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UNPOPULAR IDEA: Give Sabean a Break
Let's face it. None of us would have held onto this job as long as Brian Sabean. I realize the GM of your favorite baseball team is a convenient punching bag, but sometimes I think we need to appreciate some things before they are gone. However bad those of us in the "lunatic fringe" (a name Sabes gave us) think it is around here, it could be much worse. Would you rather have the Pirates situation? They are so far gone up the creek that their management doesn't even know where to start. What we have in Sabean is a man who wants to win, and apparently has some sort of clue on how to get it done.
Look, I'm just as much to blame. I've cursed Sabean too. On the air of the 50,000 watt flame thrower no less, however, let's take a look at the track record. Sabean has delivered 9 winning seasons in 13 at the helm. He dealt with an aging superstar, a ball park no one wants to play in, and two teams in both 2007 and 2008 that I personally can't believe avoided losing 100 games. Not only that, he has done what we asked of him. Three years ago we were all bitching and moaning about how we had not developed a hitter from our own farm system, other than Pedro Feliz, since Matt Williams. Well now look, we have Pablo Sandoval, and I think we all know what we think Buster Posey will become. Nate Schierholtz is also a world of potential who seems primed to have a breakout year. In this offseason we all know we need some hitting, and this includes Mr. Sabean. He has made it very clear it is a definite priority of his.
I think sometimes its human nature to like whatever is not going on. Last year Sabean jumped the gun and it didn't go so well. Just look at what happened when Sabean was rushed. Edgar Renteria's disastrous contract was signed. Wouldn't it have been nice to get better production out of Orlando Cabrera for about a third of the price? Instead we are going to get a second disappointing year out of Edgar where injuries will probably play another key role (I hope I'm wrong on that one). Sabean was lambasted for the move, as he probably well should've been. Even so, jumping the gun didn't even go awry in every aspect. Sabean made quick work in signing Jeremy Affeldt, and what a season defining move that ended up being. If anything I think that's where we need to key in. I remember thinking in late 2008 that the Giants actually could have been a .500 team that season not if they had another power hitter, but rather if they just shored up the bullpen a bit, and did something with the fifth starter spot. They finished 72-90 that season, and I quickly found nine games where the blame was that of a Tyler Walker or Brad Hennessey, rather than the lack of some arbitrary clutch hit. Sabean clued in on the fact that when you have a ballpark that plays like ours maybe the pitching is the important aspect. Pablo's offensive production was a very pleasant surprise but the bullpen's improvement is the biggest reason for the 88-74 finish last year. We only scored 17 more runs, and actually took a five point dip in both batting average and OPS. Meanwhile, our pitching staff's ERA improved by nearly a run, with 68 less walks.
So apparently having learned from last year's rush job, Sabean has taken his time this offseason. He has decided to wait it out and see how the market develops. Being that this is the opposite approach of the one everyone complained so much about last year, he is being unequivocally praised for utilizing this strategy for the current offseason...YEAH RIGHT! Rather he is again being ridiculed, this time for doing nothing. Is there no pleasing us? Sadly I know the answer. There is a common misconception amongst the common fan that they could be a better GM than the man who somehow got put in charge. Who knows? In other markets it may be true, though I doubt it. Certainly not in this one. We have a man in charge who knows what he's doing, and he deserves our respect. Quite frankly the lunatic fan that thinks he can do a better job is the same guy who was calling sports talk shows last year dreaming up such trades as John Bowker for Jermaine Dye, claiming we should have broke the bank to sign Manny, and are right now ready to run Johnathon Sanchez out of town straight up for a stone gloved Dan Uggla. Remember, before Aaron Rowand arrived in the cavernous spaces of AT&T he was considered somewhat of a power hitter himself. It's time to face it people, Sabean got where he is because he knows baseball. Trust me, he is making his decisions from a much more qualified place than we are. On top of that he is working with budget constraints, in the most expensive real estate market in the world, working for a team with a huge mortgage that they created solely for us since we "love" the team, but couldn't pony up the money to build them an improvement to Candlestick. Believe it or not there IS a correlation between overpriced free agents and the $8 beer you also complain about. When I put it in that context 88-74 just one year after 72-90 starts sounding pretty flippin' amazing.
This is a man who got us 9 outs from a world series title, and last time I checked Dusty Baker took that infamous trip to the mound to remove Russ Ortiz, not Sabean. Now, it looks as if he's bringing us back, and maybe some patience is in order. He loves this team, and to me that's extremely obvious. He deals with us and has not resigned. He is committed, and was making moves for many years down the road last year, despite not having a contract in place. That says I expect to be here, and I am not voluntarily leaving. I LIKE THAT, and so should you. If Sabean had resigned after the 2004 season, as I thought personally he originally should have, he would have a job somewhere else. He is respected amongst the league and one of his own students, Ned Coletti, is currently doing a fine job with the rival Dodgers.
So have faith, the man who is driving is a good driver, and maybe he missed a couple exits here and there, but considering just how recently abysmal we've been, I think he is making good time.
(This is the initial post for this column, and thus is on an irregular day. Please check back every Monday and Friday starting with Monday, December 27th for the latest article.)


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