Archive for December, 2009
Another laughable contract, for another laughable retread of a mediocrity. I would say that it’s unbelievable, but it’s not. It’s predictable, it’s embarrassing, it’s what make us a laughingstock of a baseball team, run by one of the worst organizations in all of sports.
…. For several years, Mark DeRosa daydreamed of eventually playing in San Francisco. He enjoys the city’s vibe and atmosphere, from walking to the ballpark to trying out top restaurants.
“I felt like it would be a cool place to play and an interesting place to bring my family,” he said.
For several years, the Giants pictured DeRosa’s powerful bat contributing in the middle of their lineup.
Of course he’s wanted to play in San Francisco forever. It’s one of the few places in all of baseball where your value isn’t measured by productivity, or winning, or being one of the best in the world at what you do. It’s measured by how old you are. And DeRosa sure is old.
So, once again Giants fans are treated to a mediocre, flawed, old player that Sabean has spent years –years– trying to acquire. Once again, Giants fans are treated to a player that no other team –in all of baseball– thought was worthy of a starters salary. Once again, Giants fans are reminded that Brian Sabean is the worst general manager in baseball today.
Brian Sabean works in the Bay Area, a place filled with some of the highest level technologically advanced corporations, organizations and companies; and he runs his team like he is living in the 1950′s. Brian Sabean is a fool, a rube, and so is Bill Neukom. They are made for each other.
Here is the message Brian Sabean has for Giants fans like me and you:
FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON. I KNOW THINGS YOU DON’T, AND, EVEN THOUGH I HAVE NEVER, EVER BUILT A TEAM THAT HAS WON A CHAMPIONSHIP, I AM NOT THE LEAST BIT INTERESTED IN CHANGING ONE SINGLE THING I DO, I AM NOT INTERESTED IN LEARNING, OR BEING BETTER THIS YEAR THAN I WAS LAST.
AND LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, I COULD CARE LESS THAT THERE IS A COORDINATED, THOUGHTFUL CRITICISM OF ME AND MY APPROACH; ORGANIZED BY THOUGHTFUL, CARING FANS THAT HAVE NEVER, EVER, EVEN ONE TIME, SEEN A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM PLAY IN THEIR CITY.
This is a “Fuck you” to you and me, so here’s my response:
Dear Brian Sabean,
Fuck you, too. You are a joke, a laughingstock, an anachronism; a man living in the past, woefully under-prepared for the demands of the modern baseball world. You should be ashamed of yourself for foisting another piece of horseshit player on the people who pay your salary.
Another injured, 35-year old, has-been of a player? Are you out of your fucking mind?
My greatest sadness is that there are enough people who still believe in you, who still fill PacBell, who still show up to support this retirement home, Island of the Misfits team you trot out there year after year; that the owners of the Giants fail to recognize your worthlessness; because, you should be fired, today, right now.
After over 45 years of watching other teams celebrate championships (including teams that didn’t even exist when the Giants moved to San Francisco), other teams draft, develop and support championship-level players while you throw away draft choices and go out of your way to acquire one bum after another…. you should be ashamed of yourself. You and the San Francisco Giants ownership group, –every single one of you– should hang your heads in shame, as you go through the motions, pretending to be interested in ending a drought that has lasted the entire time the team has been in this city.
Your team is a disgrace, and your efforts are a disgrace, and your excuses are a disgrace.
To the Giants fans who come here, I say to you that these are your San Francisco Giants:
An ownership group betraying a legion of loyal fans with year after year of half-assed efforts to field a competitive baseball team. A general manager who thumbs his nose at objective analysis, state of the art statistical knowledge, and thoughtful attempts to properly and efficiently allocate precious resources. And a baseball team managed by a man who thinks effort and professionalism can be brought to bear only by players who are the same age as me.
Support this team at your own risk.
Look and you decide….
Joe Sheehan, as usual, says it better than I do:
…. I keep coming back to the trend line of the last few offseasons. The industry is getting smarter, valuing things that matter—expected on-field performance, applied skills, proper evaluation—over a knee-jerk preference for experience. Teams are coming around to the idea, first expressed by Bill James in the 1980s, that talent in baseball is not normally distributed, that for every great player there are multiple above-average ones, and for every above-average one many average ones. There’s no reason to pay extra money for average performance, and the vast majority of players are at that level or below.
The majority of baseball players, even major leaguers, are fungible. If you pay $4 million each for three players who will produce $2 million worth of value, you’ve wasted six million that could be better spent on high-impact players. The key mistake that continues to be made—and we’ve seen it with Kendall and the Royals, Ivan Rodriguez and the Nationals, Brandon Lyon and the Astros—is money wasted in dribs and drabs on players who are fungible by teams that have no reason to chase wins.
Or, as in the case of the Giants, you pay $9 or $10 million each for three or four players who will produce $2 million worth of value, in which case; you are mired in the bottom of the standings, and your franchise is completely hamstrung in it’s efforts to acquire true top-tier talent. To make matters worse, Giants fans get to watch a team run by a man who thinks this kind of worthless babbling matters in the day to day operations of running a baseball team:
DL: Earlier today, Peter Gammons told me that you do a good job of handling a bullpen. Why do you think he feels that way?
BB: Well, I’m fortunate that I have a good bullpen, and I’ll say this: A good bullpen makes a manager look a lot smarter, because when you’re making moves and taking pitchers out, if they don’t get the job done, then it looks like it was a horrible move. But if they do, then they make you look good. To have [Brian] Wilson as my closer, and to have Jeremy Affeldt and Bobby Howry, [Brandon] Medders—those guys did a great job. My job is to manage the bullpen, and not just for a game, but through the season. So if people believe that, great, because it’s an important part of the game. But it still always comes down to the personnel getting it done for you.
Good job of handling the pen? Really? This is a manager who thinks its perfectly OK to use four relievers to get two outs in a four run game. Sure, his moves looked good this season, his pitchers were lights out. But he walked out to that mound as often as anyone in baseball, often chasing the tiniest percentage; and more often than not, taking out a pitcher who was cruising along. Bcohy’s at least honest in his answer, it’s all on the players to make him look good.
DL: What the Giants need more than anything is a couple of players at the top of the batting order who can get on base. True or false?
BB: Yeah, I’d say true. You know, our leadoff hitter, [Eugenio] Velez, there’s no question we’d like to have a little higher on-base percentage between him and [Andres] Torres. That’s an area that we’re looking at.
DL: Can a team win in today’s game without power?
BB: Yeah, it’s been done, and I think today they can, although they are going to have to throw the ball awfully well, and they’re going to have to catch the ball, and they’re going to have to play the game of baseball. What I mean by that is they have to execute sound, fundamental baseball.
Um, no, it hasn’t been done. Not in today’s game, not for a very long time. There have been but a handful of teams in baseball history that have won a championship without an offense in –at least– the top third of the league power production. A handful. Forget about the 1985 Cardinals. The 1985 Cardinals were second to last in home runs (just 87), but they led the league in triples, with 59, were fourth in doubles (245), and were 6th in slugging percentage, just 11 points behind the league leaders. Oh, and they led the league in runs scored, by the way.
You have to go all the way back to the 1965 Dodgers to find a team that won a title with an offense as bad as the Giants. Just to get to the Serious, Koufax and Drysdale threw 640 innings between them, with 15 combined shutouts and just shy of 600 combined strikeouts (Koufax had 382!). And then it took them seven games to win that Series. They lost the first two games to the Twins, but finished the Series off with Koufax throwing two complete game shutouts in games 5 and 7.
In other words, even with a shutout by Claude Osteen, it took their best pitcher throwing 18 shutout innings in three days (after a season in which he had already thrown 320 innings) to win a single series in seven games. How many more pitches do you think Koufax had left in him after that? Because back then, all a team needed to do was win one series. The ’65 Dodgers were lucky to beat the Twins at all, coming back from an 0-2 deficit. You think Lincecum can do that three series in a row? You think he can do it once?
In today’s game, a last place offense would never be able to accumulate the 11 wins (most likely 12 starting next year) needed to grab a title. There’s too much pressure on the pitching staff, against too good a level of competition. This team needs power, it needs guys on base.
It needs to play Posey, at the least. It really does need Holliday, even if the cost does seem prohibitive. I mean, how can you justify paying Randy Winn $10 million per these last four seasons, and then balk at paying a hitter like Holliday $16 per? It doesn’t make sense, but then again, trading one of the top pitchers in your minor league system for 115 at bats from a career backup doesn’t make too much sense either.
I was backtalking about Sabean, but I think I want everyone to read this idea…..
Brain Sabean has a blind spot, and we’ve been banging around for years now trying to understand what the hell it is, what the hell he’s thinking. I think I might have stumbled on to an explanation that makes some sense.
It’s like he looks at something a player has done, even if it’s only once, and he believes that that is what the player can do, or actually is. Neifi Perez had a .350 batting average once (in Colorado, of course), and he won a Gold Glove, and so, to Sabean, he is a .350 hitter with a great glove; it doesn’t matter that he hasn’t done any of those things in four or five years, or that he did it in an runs created context that outrageously inflated his numbers, or that he simply was never that good. To Sabean, once he sees a player a certain way, he always sees that player in that way.
Dave Roberts made one key play in his entire baseball life, and Sabean decided that Dave Roberts makes key plays.
Sabean is the absurd conclusion, the perfect example of the old adage that a player can get five years in the game off of one good season, or even one great month, or just one singular accomplishment, because people will always try and see if he can do it again. To Sabean, the player is that accomplishment, that season. Think about it, I mean, you could do this with every guy on the team, and it works.
Freddie Sanchez is a batting champion.
Randy Winn is the guy who had 50 hits that September, so let’s give him $50 million dollars, and more to the point, let’s play him every day in 2009, even though he has nothing left as a hitter at all. Randy Winn is 50 hits in a month, and to Sabean, he always will be.
Aaron Rowand is on Sportscenter every night, he must be great, so let’s give him $50 million dollars. Aaron Rowand is a human highlight reel, a “gamer,” and no matter how little evidence there is to support that, Brian Sabean will never see him as anything else, ever.
Bengie Molina hit a home run batting cleanup one day, so he is a cleanup hitter.
Juan Uribe is a backup infielder, so fuck him, he’s expendable.
Edgar Renteria is a World Series winning shortstop.
Barry Zito is a Cy Young Award winner.
You can go back in time, and it still works.
Sabean didn’t need to put Edgaro Alfonzo through a physical, because Alfonzo was a 25 home run hitting, Gold Glove winning second baseman.
He didn’t care that Moises Alou was 39 years old, because Alou was a good hitter.
He saw Livan Hernandez as an Ace, because he saw him strike out 13 guys in an NL playoff game once, and no matter how hard Livan tried to prove that he was anything but an inning-eater, Sabean never saw him any differently.
I could go on and on. On. And. On.
It also explains, perfectly, why he has so much resistance to playing rookies and young players. They haven’t done anything yet. Until he can see something that they have done; they aren’t players, they aren’t anything to him. So, on the Giants, rookies have about two weeks to prove themselves, unless somebody gets hurt, of course. And even then, after playing well for months, (like, say, Fred Lewis) a player on the Giants can still find that Sabean is ignoring whatever success they’ve had, because he sees them as they were, not as they are.
That’s also why he can’t forecast, because he sees things as if they were set in stone. There’s no room in his tiny brain for things like upside, or decline, or aging, or injuries. Players are what they are, and statistics are for the other guys. So he has a 22-year old shortstop who hit .240, which, for people who study baseball, is nothing to sneeze at. A 22-year old rookie who has any success at all at the major league level is a valuable commodity; but not to Brian Sabean. All he sees is a .240 hitter. He simply cannot see upside, or progress, or anything like it. He only sees that first thing. He is a first impression kind of guy, but taken to it’s absurd conclusion. He’s a first impression guy to a degree that would be laughable, if it wasn’t destroying the team.
Buster Posey is a rookie, he can’t possibly be expected to do what a “gamer” like Bengie Molina does, because Brian Sabean hasn’t seen him do it. And so he goes on TV telling everyone how worthless Posey is.
And, of course, once he decides a player isn’t a “gamer” there is nothing they (or anyone, for that matter) can do to change his mind. It’s why he had to trade for Double PLay AJ, even though he had Torrealba. He had decided that Torrealba couldn’t hit, or wasn’t “veteran” enough, or couldn’t call a game, or whatever bullshit he was telling himself, and there was no argument, nothing that could be done to alter that assessment. He had to have Mike Matheny, because he heard someone say that Matheny’s defense saved the team 100 runs a season, and he thinks saving a hundred runs a year is a real ability, and that only he sees the value in having a guy that can do that.
He saw JT Snow save a couple of runs in a game once, and he said to himself, “Wow, over the course of 162 games, that must translate into hundreds of runs being saved.” So JT Snow’s black hole offense was allowed to kill the team for 8 fucking years, and Sabean didn’t even notice. All he saw was a human vacuum cleaner at first base.
Listen, we all do this, in some way or another. It’s a way to simplify the complex. Think about a player, and immediately, one thing comes to mind. Cal Ripken? Games played streak. Hank Aaron? Home runs. There is nothing wrong with it. It’s when you are trying to evaluate players according to your team’s needs and the players values that parsing details becomes important. Sure Ripken plays every day, but he’s 35 years old. How many days is he really gonna be worth something at that age? How many 0 for 4′s can you handle?
Sure Edgar Renteria was on a champion, and that counts for something; but is he still playing at a championship level today? You need to be flexible in your view of a player to even ask that question. Sabean is not. He thinks he just signed a championship-level shortstop, even though Renteria’s championship was over ten years ago.
It’s OK to form a picture when you first consider a player, but a GM has to fill in the blanks, add some depth and some color to the image, step back and get a more clear view. He can’t just decide that Freddie Sanchez is great, and then keep trying to acquire him for five fucking years; with no concern for any parts of his game that may have changed since the first time you decided you liked him. That’s what fans do. For that matter, that’s what kids do. A general manager has to go way beyond that.
This is Brian Sabean’s blind spot, in a nutshell; and he’s given no indication that he will ever change. And maybe that’s why he sees people this way. Maybe he sees people as set in stone, because he is.
Nothing is likely to happen at all. Sabean is not likely to sign anybody worth a shit.
UPDATE: Seems like the realities of the free agent market may actually force Sabean make the right decision:
…. the Nationals’ signing of Ivan Rodriguez to a two-year, $6 million deal to be a backup might have helped drive the market higher for catchers, perhaps making it tougher to find short-term quality.
“The Pudge signing is not going to help our situation,” general manager Brian Sabean said.
Asked if the contract surprised him, Sabean said, “Yes – how he’s going to be used against the money. I don’t think he’s going to be catching 100 games.”
Sabean remains adamant about not signing a catcher for two years, and he said he has no intention of pursuing Molina again: “That ship has sailed. That’s not going to be a fallback position for us.” While manager Bruce Bochy spoke publicly about his fondness for two other free-agent catchers, Miguel Olivo, who played for Bochy in San Diego, and Yorvit Torrealba, Sabean said he’s willing to “revisit Posey.”
Likewise, if the Giants don’t find a suitable No. 5 starter for one year to replace Brad Penny, now a Cardinal, Bumgarner could round out the rotation.
“If it ends up being Bumgarner as the fifth starter, he’s one of the best alternatives in all of baseball,” Sabean said. “If Posey ends up being the catcher, he’s the minor-league player of the year. We have some alternatives that other people don’t have in place right now. … You have to feel good about that.”
So, even though he is too stubborn, or ill-informed, Sabean still might end up doing the best thing for the team anyway, which is nothing. There is nobody in this season’s free agent pool who is really worth it, even if you love Holliday or Bay, they’re gonna be uber-expensive, and both have some holes in their games (mostly age-related). Posey and Bumgardner are the team’s two best options for those slots, young, inexpensive, with tons of upside. Also mentioned in the piece was the rethinking on Uribe. Good. Sign him for a year or two at $2 million per or something like that, and plug him in as the fill-in for the old and injury-prone Sanchez and Renteria.
I still think the team whiffed on Penny, but who knows, maybe his month here was an illusion. He’s still essentially a league-average pitcher. Bumgardner has to be able to match Penny’s production:
30 starts 173 innings 191 hits 94 earned runs 109 strikeouts 51 walks 4.88 ERA
I mean, if Bumgarder can’t do that, he’s not worth very much anyway, and we might as well find out now.
We all know that Posey can’t be worse than rally-killer.
Here’s an article about Lincecum that addresses most of the issues fairly well:
…. In arbitration, the player and club each submit a salary figure to a three-person panel on Jan. 19, and hearings to decide which salary to award are Feb. 1-21 – unless an agreement is reached first. Hearings can get ugly, with the team bringing up negatives on the player (who’s sometimes in attendance) to make its case. Naturally, the Giants prefer to avoid a hearing.
Either way, Lincecum will cost a bundle.
Theoretically, because of a “special accomplishment” provision, the arbitration process allows Thurman to negotiate without regard to service time, meaning Lincecum could be compared with any pitchers, meaning teammate Barry Zito (averaging $18 million annually) and CC Sabathia ($23 million average) could enter the conversation, meaning open the vault.
Article VI Rule F (12) in the basic agreement states the arbitration panel must consider comparisons with others who have similar service time.
But it adds, “This shall not limit the ability of a player or his representative, because of special accomplishment, to argue the equal relevance of salaries of Players without regard to service, and the arbitration panel shall give whatever weight to such argument as is deemed appropriate.”
…. Sabean hinted no serious talks would begin until the sides exchange figures in January, because that’s when he’ll learn of Lincecum’s asking price. Thurman said he plans to meet with the Giants during the Dec. 7-10 winter meetings in Indianapolis.
As Robert pointed out in his backtalk, the Giants are hamstrung by the many expensive mediocrities currently occupying roster spots; and, unless Neukom authorizes a significant bump in salary expenditures, after Lincecum breaks the bank, we’ll be lucky if they sign anybody, let alone a good to great player.
UPDATE: I’d also like to mention that the above sentence makes me sick to my stomach. The very idea that the Giants cannot go after players because of money issues is the heart of my distaste for Sabean.
THE GIANTS WILL CRY POVERTY, THE GIANTS CAN CRY POVERTY, BECAUSE SABEAN SPENDS MONEY LIKE A DRUNKEN SAILOR!
The contracts of Edgardo Alfonzo, Edgar Renteria, Dave Roberts, and the endless stream of “gamers” and “character guys” and “veterans” has drained the pockets of the team. How about the $18 million dollars we gave to Reuter, who wasn’t up for renewal, was about to have his arm fall off, and didn’t deserve it? Hpw about the $10 million we gave Jason Schmidt so he could pitch three games?
The Giants have flushed, absolutely burned well over $100 million dollars in the last five or six years, on some of the worst players, signed to some of the absolute worst contracts any team has ever given any player, and Sabean’s been responsible for all of them!!
And now, even though, once again we desperately need offense, defense, youth and speed, we’re not in the running, once again, for the best player on the market, the player that fits our needs just about perfectly. Sound familiar? Here’s what I wrote in 2004:
…. Sabean loves veterans. I just think his love for the proven commodity has distorted to the point where he overpays for it, competing against nobody. It’s been written time and again how Tom Hicks overpayed for A-Rod, basically competing against himself. Well, I think Sabean is guilty of the same thing, in many of these instances. Who was going to give Reuter the kind of money we did? Who was going to give Alfonzo $25 million? Who was going to give Nen $30 million? Who was going to give Benard $10 million? Who was going to “steal” Snow from under Sabean’s nose and give him that $24 million dollars?
Here’s what we heard from Sabean way back when Vladimir Guererro was available:
…. the SF Giants’ GM, Brian Sabean, was featured in an MLB.com chat. During the chat, he was asked whether the Giants had made an offer to Vladimir Guerrero. His response?
“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.”
It’s the same fucking story, year after year after year. Disgraceful.