Here’s an article from Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News about San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean and his desire to hold information close to the vest. It’s in response to an “informal poll” (meaning that not all GMs responded and it’s not entirely certain how many did) by Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
This found Sabean to be the hardest GM to make trades with because he doesn’t respond to telephone calls, according to the GMs who participated.
I thought the article was particularly interesting because of an e-mail I received from San Francisco Chronicle Giants beat writer Henry Schulman a couple of years ago. I wrote him a snarky e-mail to the effect that his articles should be giving us (Chronicle readers) more information about what trade possibilities the Giants were pursuing, rather than telling us the Giants had decided to break up Barry Bonds’ old locker.
After sending me an equally snarky response, Schulman sent me a second e-mail, in which he explained that Giants’ management is exceptionally good at keeping information from leaking out about what trade negotiations are going on, so local sportswriters have to find something else to write about. (I’m paraphrasing.)
Baggarly’s quotes describing Sabean include a statement to the effect that Sabean doesn’t return telephone calls when the opposing GM is just trying to “gather intelligence.” I found that quote particularly interesting, because as a lawyer I know you have to give a certain amount of “intelligence” to receive “intelligence.”
In other words, you have certain information that no one else has, but there are 29 other GMs in Major League Baseball who may well have information that you don’t have. You give them some information, and they will give you some in return.
The key is to make sure that you only give them the information that you want to give or are at least willing to let them to know.
I strongly suspect that Sabean is a guy who knows what he knows and doesn’t much care what other people know. That’s not a great way to learn something you didn’t know before.
Also, I suspect that sometimes the best deals for a GM aren’t the ones the GM initiates himself.
Sometimes, another GM might express interest in a certain player on your team who’ve you’ve soured on or simply don’t value highly, but the other GM thinks the player is what his team needs. There’s never a cost in listening to what the other GM is willing to offer and seeing if you can get him to agree to something more if the proposal sounds promising.
Exchange of information is usually crucial to any kind of negotiation, particularly when both sides have some idea of what they’re doing. You can’t get information without communication, so I’m not really a fan of a method which doesn't include in engaging in communication.