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.