Two people have written articles about Brian Sabean the last couple of days, one relatively positive, the other, not. The first one I’ll mention is written by William Gum:
…. Among current general managers, only Kevin Towers of the San Diego Padres has enjoyed a longer tenure with the same club than Sabean. He’s held his position longer than any other GM in Giants’ history. Sabean brought the Giants a wild card tiebreaker, a wild card, three NL West division championships and a National League Pennant. Most importantly, he turned around a chronic loser (six losing records in seven years).
…. Sabean turned the Giants around quickly, and gave the team a good decade of winning results. He obviously had a good strategy, built primarily around Barry Bonds and trading away his younger talent for proven veterans to fill out the lineup.
Gum is writing from I don’t know where, but he don’t know jack. There is only one reason the Giants have won anything in the last decade, Barry Bonds, and Barry Bonds alone. I have catalogued Sabean’s mistakes here ad infinitum, so I won’t again, but, please, Mr. Gum, read some of my archives before you start telling us that Brian Sabean has done a good job. Even if all you consider are finances, Sabean has flushed millions, tens of millions of dollars down the toilet on completely replaceable production at every position on the diamond, for ten years.
…. He certainly wasn’t afraid of moving fan favorites like Kirk Rueter and Matt Williams and Russ Ortiz.
Huh? Sabean gave Reuter a two-year extension worth $18 million dollars about ten minutes before Woody’s arm fell off, he traded Russ Ortiz away for a guy that was out of baseball in 18 months (while Ortiz went on to win another 40 games over he next three seasons).
The Williams deal represents one of the few trades that Sabean made that actually worked, along with the deal that netted Jason Schmidt. I can’t think of another one off hand, which tells you everything.
The other article was written by John Peterson, and is more firmly grounded in reality, as Peterson rates Sabean as the worst GM in all of baseball:
…. Brian Sabean is not a good general manager, no matter what anyone says. Still, he was once considered a top GM, responsible for assembling Giants teams that finished either first or second in the division from his first year, 1997, to 2004– a span of eight years. That is no small achievement. In 1996 the team went 68-94, but in ’97 they won 90 games. How did he do it?
First, he replaced 1B Mark Carreon and his inadequate .317 OBP with JT Snow, acquired for pennies on the dollar from the Angels. Snow went on to have his best year ever in ’97 and a long and respectable career for the Giants. Then he traded star third baseman Matt Williams to the Indians for cheap, useful young players Julian Tavarez, Jose Vizcaino and Jeff Kent. The Giants had young Bill Mueller waiting to take over at third, and Vizcaino and Kent represented solid upgrades over the current options at their positions, with the added bonus of significant upside. Kent quickly realized his potential and become a perennial MVP candidate, winning the award in 2000.
Well, while Snow had a long run with the Giants, I have argued long and hard that Snow was one of the reasons the Giants struggled in their efforts to obtain a championship. Tremendous character and glovework aside, Snow’s anemic bat forced the Giants to look for offense from positions most teams don’t have to, like second base or even short, something the rarely were able to do.
Of course, if I’d known how awful we’d be at first the last three seasons, I woulda been jamming the steroids into Snow’s ass myself ;-)
That said, Peterson has a much clearer vision of what’s really gone on with this team.
…. That Barry Bonds was so astoundingly good that he could carry a roster of aging scrubs long past their primes, is a testament to Bonds’ supreme ability and unnatural career path, not Sabean’s skill as a general manager. How could he have known that Bonds, who was already turning 32 in Sabean’s first year as general manager, would sustain an amazing level of production through age 35, and then instead of slowly declining, become a significantly better player than he had ever been for four more years, through age 39? Sabean could not have anticipated this; no one could. He was just lucky that Bonds’ insane career path masked a continually flawed and uninspired player acquisition and roster construction strategy. It is no accident that, when Bonds lost most of 2005 to injury, the Giants finished under .500 for the first time since 1996.
Sabean made bad free agent signings, bad trades, and bad decisions all around. Of course, in eleven years that’s bound to happen, but Sabean has had more than his share. Everyone knows about the trade of Francisco Liriano, Boof Bonser and Joe Nathan for average catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Otherwise Sabean has not been burned terribly by the prospects he likes to deal for veterans. He prefers to pay free agent value or higher for his old players. I’m too lazy to count how many 32-to-36 year olds on the verge of breakdown Sabean has signed to long term deals, but he has taken it to a new level in the last few years. The team is now a catalogue of ancient players and bad contracts….
Now, there’s a writer who’s actually paid attention to the Giants over the last decade. Anyway, both pieces deserve your attention as a Giants fan. If you read them, and decide to backtalk, tell ‘em where they can go for the real scoop on the dealings of our hapless GM; OBM.