September 30, 2008
As the 2008 season ended Sunday, I thought back to the end of Spring Training when our team was so unsettled and many people forecasted dire results for the Giants. We have to admit that we are all pleasantly surprised at how well our club came together over the final two months of the season. We can proudly tell you that the Giants organization is now in a much stronger position to return to our winning ways than we were six short months ago.
We entered the 2008 season with three main goals and I think that by staying the course throughout the year, we have been able to make great strides towards returning the Giants to winning seasons and a post season berth in the near future. Our goals remain:
- To develop more young players from within our organization.
- To change the team's culture in the clubhouse and on the field.
- To improve our level of talent on the field. (Especially in the bullpen and adding power to the lineup in 2009).
Several young players stepped to the forefront this season and have a real chance at becoming frontline players for the Giants in 2009 and beyond. Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson are two players that we were learning about last season and they took quantum leaps this year, with both earning All-Star honors and one being the frontrunner for the Cy Young Award. Pablo Sandoval, Emmanuel Burriss, Travis Ishikawa, Fred Lewis, and Nate Schierholtz have all positioned themselves to be in our starting lineup in 2009.
On the mound, Jonathan Sanchez, Sergio Romo and Alex Hinshaw each made great strides in their development and figure prominently in our plans. We also look forward to strong performances by Barry Zito and Matt Cain, as well as the return of Noah Lowry and Merkin Valdez to bolster our staff next season.
Following the trade deadline, Bruce Bochy and I made a concerted effort to play the younger players for the majority of the final two months of the season. We were rewarded for that decision as we were able to see how these young men could handle the daily rigors of the Major League schedule and the majority of them responded extremely well. So well, in fact, that the Giants posted a 28-27 record from August 1 on, which was seventh best in the National League and second best in the NL West.
Bruce and his staff are to be commended for their efforts in installing a new work ethic and clubhouse atmosphere with this team. With 16 players making their Major League debuts, and on average those players playing only 88 games at the double- or triple-A level, the coaching staff was doing an extraordinary amount of teaching at the big league level. In all my years of professional baseball, this is the hardest working group of professionals I have seen. For example, they were the only team to take infield on a regular basis. They have willingly put so much time on the field for early and extra work to improve the level of play for themselves and the team.
Whether our players are working on the fundamentals of hitting, base running or fielding, we want the game to become second nature to them so that they can play an aggressive style of baseball. I have noticed that this year's team has much improved team speed over our recent clubs, which has helped us not only to put pressure on opposing defenses, but also enabled us to expand our defensive range.
For the Giants to be competitive in 2009, and to supplement our strong starting rotation, we will need to acquire some veteran arms for the bullpen and to add some sorely missed power to our lineup. We will address these areas of need either through free agency, trade or our minor league system. Perhaps Sandoval (23 home runs in the minors and majors) Ishikawa (27 home runs in the minors and majors) and Schierholtz (19 home runs in the minors and majors) will add some much needed pop to our lineup next year, but we are still looking to improve.
As for free agency, the Giants will be very selective this winter. We are only interested in players who fit into our long-term plans, while owning a strong work ethic. Aaron Rowand and Bengie Molina are two of our most recent free agent acquisitions who embody the type of players we are looking to add to our club. With the young core of this club under the Giants' contractual control through at least 2011 (Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Wilson, Romo, Hinshaw, Sandoval, Burriss, Ishikawa, Lewis and Schierholtz), we will have a very discerning eye for help from outside the organization.
We will thoroughly explore any and all trade scenarios that would improve our lineup. Ultimately, we will be reluctant to trade away "the future."
After seeing many young players make a rapid ascent through our farm system to the big leagues this season, some of our most recent draft picks could be playing for San Francisco in the very near future. Our top two picks in 2007, Madison Bumgarner (15-3, 1.46 ERA) and Tim Alderson (13-4, 2.79 ERA), had tremendous minor league seasons and are definitely on the fast track. This year, our four top draft picks were college players – including Buster Posey, winner of the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best college player in the nation. (Tim Lincecum won this award in 2006). Given their experience and success at the collegiate level, they all have the potential to move through the ranks very quickly.
While I know that parts of the 2008 season were very trying, I want to personally thank you for staying the course. Hopefully, we can expect winning baseball and October baseball returning to AT&T Park in the very near future.
Brian R. Sabean
Senior Vice President and General Manager