Autopsy of the 2005 Season: Part II - Sabean's At Fault Too
And how could they have gotten to the point where we just released Pierzynski?!? For nothing!!! If he knew things were that bad - and I would think that the kneeing of Stan Conte in spring would have been a pretty good clue and the cancer news story even more of a clarion call - he should have traded him away like he did F-Rod because we needed F-Rod too and at least we got a good prospect for him (though the prospect has sucked since joining the Giants; hopefully Baseball America is right on him)
Cannot Afford to NOT Have Two Mega Contracts
In the chalk talk, he mentioned that the team could not afford to have two mega contracts. I think that they cannot afford to NOT have two mega contracts: look at what happened this season with the one mega contract out for most of the season. Had we a Vlad or similar hitter, the offense would have still been good enough to compete even with the diminished pitching staff that we eventually had by mid-season. Look at how good the team did when Bonds returned; you can see what a difference it would have been had we had another superstar hitter on the team. Alternately, a superstar pitcher would have keep the team aloft when it was struggling along with Schmidt during his "lost" period.
Let's go through the numbers for the offseason between the 2004 and 2005 seasons. There is the $6-7M that they have somewhere that I call their "Maddux" money; with interest it should be $7M (and Maddux was offered a 3 year contract). Feliz could have played 1B and obviously they thought enough of Niekro so he could have backed up Feliz there when Feliz played LF on Bonds' rest days, so that's $2M saved from not picking up JT Snow's option. We already have Tucker and Mohr as competant CFs so we didn't need to pick up Grissom's option, saving $2.25M there but losing $1M for signing Mohr, for a total amount of $1.25M. That is a total of $11.25M that Sabean could have spent on getting someone.
That would have enabled the Giants to sign a number of top free agents for the 2005 season. Richie Sexson signed for $10.5M in 2005 ($50M/4 years) and would have freed up Feliz for his 3B/LF role. Pedro Martinez signed for about $11M in 2005 ($53M/4 years) and would have bolstered the starting rotation. Carlos Beltran got $17M in 2005 but he got "only" $14M in 2006 and 2007 so he could have been negotiated to switch years to $14M in 2005 plus there wouldn't have been the need to sign Mohr, saving $1M, Tucker probably could have been traded at an earlier point in the season to save on his $2M salary for 2005. Millwood got $7M plus incentives for 1 year, which would have also bolstered the rotation.
I think he is taking the wrong lesson from the Bonds/Williams salary problems of the mid-1990's. The problem was not two superstars but players who were not that very good supporting the superstars. The pitching staffs of that time had ERAs over 4.70 and the batting lineup was horrible, not one starter with an OBP of over .345 in the two years except for Bonds and Williams and the next three highest ones were .344, .343, and .333, not all in the same year.
In contrast, the Giants have been constructed well during the Sabean years, with many players with high OBP. Even this year, we had good hitters. We had Alou at .400, Durham at .356, Snow at .343, and Vizquel at .341, then added Winn at .391 and, of course, Bonds at .404. Plus Alfonzo at .327 (must be a career low...) and Ellison at .316. True, these are not very high but look at the 1995 and 1996 teams: 5 starters (of 8) had OBP of .317 and under in 1995 and 4 starters had OBP of .324 and under in 1996 and the next highest was .333, not that good either.
Filling out the Roster
Or some of the money could have been spent filling out the roster with additional alternatives as backup. This is not a lost concept on him, that is why he resigned Deivi Cruz and Grissom (making Tucker the backup). But he did not go far enough with backups.
In particular, after seeing what happened the previous two years at closer, why didn't he try to pursue Dustin Hermanson? And Hermanson was a two-way backup, because he could start and he could close (in a pinch) and probably could have set-up if we tried him there (I think he was doing that early in the 2005 season for the White Sox). And, as it turned out, we needed help in all three areas during the season. And he would have only costed us $2M in 2005, as his contract with the ChiSox is constructed, so he would have only been $1M more than keeping Christiansen.
And he could have done better elsewhere. As well as Ellison did, and it was ggod to see how he would do, why wasn't Mohr kept? He hit RHP well during his career and his stint with the Giants. He played good defense at all three OF positions. And he hit for power. Yet, he was just released for nothing.
If It Wasn't for the Bad Luck, We Wouldn't Have Any Luck
But there was a lot that happened this year that would have derailed the team almost no matter what Sabean did, perhaps even if he did all the things mentioned above. Almost very player had something go wrong somewhere: injury, DL, horrible performance, age, youth, or a combination of factors. Only Eyre and Matheny were the only ones who were either at or above water throughout most of the year, and maybe Fassero. Everyone was plagued with something or another. It was like a cloud was over the team's head all season long. Some fans might point to Bonds and Balco but this is more like that guy in Lil Abner, with the black cloud following him everywhere he goes.
I don't think Sabean can do no wrong, especially lately (Nathan, F-Rod, Pierzynski, Hermanson) but he has been very good for most of his tenure as GM of the Giants. I applaud his excellent record overall, starting with his acquisition (or so speculated in the newspapers) of Rueter even before he became GM and his deals for Snow and Kent that soon followed. But this year totally sucked and he was at fault for this, along with the owners, for the reasons above; he needs to rise to the occassion if 2006 is to go differently.
However, this season was not a total loss. There were a lot of positives this season and some promising starts. That mainly came from our farm system as we had our first rebuilding year under Sabean. And while it didn't always go smoothly, there was a lot of success with the prospects brought up, with a number of rookies being pleasant surprises, including, obviously, Matt Cain but there were also Scott Munter, Jack Taschner, and Jeremy Accardo, plus Brad Hennessey, Kevin Correia, Jason Ellison, and Lance Niekro to a lesser degree.
Hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come from the Giants farm system. It has been so woeful and unproductive for so long that there is a generation of Giants fans who wouldn't know a top prospect if he bit them on their toes. A productive farm system plus a few key free agent pickups - and perhaps a fast riser with their #10 draft pick next season - will get 2006 going in the right direction. But the problems with the team this season - including ownership - appear likely to continue in 2006 so I think we Giants fans will have to cross our fingers.