2.12.2005

Sabean's contract is extended

AP reported that Sabean's contract was extended and that Colletti has a long-term contract as well.

Sabean detractors will be downcast about this move. They point out the players that Sabean has acquired over the years that make their case of him not being a good talent evaluator: Neifi Perez as the prime example, followed by Shawon Dunston, Russ Davis, Marquis Grissom, and now Mike Matheny, to name a few. They say that he has been lucky because he has Bonds but that he will fail once Bonds retire. They say that he overpays marginal players but his mistakes are covered by Bonds' and Schmidt's severe underpaying (plus Kent's when he was here).

Sabean supporters will be pleased by the move and I am one of those as those who accuse me of homerism would attest to (for the record, I hated Spec Richardson and Tom Haller as GMs and Jim Davenport and Joe Altobelli as managers, and I had serious problems with Dusty Baker at the end of his term as manager and was glad they chose to let him go; so much for a homer). Here's why I'm a Sabean supporter: under him for 8 seasons we have had 3 NL West titles, 1 Wild Card, 1 NL Championship, 738-557 record during that period, third only to the Yankees and Braves, also the first time the Giants have finished either 1st or 2nd for 8 seasons since John McGraw finished 1st or 2nd for 9 seasons from 1917 to 1925. The titles won under him match the total for the previous 27 seasons that I had followed the Giants prior, meaning he could finish out of the money (i.e. playoffs) for another 18 seasons and STILL would not have done worse than before him. And we have been competitive each and every year, with only a couple of handful of games that did not have playoff implications. Not only that but he transformed a 64-98 team that he inherited into a pennant winning team the next season and has essentially rebuilt the team every year since the 2001 season with a significant number of starters changed each season and the team has won through all that.

And it is not like I think he is perfect. Neifi stands as the number one example of that. I was so glad when we put him on waivers, but then I did a spit-take and had the wind knocked out of me when I learned that we not only signed him but signed him to a $4.2M contract! (It was then that I believed that somebody must have incriminating photos on Sabean and Colletti to get that to happen. :^) Then there was the Vlad Guerrero non-move. As I showed in an article, the Giants could have had Vlad AND most of the additions they made last off-season if they signed him to the same contract as he had signed with the Angels, used the money they had offered Maddux plus another couple of million dollars. Think how well our offense would have been in 2004 - we would have won the division running away and perhaps done some stuff in the playoffs, we were on a pretty good run there at the end.

Then there was the F-Rod trade last season. I wholeheartedly believe that that trade costed us the playoffs, and perhaps more (with hot run, we could have run the table on someone), because, not only did Ledee probably provided negative results to us, but we could have used F-Rod to absorb innings at the end of the season which would have allowed Brower to pitch in that Dodger's game and would have given Hermanson enough rest to pitch better in that Dodger's game. That trade costed us the 2004 season in my opinion.

Lastly, I still think that it is an open book on how well he has drafted for the Giants. His first two seasons (1997 and 1998) were underwhelming in terms of valid major leaguers, though he was able to parlay them via trades into a number of very useful players, like Nen, Livan, and Schmidt. Subsequently, he has been much better with Jerome Williams, Jesse Foppert, Kevin Correia, Noah Lowry, and Brad Hennessey all contributing significantly to the pennant drives in 2003 and 2004 and David Aardsma and Matt Cain about a year away from significantly contributing. But still, there are no position players who are even close to joining the team nor any who contributed significantly at the major league level yet - Linden has had the most, sadly enough given how little he has done (but I think that is partly to do with his focus on pitching, which I will get into in my last article).

What people are forgeting is that Sabean not only crafted the rosters that the Giants won with - and for those who think Bonds is god, god was unable to bring the Giants to the playoffs in his first four seasons with the club and, in fact, the team had a losing record 3 of those 4 seasons - but he also drafted and developed the main core of players who helped the Yankees win all their World Series Championships, which means he had a strong hand in the core players of two of the three teams with the best records in the past 8 seasons. (I was going to get into this in the finale to my series but I just can't help myself, I'm on a roll. :^)

He was the director of scouting and head of player development during his time there just before joining the Giants. He was a big part of the decisions that led to the team the Yankees developed for the mid-to-late 1990's run that won all those World Series and that have continued to compete well. Sabean showed his strong abilities in evaluating talent when he was the head of scouting and player development for the Yankees in the early 1990's, when many of the Yankees' homegrown talent were signed: Derek Jeter, Jose Posada, Mariano Rivera, Ramiro Mendoza, Andy Pettitte, and Gerald Williams. In addition, other players were drafted who had extended MLB careers, including Scott Kamienieki, Hal Morris, Turner Ward, Kevin Maas, Brad Ausmus, Pat Kelly, Russ Davis, Deion Sanders, Andy Fox, J.T. Snow, Russ Springer, Sterling Hitchcock, Brian Johnson, Carl Everett, Ricky Ledee, Shane Spencer, and Mike DeJean. Not all were stars but they were all useful in one way or another in complementing the stars that were developed.

One needs to look at the overall talent that he has amassed and how they have performed, and not fixate only on the mistakes he has "made" in his personnel decisions because no one is perfect. In addition, as we all know, Sabean sometimes have his hands tied by the finances of the team. And sometimes they are tied by circumstances where you just get the best available player. And sometimes they are clearly just mistakes. Those will all contribute to sub-optimal personnel decisions.

But you need to look at the overall results and decide whether you are happy with the results or not. I am happy but I wish it could have been more, like any fan. But I much prefer Sabean over what I've experienced as a fan in terms of Giants GMs. He has been head and shoulders beyond not just all past Giants GMs but beyond all past MLB GMs over the past 8 seasons if you value wins above anything else. People focusing on his mistakes are missing the big picture: the Giants have been winning and competitive. Plus, if you examine most of his trades made, he has not given away very many players who we regretted trading away, just Foulke and Nathan over all those years for prospects and unproven players.

This is basically like the Mariucci firing for the Niners - why fire someone who has been very successful if you don't have someone (or ones) better in mind that you think you can hire away from someone else? Who would be a better choice than Sabean? Instead of griping about how horrible he is in selecting personnel, give us some better choices; maybe we will agree with you but then that would be a more fruitful conversation because either you like winning or you don't and Sabean has won better than all teams except for the two top dominant teams in the NL and AL during his tenure as GM. I don't see how anyone could have a problem with winning a lot of games better than 27 other teams.

I think the major problem that has caused a lot of the consternation that Giants fans have felt and that I have felt, is the problem of overpaying for players. I think we are all mostly in agreement about that, if not about Sabean. The buck stops there in one individual on the team because Sabean does not negotiate contracts - he has delegated all those duties to Ned Colletti.

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