In his first season as the San Francisco Giants’ General Manager, Brian Sabean was the architect of a team that went from losing 94 games to winning 90 in 1997.
The highs and lows have continued throughout his 13-year tenure as general manager in San Francisco.
He is now entering the 2009 season in another contract year and so the Giants Roundtable decided to discuss whether Sabean is indeed the right man to continue making the moves and move the Giants forward.
I’ve always been a fan. He has a knack for finding talent where people wouldn’t expect, and he’s not one to blindly defend a mistake.
He’s obviously learned from the really bad transactions, and I think that once the Barry Bonds era is gone, he now has the chance to show off his other skills.
It was no secret that the strategy of the WHOLE of the Giants organization, from the team president Peter Magowan to the locker room manager, was to build a team to play with Barry Bonds.
Now, in the second season after that ended, or fourth if you count his year lost to injury, Sabean is making efforts to shake free of that stigma.
The farm system has had a total overhaul, and ranks ninth on Keith Law’s ESPN organizational rankings. Their Single-A, long season Single-A, and short season Single-A teams all won their division, and the whole system went a collective 264-235.
I think that he should be kept around. Let him finish his work, and let these kids in the lower levels get to the majors to see what they can do.
The moves this offseason show that he is not just applying band-aids, but making the signings that help prepare the kids until they are ready. In the past, he may have been quick to sub in a proven veteran, but last year, by trading away Ray Durham and sitting Omar Vizquel, both extremely experienced, he showed that the young guns need playing time as well.
They’ll get it this year, and in the next couple years, Renteria will be gone and Johnson will be gone, and there will be new, homegrown faces to take their place. Keep him, and let him finish the job.
As a huge advocate of having young players play, you would think I would want Brian Sabean gone the minute I heard Edgar Renteria and Randy Johnson were brought onboard this winter.
While he pulled the trigger on the infamous Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Boof Bonser for A.J. Pierzynski trade, he was the person behind the Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal for Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong in 2001.
However, the complete 360 that he has turned the past three years, actually keeping draft picks instead of just dumping to sign veterans is something that I really do admire and give him credit for doing.
It’s not easy to do something totally against what you’re used to doing and the Giants, in the next season or two, will be able to see that there is a benefit to having a poor regular season record.
With that being said, to not bring back Sabean while the Giants are still in the midst of being rebuilt would be a huge mistake.
As Evan said in his section, the moves for Renteria and Johnson are more stopgaps than anything. They may seem like the old Sabean reappearing, and I’m guilty of thinking that like a lot of other people, but other than maybe Jeremy Affeldt, the players signed this year won’t be around in 2011.
Both Sabean and newly promoted Vice President of Baseball Operations Bobby Evans has said it themselves and the direction of the franchise is to be competitive this season while not throwing away the youth movement is something to remember.
While it seems like Evans is being groomed as Sabean’s successor down the road, the Giants will have to make serious decisions after the 2009 season. And to have a first-time general manager put in that spot doesn’t exactly give off good vibes.
I'll be the first to say that I've questioned the majority of Sabean's moves over the past five years.
That being said I think Giants fans need to keep in perspective just how close they were only six years ago. I hate to bring it up as much as the next Giants fan, but if we get the last six outs in '02, we're all humming a different tune.
Sabean has made tremendous strides within the Giants organization and was faced with a very difficult post-Bonds era task of building a younger nucleus. He was straddled with a talentless farm system up until now, but that can be directly traced to his work, as well as our inept scouting and minor league systems.
I strongly believe that whether or not the Giants choose to retain Sabean depends largely on how the team performs this year. After 54 years without a World Series, the last 12 of which were under Sabean’s watch, it's inevitable that Giants fans are more restless than ever.
If the Giants don't meet expectations this year, and contending in the NL West at this point is not out of the question, it could very well be Sabean’s time to move on.
It's a tough call.
I actually like Brian Sabean and give him more leash than most.
Even his most infamous trade—Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Boof Bonser for AJ Pierzynski plus cash (with cash being the far more productive baseball player for SF in 2004)—I think gets too much grief.
Contrarily, he's made some fantastic trades and perhaps deserves more credit for really springing the Giants on the National League (due to Matt Williams for Jeff Kent and parts).
Sabean also brought in guys like Robb Nen, Jason Schmidt, Kenny Lofton, Andres Galarraga, and Ellis Burks. Those guys made some significant contributions and really didn't cost the Orange and Black much.
Furthermore, he made good faith and logical moves that failed to bear fruit—grabbing youngster Damien Moss from the pitching-savvy Atlanta Braves and an effective Sidney Ponson from the Baltimore Orioles, who subsequently went tits up (semi-literally) despite moving to the less offensively-rugged NL West.
I can't hold those against him, especially since they (again) didn't cost the Giants much.
Unfortunately, that's the good and a lot of it's stale.
The bad is much fresher, but it's not as extreme.
Sabean's free agent signings have been poor, he's been overly-enamored of older players, he's been stubbornly reluctant to invest in youngsters via the draft, and the boys have been struggling in a weak division for several years now.
Ultimately though, I shake down on the side of consistency in an inconsistent business being an advantage. It would be one thing if Sabean were a total abomination and/or he was showing no signs of righting the ship. But neither of those is the case.
His most recent offseason (the one we're technically still in) has given me hope that he's back on track. He's brought in some older veterans, like usual, but they weren't the priciest ones on the market. In fact, both Edgar Renteria and Randy Johnson have considerable potential to be steals while not subjecting SF to too much risk.
Additionally, Sabean has shown that most of his focus remains on building around the young core without mortgaging future transactional flexibility.
I say keep him around for another several years as long as this year continues to move in the direction the offseason has been heading: forward.