but was curiously fired before the end of that season by an impatient Gussie Busch when the Cards fell way behind the Phillies before the Phils' epic collapse.  He went on to build the groundwork for the "Amazing Mets" teams of the late 60's and early 70's before returning as GM of the Cardinals when Busch and Howsam had a falling out.

HARRY DALTON- Dalton carried on the work of Lee MacPhail with the Baltimore Orioles and guided them to sustained success through the 70's and early 80's.  He later had an undistinguished stint with the Angels, but then built the "Harvey's Wallbangers" team with the Milwaukee Brewers.

AL CAMPANIS- Campanis was the Dodgers GM from 1966 through the late 1980's, putting together a team that enjoyed sustained success.  His career came to an unhappy end with some unfortunate comments about race and the lack of African-American managers in the major leagues on Nightline.  Campanis probably deserves to be in the Hall of Fame based on this baseball accomplishments, but the legacy of his Nightline comments may keep him out.

JOHN SCHUERHOLTZ- Schuerholtz has built teams with sustained success in Kansas City and Atlanta with a total of 15 postseason appearances and 2 World Series wins, 1 each with KC and ATL.

CHARLIE FINLEY- amazingly, Charlie Finley was his both owner and GM of the Oakland A's and personally built the great A's teams of the 1970's.  Finley was a classic old-school owner who was not able to adapt to free agency and ended up selling the A's and getting out of baseball.

In Brian Sabean's 16 years as GM of the Giants, his teams have had 12 winning seasons, 6 postseason appearances, 3 NL Pennants and 2 World Series championships.  He as able to completely rebuild a team after the end of Barry Bonds career and has been able to adapt his approach to financial and personnel realities.  His record compares favorably with many of the top GM's in the history of the game.  Hall of Fame induction for GM's is very sparse so it is difficult to project him as a future Hall of Famer at this point.  His record certainly compares favorably with Pat Gillick who has been inducted, but is no better than several GM's who are not in the HOF.  It remains to be seen how GM's are treated in the future by HOF voters.

Sabean is certainly the most successful GM in Giants franchise history since the great John McGraw and easily the most successful GM since the team moved to San Francisco.


  1. I enjoyed this post. There are many, many details about Sabean's tenure, some more debated than others, but when you step back to a results oriented grand tour, its been a fun ride and I'm looking forward to the next few years of adventure.

  2. I enjoyed this post as well.

    One thing you didn't point out is that Sabean turned around a losing organization in one season, which is pretty rare, I believe. Most GM's need a period of time to rebuild off of the mistakes of his predecessors - Cox took 6 seasons as GM, where he gutted the team and had horrible seasons, before his drafts started paying off and then he took over as manager, and Dombrowski took 4 losing seasons before he could turn around the Tigers. I've gone through a number of organizations which had nice turnarounds, after years of losing, and did not find any instance of a similarly quick turnaround as Sabean did upon taking over. There might have been some on the past, but from my judgement looking at past teams, I would judge it to be a pretty rare accomplishment on the part of Sabean.

    I would also add my opinion that Sabean was not preparing per se for Bonds era ending, but rather the power era ending. For at least 10 years now, I recall him saying in an interview that he felt that we were reaching the end of the power era soon, that we would switch back to pitching and defense and speed, and he wanted to move the team in that direction.

    I totally agree with your last statement that Sabean is the most successful since McGraw and since moving to SF. I think that Sabean's prescience and execution will become more apparent as this budding dynasty continues to its next stages. I think also that his being connected to the two most recent dynasties - Yankees and Giants - will also help his stature when all is said and done. As Barr noted in interviews, Sabean is still very involved with the drafts and provides his input as well, so Posey being drafted had his input as well, just as he had a strong hand in drafting Jeter and Pettite for the Yankees and signing Posada and Rivera.

  3. Nice post Drb... Sabean belongs in the the San Francisco Giants HOF for sure.. Its been admirable the job this organization under Sabean has done turning it around the past 5 years.. I went from wondering if I'll ever see the Giants win a World Series in my lifetime, to seeing 2 WS champions in the past 3 years! To their credit, they were patient enough to see their plan through of going with homegrown talent and filling the holes with FA instead of relying on mostly free agents which they did in the past. I like the coaching staff they've assembled and the front office seems to have alot of good baseball people helping with the decisions.. John Barr reportidly came to the Giants hoping for the opportunity to draft Buster Posey.. He has a long list of good MLB players he's drafted such as Mike Mussina which comes to mind..

    I want to see Angel Pagan come back but if he wants a 3+ year contact, he'd be blocking Gary Brown.. Can't see the org giving Pagan 3+ years.


    1. I can easily see Pagan getting 4-5 years in the 10-12 M range. I'm tending to believe that he won't be back as of right now. I really like Pagan and would like to stay, but I'd be OK with Blanco in CF and leading off. If the Giants go that route though, they better spend some of the money saved on Pagan on a decent bat in LF. Doesn't have to be a big name. I'd be happy with jonny Gomes. Melky back would be OK too. Or Torii Hunter.

    2. whatever the giants do will have a lot to do with their feelings on brown, peggs and Kieschnick

      and isnt much of sabeans current success due to the change of the insane philosophy of the unbalanced draft of pitchers as trade chips and the reorganization of the biz side of those in charge of the system?


    3. I think Blanco is a big part of the calculation too, but yeah, I think the Giants have their hearts set of Gary Brown as the CF of the future and don't want to block him.

    4. I want to throw out my view on Sabean's "lost" years. The accusation that he "loves" vets and favor them over prospects has never "fit the glove" in my opinion. He cut his teeth as a scout and rose through the ranks as a scout. Can you imagine someone like that preferring vets?

      His plan, to me, was always to build from the draft and homegrown talent. That is why he kept prospects like Ainsworth, Williams, and Foppert around, until they proved - to their eyes - to have lost the ability to contribute in a big way, at which point he was amenable to trading them. He continued that into the Cain/Lowry era, then the Lincecum/Bumgarner era. That is why he has never traded away a prospect who turned out good, and have kept the ones who are good, like Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Sanchez, Wilson, Romo, Sandoval, Posey, Belt, Crawford.

      But he didn't write the paychecks and his boss wanted to win one with Barry Bonds. So he had to compromise on that by spending a lot of money on free agents that he might not have wanted, but if you are going to be a contender for the playoffs that season with Barry, you don't go into Opening Day with a rookie hopefully playing well and winning the position, you want more of a sure thing, like a vet.

      If it is true that he didn't like prospects, nobody has ever, that I've seen, answer the big question mark such an assumption suggests: he could have gotten a great position player in trade for Matt Cain, another good player for Lowry, which would have really helped the Giants win with Bonds around, why didn't he do that? If he prefers vets over prospects so strongly, why haven't he traded away a prospect that came back to bite him in the behind? (Though Wheeler might do that) And many of the players people complained about Sabean because he didn't give them more opportunity, how many of them have gone on to greater things? You would think one of them would have gone on to star somewhere if the fans were so right and Sabean so wrong. Bowker is now in Japan, Lewis is a journeyman 4th OF, among the ones that drew the most cries.

    5. Regarding the unbalanced draft of pitchers, this just makes sense as an organizational philosophy towards quick rebuilding and sustained, long-term competitive advantage in the playoffs and overall.

      Your best bullets are your early picks, then the odds drop significantly. Hence why almost all of his first round draft picks have been pitchers. Pitchers can be used across up to 12 positions on the team, for the best pitchers. The cream rises to the top and the pitching gets better and better, hence why getting Lincecum was good, it just put Cain into a lower position on the totem pole. However, if you got McCovey and Cepeda at first base and unable to play any other position, you are just screwed and have to trade with another team, and good luck on what you get in return (or look at Texas with Teixeira, Hafner, and A-Gon). That adds additional risk to your re-building effort.

      Meanwhile, let's say one of your future aces blow up and fail? He can move down the rotation to another spot, or he could move into the bullpen. Heck, many a failed ace starter has become excellent closers, Isringhausen and Woods come to mind. And vet pitchers can move into the bullpen as well, see Eckersley, Todd Worrell, and become good relievers. Pitchers can have a long productive life, despite the fact that their arm can go kerplooey.

      This philosophy also recognizes the fact that the odds of finding a GOOD player in the draft is very low period, and extremely low when you are a team competing for the playoffs every season. So first, you build up the pitching staff, getting it better and better, by unbalanced drafting of pitchers, then once you reach a good point there, you can start focusing on getting the position players to support that wonderful pitching staff you put together, overloading on position players with your drafts (though I would note that while the Giants overloaded on position players with their early draft picks when the shift happened, they still drafted more pitchers than hitters).

      It also makes sense to overload on pitching because studies have shown that it is pitching that enables teams to go deep into the playoffs and win it all. And not just pitching, but dominant pitching (high K/9, strong closer). The draft is a volume business when the odds of any particular draft pick becoming a good player, so you pick up as many bets as you can, and when you luck out on a 30th round pick, he can add to the pitching staff, not become a choice between one position player or another. That is procuring and producing your own competitive advantage in the playoffs, on the cheap, at least initially.

      Overloading also counters the fact that pitchers are more fragile and likely to break down and/or become unproductive, at inopportune times. That gives you insurance in the farm system in case, say, your ace suddenly is not that good anymore for any reason. It also give you trading chips if you so need it. And at minimum, the cream rises and your pitching staff gets better incrementally, while also getting cheaper with each new addition. It helps keep the payroll lower while giving the team insurance in case a pitcher blows out, plus strengthen it for any run through the playoffs.

    6. I believe the Giants have done it almost exactly right in how they have been handling the draft and roster building. They keep the good, while keeping a spot or more open for competition among our best prospects, while keeping around some vets who can teach the youngsters how to be winners and how to handle things in the majors. And supplementing with free agents, both high priced and gambles. Most importantly of all, they have focused on building a team capable of plowing through the playoffs as long as they can outlast everyone and make the playoffs.

      Too many fans worried about making the playoffs, when the goal should be making hay in the playoffs when we get in. That's because they don't realize that a team capable of going deep into the playoffs generally make the playoffs most seasons, no matter how bad their offense is. And most fans operate under the philosophy that if the position isn't the best, the team sucks, when they don't realize that most teams have positions where they suck, but still make it deep into the playoffs, things do not need to be perfect for your team to win a championship.

      (P.S. I hate the Google verification boxes, they discriminate against older fans, like me, whose vision is naturally getting worse)

    7. I'm nice and mellowed out by all this victory. What are the years we are talking about here on the "Lost" years? 2003-09? The losing seasons (he has 4, 2005-8)? Are we going big ticket items here, or are we nitpicking? Lets make some definitions to limit the scope, because its a giant body of work - 15 years! With the same GM! You'll never see this again in the modern era of baseball I don't think.

      My view on Sabean is he's better than most, has some very interesting traits such as secrecy and loyalty, is a tad thin-skinned and plain spoken, is a pretty shrewd evaluator of talent, and he has done some bone headed moves that get nitpicked to death. He's a man, he made mistakes (haven't we all?), but he got a second act, and he killed it. This is America. Everybody loves a comeback.

      Love to debate a little, you know where I stand on most these issues. You won't get any argument about our AAAA players, which you had to debate a lot on the interwebz in the dark days of 2009-10.

    8. ogc,

      There is a lot of truth in that. The post-Bonds era was always going to be extremely difficult to navigate at best. A, F and W were as highly touted as any 3 pitching prospects in baseball at the time. It was monumentally bad luck for all 3 to end up as busts which made the transition post-Bonds all the more difficult and delayed the return/continuation of success by at least 3 seasons. Yeah, pretty much everything else that happened in that period is really small stuff. Of course spending all that money on Zito and Rowand didn't help, and it's been pretty well established that those signings were probably not Sabean's idea.

    9. DrB, that actually seems the norm rather than having Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner (and Sanchez for a little while). There was AFW for us, and the A's and Mets had their "Four Aces" in the early 90's that I was tangentially referring to with my note about Isringhausen, the only one of the 8 to make a big impact on the major leagues.

      Well, I think it has been pretty well established, but Shankbone still thinks Rowand was a Sabean special. ;^) At minimum, Baggarly let the Magowan-Zito connection out of the kimono, I'm waiting expectedly for the Rowand connection to come out as well some day. It all seems to come out with time, Ted Robinson told of how Vlad was never going to come to the Giants because he hated Felipe (my first articles on-line were about how Vlad would come to the Giants because of connections like Felipe - he even spoke out nicely about Felipe when Alou was managing the Tigers, something he didn't have to do, he could have said "no comment" - and apparently I couldn't have been more wrong; I also thought maybe he would want to join the team that Jose Uribe, who gave him his first pair of baseball shoes, made his name with).

    10. Lets not forget about Noah Lowry, who was a good giant as well, that still makes me sad. Maybe not ace stuff, but a solid 2/3. Cain/Lowry and those 3 charging hard. The Giants sure have lived TINSTAPP more than most organizations. There were some other pretty hyped guys - Merkin Veldez - as well as solid but steady Brad Hennessey. The Giants had a bad run of luck.

      But for me the Bonds era ended on the Steve Finley game. Then they just had to play out the hand that got dealt. The surrounding cast wasn't nearly as good as the 97-02 crew, where the mistake Sabean had made was having too much offense and not enough pen. Why does he pay so much for his pen now? Look to what happened 2000-2004, there is your answer. Here are two underrated traits of Sabey Sabes: 1. He learns from his mistakes. Bloggers want to bust chops, well, he is his own harshest critic. 2. He is very good at ad-hoc go find somebody to throw into the battle. I think this manifests itself in how quickly the Giants became competitive again, as well as his tinker at the deadline moves from 97-02. Sure its not always pretty, but he generally will get something in there to plug in. There are misfires - Guillen, Tejada, Cabrera, etc - but the successes outweigh them pretty significantly - Pat the Bat, Ross, Scutaro, going back to Brian Johnson, Kenny Lofton, etc.

      Hey, we might not ever know about Rowand, but he looks like the kind of guy Sabean likes, the price was just out of wack. We've won 2 titles with him on the payroll, its just what it is. Every team has bad contracts. Vlad was never offered a contract, we will never know that answer. It would have given the Giants a strong continuity, maybe he could have supported the 05-08 offenses, but we're in butterfly effect here, and what's done is done. I have come to view Vlad as an ownership decision, and Sabean's famous quote on Vlad as a rant to that effect.

      The biggest thing for me is faced with a down fanbase, a panicking ownership group and a fading star who's media circus was absolutely no fun to deal with, Sabean came up huge. I go back to this article - - and there it is - what is Sabean going to do? The answer turned out: the most legendary 1-2-3 hit on high draft picks in MLB history, held em all against all the cries for trades, and went on to 1 early championship, has another, and is getting a core group together that should stay strong for 5-6 years. That is a dope GM right there folks, straight up dopeness.

    11. Good point Shankbone, the lost years in my thinking is 2005-8, the losing years, since that is what a lot of the Sabean Naysayers think of, where they complain about his choices - Hillenbrand, Lewis, Bowker, Zito, Rowand - but to your point, their complaints really span Sabean's whole tenure as GM, including rumors that they decide is the truth (Willie what's his name with the D-backs).

      I still hew to logic, beyond that he's human and humans makes mistakes. Does it make sense that someone who can view talent well enough to make good drafts over a long period of time, plus know talent well enough to know when they are a lost cause and thus can trade for useful players, really misjudge talent the way the Naysayers like to portray him, whether Hillenbrand (which I never understood as a complaint, he was no start but an average hitter at 1B for us at that point would have boosted our chances to make the playoffs, and he was a lifetime good hitter), Bloomquist (is that the D-back MI name?), Ruben Rivera, Orlando Cabrera, Jose Guillen, et al? Sometimes you look at lesser players because that is all that is on the market, and so you roll the dice with some of them. That does not make Sabean a poor judge of talent, nor does that mean that he's the idiot that he's made out to be by the naysayers. Between doing nothing and knowing how things will happen, I prefer a GM who at least tried something, even if it was a low cost risk with low chance of succeeding.

      I liked that he gave all the above a try. We were getting very subpar 1B offensive production, if Hillenbrand would have hit anywhere close to his career numbers, we would have been contending for the playoffs. In Rivera's case, you need to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Torres and Blancos. In Cabrera's case, Crawford was doing horribly anyway and needed a time out to work on his batting mechanics, so while Orlando failed to do anything, he gave BCraw quiet time to work on his stroke, and that was a success, as he came back up and hit very well to end the season. I still prefer to let prospects work on things in AAA and not in the majors while we are trying to win the division title. And that gave the Giants enough confidence - well that and AFL - to make Crawford our starter for 2012.

      Guillen I consider a success as well. From August 15 to Sept 24, he hit .311/.357/.443/.800 in 31 starts, 33 games. In RF for the season, the Giants got .246/.314/.393/.708 and that includes Guillen's good stretch. He did go cold in that last stretch, very cold, probably because of that neck problem that he got the injection for. At the time he joined the Giants, the Giants were 3.5 games out. By the time he cooled off, the Giants were leading by 0.5 games up. He was part of the effort to get us 4 games higher in the standings, and for that, I thank him, because we needed every game, as it turned out. Then others carried the load and we ended up 2 games up.

      Without Guillen's good hitting at a crucial part of the season, I don't think we catch up in roughly 3 weeks, and then take the lead, as we went 20-16 during that stretch (a 90 game winning percentage) where he was hitting very well. Without him, we probably would have stalled out, ended up maybe 18-18, and without the Giants breathing down the Padres neck, maybe they don't blink and keep the lead, instead of collapsing as they did.

    12. Thanks for bringing up Lowry, he was one of my faves, I recall seeing him up in the bullpen the first time and going "who's he?"; at that point, I wished I was at home able to check the internet than sitting in the stands hoping for Bonds to hit one out (never did see one...). Shame on me for forgetting him, he helped us out big time, not least of all was his contract which Cain accepted, I would have fought for a bigger one if I were his agent.

      Yeah, what's done is done, plus, as I noted in other comments, the lack of success in those efforts resulted in our relatively good draft position and landed us Lincecum, Bumgarner, and Posey, so there was a big upside to any mistakes he made - real or imagined - during that period. That is the ying and yang of baseball.

    13. That THT article just shows the lack of understanding still of how low the odds are of finding talent with back of the first round draft picks and while distribution matters. That's because all these sabers do is look at the average and think that is what matters. That, to me, shows their lack of sophistication in understanding statistics.

      Just because you can get an average does not mean that it is something that is useful. I think of this - - when I see this kind of poor analysis. One of the first rules of stats is that averages work when there is a central mean and there is the lovely bell shaped curve that we all know and love.

      Success in the draft, however, is horribly skewed. While the average value is, say, $5M, given the numbers stated in the article, what they neglect to note is that while one team gets $45M and another team gets $5M, the other 8 teams get $0M (or roughly that). Or maybe $40M, $5M, $5M, rest $0M (and many teams end up with negatives, as well, I am just trying to show what the concept is). Hopefully, now you get my point, which is that punting one draft to use that money for other purposes is a useful technique to do every once in a while, even in two consecutive years, because of the very, very low odds of finding a good player with that draft pick, even if it is in the first round. It is not ideal, but there is a business risk logic that makes it doable.

      Does your team need, say, 50% odds of success of getting some player useful out of that $1.25M bonus money today or 10% odds of success in getting some player useful in 4-6 years? That is the question that Sabean faced. Given the owners penurious ways, he made that Sophie's Choice (for a scout) of getting the player, as the onus was on building a competitive team NOW, for Sir Bonds to win one, when the stupid owners had extra money available (that they tried to use on Maddux), when they could have let Sabean get both Tucker AND the draft pick had they given him a lousy $1.whatever million that he needed. His job definition, for better or worse, was crafted by the owners, and it was his duty to win with Bonds, to heck with draft picks if necessary. That is why I gave the owners hell back then and not Sabean, he did what he had to in order to fulfill his working orders, the owners could have given him some breathing room but didn't.

      From what I remember writing back then, the owners could chose to aim for the stars by giving Sabean the extra money to pursue Vlad (or other options, he was not the only free agent out there) or they could chose to be mediocre. I wanted to shoot for greatness, they chose to be mediocre, and we all saw what that got us.

      To that, I would add to the learning noted above for Sabean, that the owners seem to have learned too. They fired Magowan and installed Neukom, who openly wanted all baseball deals be brought to him then they can figure out the finances. I was sad when he was pushed out, but the Baer regime so far seems willing to up the payroll to keep our star players around, and to add on, as they did when we got Pence. If they were going for mediocre again, there was no way Huff would have been signed (a mistake now in hindsight, particularly in light of his psychological problems, but at that point, looked like a fair deal), no way they would have traded for Beltran and then Pence. So far, so good, but I'm ready to bang the drums for a new owner if they get cheap on us and we start losing our stars because of finances. I know it can't last forever, we will run out of money if stars keep rising, but there should be enough money to cover the next 5-6 years, I think, and when most of the core is in their free agent years, we'll probably have to start making difficult choices on who to keep and who to let go.

    14. I hate character limits when they don't tell you when you hit it...

      I would also note that Tucker had 1.5 WAR (Fangraphs) produced that season, which was a good return on his salary covered mostly by that bonus forgoed. Meanwhile, Matt Campbell, the guy drafted by KC with the Tucker pick, never made the majors, ever.

      Out of the next 10 players drafted, a total of 12.0 WAR was produced (average of 1.2 WAR), but most of it was produced by Gio Gonzalez, who should continue to produce a lot more WAR, while the rest I think is out of baseball or nearly so. Take Gio out, and the other 9 produced 1.9 WAR, with Howell the biggest at 3.0 WAR, 2 negatives, and 4 who never made the majors. That's roughly the percentage my study found, 10% of the picks in that range makes the majors as a good player, most do nothing much of anything.

      Showing how random the luck/skill in finding players are, in that stretch was a number of players who were not that good. In the second round, the Brewers got Yovani Gallardo (15.0 WAR) with the 46th pick overall, the Astros got our own Hunter Pence (18.1 WAR) with the 64th pick, and the Red Sox got Dustin Pedroia (30.7 WAR) with the 65th pick.

      That was one of the better known A's "Moneyball" drafts where they had a lot of picks, and was lauded for landing Huston Street and Kurt Suzuki, and appropriately so. Beane got Landon Powell (-0.1 WAR) with the 24th pick, Richie Robnett (no majors) with the 26th pick, Danny Putnam with the 36th pick (-0.2 WAR), Huston Street (9.6 WAR) with the 40th pick, Michael Rogers with the 49th pick (no majors), Kurt Suzuki (10.3 WAR) with the 67th pick, and Jason Windsor (-0.3 WAR) with the 97th pick. That's 7 picks in the first 97 picks, and he got two good players out of it.

      What was neglected to be noted was just how good it could have been. Just from the first two rounds, looking at guys picked in those same rounds but after, meaning the A's could have picked them first, they could have had Huston Street earlier, had Gio Gonzalez before having to trade for him, plus Yovani Gallardo, Seth Smith (50th pick by Rockies), Hunter Pence and Dustin Pedroia, obviously not in that order, but they could have had all of them in that draft with those picks, approximately, and could have gotten Jason Vargas probably as well. Well, that's more than 7 but they could have gotten the bulk of the good players there and really would have had a smash bang-up of a draft, a Bill Walsh type of great draft where you find a lot of starters.

      And this is not as a criticism of Beane either, though I don't mind that either, but to show 1) that even he didn't know who the best were in the draft, not by a long shot (just Pedroia alone would have been a huge upgrade over the 7 guys they ended up with, Pence too), not with his saber-liciousness, and 2) that it is just very, very hard and ultimately humbling, to find talent that becomes a good player in the majors. That, has been the lesson I've been trying to convey about the draft, it is easy to criticize any GM for a poor draft, but looking at how the odds are stacked against any GM in finding a good player, I find it hard to be critical, and in fact, I find Sabean's strategy to be unique and, more importantly, successful overall.

    15. This illustrate what an achievement it is that Sabean was able to find so many good players in the draft and stock our team with them. Based just on the odds of finding a good player with the 10th pick (Lincecum and Bumgarner), assuming that is the proper population available, there is roughly 60-70% probability that a team selecting there end up with nothing much in terms of talent with that pick. Teams hit on that daily double of two good players roughly 5% of the time, and find 1 good player with those two picks in the rest of the time, roughly 25-35% of the time. Even finding a good player with the 5th pick (Posey), is less than a coin flip (roughly 40-45% success rate from my old study). Thus what the Giants did by finding two good players with their 10th pick happens, on average, roughly 5% of the time, showing how rare that is. Either he was very, very lucky, or very, very good.

      For Lincecum, he was the best available out of the first round. Bumgarner was the second best, but Heyward was not available to the Giants, he would have been a risky pick for the Giants because he wanted to be selected by the Braves and was able to deke all the teams before the Braves by saying he wants to go to college, and he had two college professors for parents.

      And as good as Bumgarner has turned out, he's not the best the Giants could have selected, the Nats got Jordan Zimmerman in the second round, Marlins got Giancarlo Stanton (AKA Mike), and both have higher WAR than Bumgarner. Though I'm not sure how it is, but basically BB-Ref rates Bumgarner as roughly an average (2.0 WAR) pitcher in 2011 and 2012, that despite very low ERA's, good K/9 and good K/BB ratios. Very puzzling, I've asked them why, hopefully get a good answer.

    16. Ah, I was hoping to get through a conversation without Ol Michael Tucker. I wasn't privy to WAR back then, and sad faced Michael Tucker patrolling RF instead of Sweet Warrior Prince Vladdy the Impaler was just a rough, rough blow. We've discussed this at length, but the problem might not have been Tucker as an isolated baseball move to squeeze in, it was the next year where we missed out on the first 3 rounds. And that's where it gets dicey - Omar on the first day of FA, when Cleveland was letting him go for sure, for a year more and $ more than any other team. Metheny, soon after. And then... Benitez. As you know, Benitez and Alfonso are two of my biggest whipping boys - because I lived in New York and saw them live and on TV all the time, and I thought that was a pretty big scouting failure.

      But you make a good point about the bell curve. Its not 5-7MM in surplus value, its the chance at that value, and the chance at absolute squat. Draft picks can be worth nothing a whole lot of the time. Its a high risk, high reward game. But as I often point out when we get in this - you have to be in it to win it. And that is a legit criticism of Sabean I think, he is building a feeble offense (although with pretty good defense to be fair), and he's blowing up the entire farm to do it.

      But that's what is so great about that article, and 2006. Oh, so I suck at drafting? Well, watch me now. Its pretty brilliant. Here's one thing I just thought of - obviously, with Moneyball and Billie Beane being a handsome ex-bonus baby turned nerd icon, he was one side of the bay, and then you have stumbling bumbling Brian who puts his foot in his mouth all the time. Its been a constant theme these past ten years.

      One of my favorite jokes - the winter meetings, Scene: Cal Ripken, Steve Finley and Jim Leyritz are sitting on a couch in the Opryland hotel. Observer: “All that’s missing is Brian Sabean and a pen. You know, that sort of thing. Well, it reminds me a bit of Oliver Stone's film Nixon, where Anthony Hopkins is staring at a portrait of JFK, muttering “when they see you they see what they want to be , when they see me, they see what they are”. I think there's a little hero worship that Billy Beane gets away with, because he does hire BP, he does give interviews to bloggers, he does the small stuff. Sabean just... doesn't.

    17. Speaking of B/R, or WAR in general, I really think there needs to be some reexamination - your work on this DOM/DIS start stuff paints a much different story. And DrB has noted that relievers really get the short end of the stick on WAR due to innings pitched. I think that like defense, there can be some tweaks. But I always use stats as a get close to the action, not as a religion. I'm much more interested in the story than the stats. Not that I don't like numbers, I do, and I do like statistical analysis, but for me it always comes back to the Ty Cobb quote. These are ballplayers, who are competing on the field.

      Some of Sabean's quotes ring out on that front - "This is a dogfight, and we win those". Calling the team a bunch of cockroaches - 9 go in the microwave, 8 come out. He always uses battle analogies. I get a kick out of that.

      The one thing that BP piece last week did right was his accent. That New England tough guy accent is classic. And that just adds to his persona, somehow a tad intimidating, a tad awkward. I always go back to the fact that if he's such a jerk, how the hell does he have such loyal people around him, for years and years? Then there is also the "he doesn't return phone calls" brew up with Buster Olney. I remember after 2010 he was being interviewed by Tolbert, and he mentioned - yeah "That guy" he didn't even have the courtesy to look at me. Well, forget about him. That's what I'm talking about with his thin-skin, but also he sounds like a mobster - he does third person stuff - calls Burrell "The Left Fielder", we aren't going to sign that Japanese Shortstop. Little things like that crack me up. He's a character.

      And that's why I'm bummed there ain't no press conference. Something funny or something that points in the general direction the franchise is going always comes up. He's plainspoken, and pretty straight shooting, although you gotta watch em, he gets savvy sometimes.

    18. But to get into 2005-8, per DrB's point, the Bonds knee infection, the young pitching imploding, that is the big theme. 2005 we had 3 38 year olds and a 40 year old. With Bonds out Alou and Durham were the only good regulars, although Randy Winn showed up to parlay a hot hot September into a nice sized contract. 2006 is much the same story but he finally gets Finley (by trading Alfonso's corpse!), but Cain and Lowry are at least cracking the rotation into a sub-30 year old crew, and Brad Henny, Correia and a very young Jonny Sanchez are peaking around. 2007 the offense truly gave out, but Sabean should get credit for letting Schmidt walk. That happened, and his prep for the draft saved his job as they got all hopped up for the draft picks. 2008 Bonds is gone, Rowand and Winn are throwing up league average (as did Ray Durham!) and if you actually look up B/R, they played a helluva lotta kids, something they don't get credit for ever.

      Rambling at this point, but those 4 years were wastelandish, but now it seems like we were pretty spoiled by winning and competing from 97-04. And now we're getting back to that demanding sort of stuff, because despite the fall shorts in 09 and 11, its obvious there is a formula at work, the shut down pitching, the quest for better defense and baserunning, and the patiently sort in the positions, one at at time. With Belt and Crawford making a bumpy ride landing (and lets not totally count them in), along with Posey and Sandoval, there is less to do. Because these guys are young, very young. We can scrapheap together some positioning waiting for that breakout in the OF. Its funny - we thought we had it earlier in the year, with Pence being traded for and Melky breaking out. Then the bust, and Pence slumps. You never know, and thats the fun of it.

    19. Sorry to butt into the discussion here.

      I wanted Vlad as badly as the looniest of the lunatics, but hey, it's all water under the bridge now. For whatever reason, it just wasn't gonna happen.

      I might have been the most outraged Giants fan of them all with the Michael Tucker/draft pick punting fiasco. Still haven't completely gotten over that one. I'll side with Shankbone on that one. Given the Giants track record in the draft, whether it be a high or low pick, I just think the odds were a lot more favorable on that pick than the general odds that ogc is absolutely correct about. Again, even if it's a crapshoot, you have to roll the dice to have a chance. Still, gotta blame Peter the Pink for not manning up and giving an extra $ 1 M or 2 to get both Tucker and the draft pick.

    20. Classic line, on your own blog! Butting in, not in the least.

      I completely agree, it is water under the bridge. It is time for me to let go of Michael Tucker and the whole punt draft fiasco. And I have changed my opinion on blaming ownership for both Vlad (who would have been so sweet in the french vanilla and a great bridge to the after Bonds years), and the 1-2MM Tucker money, and the 2005 moneys. And heck, while we're at it, not bucking up for CC Sabathia when Tidrow wanted to draft him! Hello Tony Torcato.

      Its fun to revisit this stuff now, there are things that just don't hurt as much. Although MLB had something on about 2002 that I just glanced at as I passed through the room and I had to see FRod and Worrell getting slapped around. That brought back some bad gut punch. But even that I can deal with now.

    21. One thing I have heard about Vlad - this is third hand - that Harmon Burns reply to "why can't we get Vlad" was "do you want $10 more on your tickets?". Third hand, pretty sketch source.

      But what a great quote: In a word: No. If we had signed Guerrero or [Gary] Sheffield, we would have been without [Jim] Brower, [Scott] Eyre, [Matt] Herges, [Dustin] Hermanson, [Brett] Tomko, [A.J.] Pierzynski, [Pedro] Feliz, [J.T.] Snow, [Jeffrey] Hammonds, [Dustan] Mohr and [Michael] Tucker--obviously not being able to field a competitive team, especially from an experience standpoint, given our level of spending.

      How pissed would you have been as a GM? AJ was 3.5MM, the rest were on either side of a million clams. Everybody busts on him for wanting to spread out the money, but the real story is being hamstrung by win with Bonds on a shoestring. Surprised we lasted to the Finley game, in a way.

    22. About Vlad and Burns, I call B.S.

      I analyzed back then who they would have been able to get if they had signed Vlad and used that money that they suddenly made available that same off-season to pursue Greg Maddux. Had they signed Vlad with the Maddux money, and virtually all the players that they did sign, minus Hammonds and Tucker, they would only have had to add a couple of million dollars on top to get Vlad at the salary that the Angels signed him for that season. That works out to, say, an extra $1 on each ticket.

      Also, if the person in charge of arbitration offers (cough, Colletti) had done his homework, we probably would have saved half a million dollars in AJ's salary. All the articles I was reading said that the arb should be $3M range, but for some inexplicable reason, the Giants offered $2.25M (if I recall correctly) and AJ asked for $3.5M, so the arbitrator gave AJ the $3.5M salary, which means he thought it was closer to the true value. Had the Giants been at $3M or even slightly below, I think they would have won the arbitration hearing.

      And, with Vlad around instead for offense, we probably could have gone with Torrealba as the starting catcher and retained Nathan et al. This domino chip changed a lot of things for us, though I would note that Sabean don't like waiting until the last minute to fix things, and since Vlad signed late, odds are that without AJ, he would have signed another OF already, so who knows where that might have gotten us.

      So no, it would not have raised tickets $10 each, heck, even if they financed the entire amount via ticket price increases, the Giants sold over 3M tix, so the price raise would have been more $4 per ticket, maybe $5 if there is a lot of additional benefits on top of the salary that Vlad gets.

    23. That logic makes sense, and it does sound like a BS excuse (if its real).

      I am pretty sure AJ is still the last guy to go to arbitration with the Giants. More to my point - Sabean remembers the mistakes and misfires - and they decided never again. The Giants tend to pay more than fair rather than skimp on arbitration cases. The only time Sabean lowballs is with really small contracts - he lowballed Uribe big time after 2009, and Juan held it against him after 2010, and that worked out OK. Sometimes its better to be lucky than good.

      It is a domino effect. And that's the heart of the lunatic fringe for me - no Vlad, this weird punt draft pick thing, and then a trade that went terribly wrong. Vlad, Yorvit and Nathan instead of Tucker, AJ and Bentiez? That's a pretty sweet way back machine. And of course for me its about letting Kent walk, the Alfonso special (Coletti bragging about not giving him a physical still makes me tear my hair out a bit), but that was Kent being Kent, Bonds being Bonds, and Peter the Pink being Peter the Pink.

      One reality of Barry Bonds is the Giants had to shine on Will Clark. Not enough money, or possibly there can only be one alpha dog. Kent is a bit more murky. Clark and Kent are two of my favorite Giants, its hard to be rational about them leaving, but I do think those were big mistakes. But now we have Clark in the dugout celebrating, Kent showing up here and there, and 2 trophies to go ogle. Good time to be a Giants fan.

    24. Here is the article I wrote, so that you can judge if it is real or not:

      I did leave out more players than I had recalled, but I still think it works the way I envisioned in the article.

      AJ is not only the last guy to go to arbitration, but the only one that I can recall. Sabean's policy has always been to avoid arbitration (though I should note they were minutes away from one with Lincecum), that was noted in articles around the time of A.J's too, so I was hoping for a deal. But given what we know now about A.J., that was a fool's dream.

      Yes, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. But Sabean was right to offer what he did, Uribe was a huge risk given his performance up to signing with the Giants, and still was after 2009, and I was cringing at the numbers I saw for Uribe so I was happy that the Doyers signed him away.

      Will the Thrill is one of my all-time favorites, but I was ready to let him go. He was already downshifting in performance with us, and regularly coming up injured. In retrospect, it would have been better to sign him than Thompson, who was I was OK with signing, but Clark wasn't a bargain either, he got the big contract, but never played a full season after that (oddly enough, in the last year of his contract with Baltimore). I think all that missed time and shortened career (for a top player) hurt him in the Hall of Fame voting, else he probably would have been a shoo-in (and sabermetrically, most analyses I have seen says that he qualifies).

      I think a team can have more than one alpha dog, but it cannot handle more than one aggressive alpha dog, and both Bonds and Will were. I think there are ways to be an alpha dog without stepping on toes, and that would allow there to be multiple alpha dogs, I think. Though, on a tangential note, did you see that GIF on Giants Extra? The one showing Posey trying to shake hands with teammates and they are walking by him and ignoring him? That was a shocking thing to see, anybody know about this, got an explanation or whatever?

      Kent was also one of my favorites but his anti-Giants comments afterward really chapped my hide. I haven't really forgiven him fully yet, particularly with truck-washing-gate, and I don't think the Giants had enough money in the world to sign him away from Houston, he had his ranch there and I assume his family, and he was done with Bonds. The only way he would have stayed is if Bonds were not there, and that wasn't happening.

      I would have loved Kent to be back, for his hitting, but I was still pretty mad about truck-washing-gate, so I was OK with him leaving. I felt that his lying was a big DISS to the fans.

    25. Confusion on the interwebz - I meant my story on Burns saying what he said. That article is great. That Maddux Money has always been frustrating, both in that they had it stashed and the fact he didn't sign. The precursor to the RDF...

      The Uribe thing, followed by the Tejada thing is my last real criticism of Sabean making a bonehead move. Chasing Uribe for that much money was a mistake, as was depending on Tejada to be a SS. I saw Tejada's bat as completely done, and his defense a complete disaster. Couple that with his whiny behavior and I had a new whipping boy. The chase of Uribe is a rare departure from his 1 or 2 year contract discipline, which has been in place since Rowand.

      The Posey handshake thing is something Bumgarner dreamed up, its pretty funny, they are just messing with Captain America. Everybody loves Posey the most.

      Kent's "I always wanted to be a Doyer" echoed Brett Butler, and I was mighty pissed about that. Not sure how much money it would have taken, but CA is at a disadvantage to TX because of the income tax issues.

      I have always held a completely irrational hatred of poor Robby Thompson since they signed him and not The Thrill. Sometimes being a fan is irrational, and that leads to some silly discussions on the interwebz. But there it is - I loved them both, and was stunned they signed Thompson and not Clark. He did have some injuries, yes, but he was the man, he deserved better from ownership, and we couldn't have predicted that completely. His stat line post-Gigantes is still pretty darn good.

    26. Sorry I misunderstood, yeah, the internet...

      Yeah, personally, I think that "Maddux Money" as I called it was the RDF, just not so named back then yet (perhaps internally?).

      Well, while I cringed on the money, I would have been OK at the money the Giants were offering, partly because he had done well for us, partly because we can use a versatile player who can play 2B, 3B, and SS competently, partly because he was OK as a hitter at SS and adequate for backup for the other positions if something goes wrong. Especially 2B, I did not expect Freddy to be healthy all the time (though I didn't expect as little as he did give us).

      I would also note that they offered 3 years to LaRoche but he turned it down. The money Huff ultimately got was roughly the same amount LaRoche would have gotten (just slightly higher).

      I thought that Tejada's bat was not done at the end of the prior season, he hit .730 OPS for the Padres, and that was better than the average hitting SS in the NL. It was his defense I was worried about and the reports was that Giants scouts were impressed with how he was handling SS for the Padres (obviously they were wrong or he deteriorated over the off-season). I was surprised seeing him in the presser for his signing, he reminded me of that comedian on SNL, Kenan (he played Fat Albert in the live action movie). And his defense was worse at SS in 2011 than 2010, though I would note that his defense at 3B was superb, great even, by sabermetrics. And at $6M, you are really talking 1.2 WAR production and if he's average SS offensively (2.0 WAR?) and as bad as his SD defense says, that's roughly 1.5 WAR with margin for error.

      The main problem is that AT&T is still a park that takes some hitter's time to figure out (Grissom, Durham, and Alfonzo talked about that issue long ago), and Tejada had a bad two months, but good for June/July (.283/.331/.425/.755) until his injury DL time, after which he had already lost any chance to start, and then he grumbled his way off the roster.

      Thanks for explaining the Posey handshake!

      I would also add Jason Schmidt to the "wanted to be a Doyer" Brett "Balls" Butler speech to the Wall of Shame chalkboard scratching. Yeah, I wasn't too happy about any of those, though I could understand that.

      Yeah, the tax issue is one, but, like in Carlos Lee's case, once the Astros met his internal target, he told the Giants to stop bothering to up the offer, that he was accepting the Astros.

      I just think Kent was fed up with both the Bonds situation and the Giants situation. I took great pleasure that the Giants ended up winning the division while the Astros fell short, after his crack about not caring about the future direction of the Giants, dissing the team like that, when he signed with the Astros. I felt that he made it personal by doing that, he could have just said the usual platitudes about being close to family, home, and ranch, plus the taxes, and that the Astros were a team he saw doing well, he didn't have to backwash onto the Giants in being happy with the signing with the Astros.

    27. OT: wow, it is amazing how many anti-Giants screes are paid for by A's fans on BB-Ref, complaining about bandwagon fans and such: hey A's fans, it's been 23+ years since your last World Series and the Giants are halfway to catching up, and look good for a number of more years. Put that in your elephant trunk and blow! Giants: Team of the 2010 Decade!

      Anyway, I was looking at Will's numbers, and you have to remember that they were greatly inflated by the Rangers home park. His road numbers were in the low to mid 800's OPS for the most part, which was closer to his 1990 and 1993 numbers than his good years with us. And that is still good, just not Will Clark good. And he never played more than 123 games in his first four seasons for them and didn't even reach the qualifying PA in two of his seasons there, and barely made it in two others (he was there for five seasons). He would have been good practice for the Bonds 40's seasons where he played less games, but I think Bonds even got into more games than Will did for the Orioles. For that Will got $27M over 5 seasons.

      Versus $13M over 3 seasons for Robby. And Robby played a lot less games than Will, he was hurt even more often. I still think that was the lesser of two evils, I don't think it would have felt good thinking that Will was robbing us, instead it left us wanting more and with fond memories of him.

    28. Back to your talk about stats and stuff, yeah, I mostly agree with you. I think that modern sabermetrics do not give pitching their proper due. They are the ones in control, that is how you get the surprises of Bobby Jones shutting down the mighty 2000 Giants offense, Barry Zito shutting down the mighty 2012 Tigers offense and outpitching Verlander.

      Pitchers pitch pretty well most of the time, and the hitters have to hit their mistakes, much like Bonds was always waiting for that one perfect mistake pitch that he'll get each game. Yet Bill James Win Share allocates roughly 50% to hitting, 40% to Pitching, 10% to Fielding, giving 60% to position players, 40% to pitchers. And most saber talk discusses how pitching is not worth as much as hitting because players play in 162 games and starters at most 34 games. And it is even worse for relievers, though there is at least the acknowledgement that there is leveraged situations where they give credit to pitchers for pitching in and getting out of such situations. If anything, it is more 60% pitching and 40% position players (hitting and fielding) and at worse even, 50/50, with hitting 40% and fielding 10%.

      I view myself much the same as you. Of course, I love the numbers and stats and analysis, but I also acknowledge the human aspect involved, plus there are a lot of pertinent information about players that an obsessive fan would know that most do not, and thus can better explain the story of what is actually happening with a team at any point. That's why I believe in clutch hitters, that's why I believe that not every pitcher can be a closer, I know from personal experience (as I was unclutch, unable to ignore the pressure) that these things exist. I just don't think we either have the data to see that and the analytical methods to divine that out of the data.

      Not that I know Sabean, but there are people who are very loyal and good with people he considers his peers, like his top advisors, and perhaps Sabean's disdain for the new breed of GMs shines in his interaction with them. I mean, there seems to be people who stands by Bonds and his public persona was pretty ugly as a personality.

    29. All I know is that if other GMs were calling me and throwing jell-o at the wall with me all the time, with crazy deals, I wouldn't take their calls either. Most fantasy leagues I was a part of, there was always a number of them who would make these outrageous offers to me, basically robbing me blind (or trying) and if real life GMs were like that, I would not blame Sabean for having a gruff attitude with the whippersnappers because they are wasting my time with crap like that.

      Using this as backdrop, here is how I imagine life as a GM has been for Sabean. People like to paint him as anti-prospect, trade away the young guys, love the vets. It has been reported before that he and the Giants have a Keep List and an OK to Trade list (one obsessive nut I like to keep handy). Given that none of the prospects he has traded away before has not really gone on to great things, that suggests that he knows what he got and knows when they don't got it. Hence, when he approaches other teams for a trade, it seems to me that these GM's just carry the latest Baseball America Prospect Handbook and demands the Giants top prospects in return.

      Is it any coincidence that when Sabean actually has a prospect worth keeping - Cain, Lowry, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey - he don't do any trades of consequence, finding it hard to do trades, but when the top prospects are lacking in some way, Sabean is able to pull off a good deal where he gets a useful veteran for the "top" pitching prospects? Really, it seems like real GM's are like fantasy GM's, reading the BA Giants team chapter and asking for prospects #2, #6 and #8, or whatever.

      And I think that whole Blue Jay's "leak" of the Lincecum-Rios "proposed" trade really pissed off Sabean, and is representative of how the newer GMs were treating and disrespecting him. That was a horrible offer and all we can read in the papers is how the Blue Jay's would really prefer Cain but is willing to take Lincecum, or vice-versa, back and forth. Made me cringe, wondering if this is really Sabean or if it is just Blue Jays on a phishing expedition.

      I like how Sabean was honest but basically told everyone out there to put up or shut up, NOW! Of course there are trades where the Giants would trade them away, but no team was offering that "can't refuse" offer, they were trying to rip off the Giants. Then he slammed the door on them. That would piss me off too and did in fantasy leagues (I would turn the table on them and make a similarly outrageous offer back to them - no to Vizquel for Albert Pujols, how about you give me A-Rod for Salomon Torres?).

    30. I agree a ton on this subject. The new GMs seem more like preppy MBAs to me, and Sabean's comment about the new guys throwing stuff at the wall to gauge interest really rang out to me. That is a distinct style, and I worried for a bit that Sabean was out of touch with it, because there were so many, he might run out of trading partners, and become too stand alone. But the Gints have managed to survive, being what I call the Monks of MLB, doing their own distinctive style. Bobby Evans seems like the heir apparent to Sabean, and he brings a much more PR friendly flair. He also seems miles ahead of Coletti, that is for sure.

      While I think there are some valid criticisms of Sabean being out of touch, going vet centric, I think it got to be a carricature, and in reality he had to hang on to his players, and there just wasn't much beyond that scope. Sure a bit of blame might be placed for not having that, but then you get into ownerships willingness to pay up. And the fact that under Quinn right around hiring Sabean they gutted the budget 75%, so that Sabean and Tidrow had to concentrate on pitchers (hell, maybe that is the express reason Sabean made a beeline to get Tidrow over the second his yankee contract ran up).

      And that is my final point about Sabean - he has carried a helluva lot of water for ownership, and absorbed a lot of fans gruff which really should have been directed at those owners. And that is pretty admirable, once you step back (and yeah, cherry picking from lofty heights of winning twice - don't think I could be that easy with the victories).

    31. Damn kids distracted me, that last sentence was terrible. I couldn't be nearly as easy without the World Series wins. Giant fans had way too much angst tied up in our history. And that is the thing that puts me in the pro-Sabean camp - he's the GM who delivered. And then he delivers again. Should be interesting how long he wants to hold on - he can name his price right now. He is pretty removed from the day to day, trusts his guys to execute, and just loves being in the baseball side. It was pretty funny watching the marketing crew trying to get him in the public eye more, and the owners trying to get him into the business side. He wants to know what he can spend, and then go about it. That is both a strength and a weakness. Strong because you remain focused on baseball, weak because I don't think he has the strongest shmoozin' abilities, and that might have loosened purse strings. But those are held on pretty tight, the way SF baseball associates is set up. He's a good guy for the job overall.

  4. Good post, DrB. I enjoyed reading all of that, and think you've pointed out all the likely HOF candidates. Sabean does indeed compare quite favorably. Good job!

    One small correction: the Brewers' "Harvey's Wallbangers" were named after manager Harvey Kuenn.

    1. My mistake - you weren't saying they were named for Harvey, but that Dalton built them. Please ignore my previous comment.

    2. Right. It was Harry Dalton, GM, and Harvey Kuenn, Manager.