Friday, April 01, 2011

Post First Game Observations and News

First with the big news:  Giants signed Freddy Sanchez to a one year extension contract for 2012 for $6M, no option year for 2013 with buyout as the Giants proposed, apparently he still wanted to control that year, though he'll be 35 that season, not sure what he was thinking there.

Apparently the Giants don't think Culberson, Noonan, or Gillaspie will be ready by that season to take over.  Though, on the other hand, the Giants have not been adverse to trading players, so this is probably more a case of the risk mitigation strategy I've been writing about, of ensuring that you have certain key position players under control.  Now they have Aubrey Huff and Sanchez out of the vets, plus Andres Torres under control to 2012 (plus Rowand but that is possibly fluid), as well as their young players Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Brandon Belt, plus Nate Schierholtz potentially.

I'm OK with the move, we got a lot of salary moving off the books potentially (Miguel Tejada, Mark DeRosa, Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, Mike Fontenot, Pat Burrell, Cody Ross) that will help pay for raises, particularly Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Brian Wilson, plus Sandoval's first arbitration season.  As Sabean demonstrated with Bengie Molina last season, he is willing to trade a vet to open a spot for a deserving prospect.

Sabean Still Has His Naysayers

And that's been the problem in the past that many Giants fans didn't get:  the Giants didn't have any really deserving prospects in the past, hence all the angst over Lance Niekro, Todd Linden, Kevin Frandsen, John Bowker, Freddie Lewis.  But the fans didn't understand that and complained about all the pitching, and joined the masses that I have named the Sabean Naysayers, though I do lump all the Bochy Haters in there too.  That's why there was all sort of ire from Giants fans that I saw tweeted yesterday, their colors are showing.

That's because, despite the 2010 Giants World Series Championship, the Sabean Naysayers' ugly stripes are showing off brightly, in neon, as it don't take much to get them going.  Much like the past 5 seasons, they just haven't bought into his plan yet, and gripe, gripe, gripe.  It appears that not even this wonderful World Championship is enough to convince these people.

That's because these people think that they know how to run a baseball team better than Sabean and Bochy.  Because they feel that they know more baseball in their pinkie than Sabean and Bochy together, and by God, it must be so because they can publish their drivel on the internet.

Of course, these are the same people who wanted to break up the starting rotation to get some average hitting, like Corey Hart or Alexis Rios.  For them, they were willing to give up elite pitchers like Lincecum, Cain, and/or Sanchez, as long as that got them some offense, any offense.

These are also the people who complained about every draft where the Giants didn't pick up a hitter, especially Madison Bumgarner over Jason Heyward.  Nevermind that Heyward never would have signed with any other team other than the Braves that draft.  A Braves scout's son was in the same league as Heyward, so the scout smartly cultivated a relationship with the budding star, and by the time of the draft, he was very tight with the Heyward family.  Parents who, by the way, are college professors, so Jason would have been very comfortable going to college as a backup, if anyone else dared to draft him.  But he wanted to play baseball and for the Braves, and undoubtedly left the impression with every scout that their team should not bother to draft him, as he's going to college.

Then again, even when the Giants picked a position player - Posey - they complained vociferously that the Giants should have picked Justin Smoak instead.  Because, you know, they know baseball better than anyone, a firstbaseman is much more worth it than a catcher who can hit and field great, and is super intelligent too, so could lead our stable of great young pitchers, but oh yeah, these people don't think much of having a stable, trade them away to get hitters, more hitters please!!!

Of course, I'm talking the generic "they".  I'm lumping them all together, these people who had one or many or sometimes all of these thoughts at one time or another, and made it forcefully clear on the Internet that they believe this wholeheartedly and think that Sabean and Bochy was "lucky" in 2010, they will celebrate the championship like nothing, but Sabean and Bochy were more lucky than good.

I also lump in all the people who think that Sabean don't know what offense is.  Sabean must have some good ideas on offense, when he controlled the Yankees player personnel, they acquired players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and JT Snow, and I have to believe that as GM he can veto a first round draft pick, so at minimum, he was on board with getting Posey, whereas the Sabean Naysayers wanted Justin Smoak.  He also acquired Jeff Kent and Ellis Burks, to build one of the best offenses of that time, Barry Bonds couldn't do it all himself, as we saw later.

These people complain about the position players he has acquired before, but that shows their lack of understanding of MLB baseball, that entertainment and expectations are part of that equation.  If a GM sits on his hands when his team obviously needs some help, that's bad for drawing fans to attend games, you have to give some hope.  In any case, you want a GM who takes some risks to help the team get over the hump.  A failed trade does not mean he does not understand offense, it means he tried and that was the best that was available on the market, sometimes you have to take the shot because the current alternative (keep starting Niekro, for example, wasn't working).

This also ignores that fact that Sabean has basically kept every prospect worth keeping.  The only clear mistakes after the fact are Bobby Howry, Keith Foulke, and Francisco Liriano.  He could have gotten a better player than, say, Shea Hildebrand if he would have traded away a good prospect away like Jonathan Sanchez or Pablo Sandoval, instead of Jeremy Accardo, but he clearly traded away the right prospect.  Sometimes it work - Burrell, Lopez, Ramirez, Ross - sometimes it don't.

And generally, while there have been a number of significant fails among the free agents, the fact is that those players were held in high enough esteem with teams that they got the contracts that they did, the Giants did their best to get the best available if they had the money to go out.  They might not have all worked, but the Giants used their money and tried to improve, for the fans, because that was the best available on the market.  That is not a sign that Sabean don't understand offense, it was a sign that GM sometimes have to do moves that show the fans that he is trying to make moves to win and that is all that is available to him on the market.  Laissez faire is something that don't win a lot of accolades either, as evidenced by all the complainers that the Giants stood pat this off-season.

What it is a sign of is that these Sabean Naysayers don't really understand how to win at baseball.  They gripe, gripe, gripe about the offense, but always "ya-but" the pitching plus, more insanely, wanted to trade the great pitching away, when it has all been about the pitching for a long time now, and shown by leading baseball analysis organizations, Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times, that offense don't win in the playoffs, pitching and fielding does.

They also don't understand or realize that if the moves that they argued so passionately for - trading away one of our great starting pitchers for a hitter, drafting Heyward over Bumgarner, drafting Smoak over Posey - had actually gone through, there would be no 2010 World Championship, they were either clear downgrades or, in the case of Bumgarner, hard to imagine how Heyward could outdo Madison, particularly with him hitting .125/.176/.125/.301 in 17 PA in that playoff series.

Ignoring, of course, the fact that had the Giants drafted Heyward, they would have ended up with no signed pick that season and thus have no Heyward or Bumgarner (he probably would have ironically been picked by Braves, being a local guy and Heyward not around, and maybe helped them in 2010 to go deep instead).

The Sabean Naysayers would be the one us Giants fans would be ranting and rioting to get fired, because any of those moves would have been worse than any move that Sabean has made (and that would be Rowand, as Zito is pretty much acknowledged by Giants fans who follow the team closely to be a Magowan signing; evidence is that Magowan got swept out of the management office, while Sabean was not even though he only had a one year contract left at that time).  The Giants don't win if they are missing any of the young pitchers or catcher - Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Posey - and the tradeoffs would have been worse alternatives that surely would have resulted in the Giants not making the playoffs in 2010.  But realizing that would take greater self-awareness and an understanding that the suggestions you make have very real consequences, had they the power to enact them or the memory to remember that they suggested these bad moves.

Belt Has a Wonderful Debut

Brandon Belt had a nice start to his career.  He got in the action immediately, fielding a couple of plays in the first inning.  He beats out a grounder to get a hit in his first AB, off of Kershaw: fitting since he once faced Kershaw in high school and beat out a infield base hit there as well.  That also showed off his speed, as belied by his tall stature.  He battled both Kershaw and their closer, Broxton, and drew a lot of pitches, in an impressive show of plate discipline and understanding of the zone.

Very encouraging.  And it is like playing with the bank's money when you win big at the casino, as I wrote yesterday, the Giants get to try out Belt for 3-4 weeks, see how he handles the big leagues, then can decide whether he needs more seasoning in AAA at that point.  Who knows, Cody Ross could be Wally Pipped by Belt if Belt performs very well up here.  And he showed no nerves at all, unlike some of the other Giants players.

This is another sign of Bill Neukom's edict for Sabean to make baseball decisions and not financial decisions, and let Neukom figure out the finances part.  And he has a lot of finances.  While all previous mentions of him only noted that he made maybe $100M from Microsoft stock and that he roughly donated that much to his alma mater, plus, of course, bought a large share of the Giants, I was reading through Band of MiSFits, by Andy Baggarly and found out that he is worth over $500M, so he could be the sugar daddy I've been agitating for the Giants to get as an owner.  Someone who can write a $20M check for additional shares of the Giants to enable the signing of a player or the keeping of young players, or whatever they might want to afford.  In this case, bringing up Belt now, even though that takes away one year of control over him (we lose 2017 if he don't see about two weeks in AAA this season) and thus would cost a whole lot more to keep him in 2017 versus his third season of arbitration.

Best Wishes to the Giants Fans Attacked by D-ger Fans

Lastly, apparently cooler heads didn't prevail, apparently two dastardly D-ger fans attacked three Giants fans yesterday (as reported by AP, so presumably not April Fool's joke) and one is critically injured, but is thankfully stable, sustaining a head injury.  Best wishes for a speedy recovery!


  1. Pretty much agree with all that. I have to admit, I was the guy who wanted to throw myself down the stairs when they drafted MadBum though. I've re-evaluated Sabean since then and concluded he had the team headed in the right direction after they drafted Buster.

    Every GM has his trades and FA signings he'd rather forget. You can't be a GM for 13 seasons and not have some moves come back to bite you. Over the course of his 13 year tenure as GM, Sabean has had way more successes than failures. Yes, he dumped a draft pick for Michael Tucker. Yes he traded Nathan and Liriano for AJ, Yes he signed Rowand. He also acquired Kent, Snow, Nen, Livan Hernandez, Jason Schmidt and Aubrey Huff. He drafted Cain, Wilson, J Sanchez, Timmy, MadBum, Posey and now Brandon Belt. He signed and developed Pablo Sandoval. That's not counting several role players like Romo, Runzler, Nate and Travis.

    9 winning seasons out of 13, 1 WS Championship, 2 NL pennants, 4 NL West Championships. 6 playoff appearances. Not many GM's can boast that kind of record. He must have been doing something right!

    Some Naysayers like to claim that Kevin Malone could have put together a winning team with Barry Bonds on it, a player who Sabean inherited. Well, if it was so easy, how come the Giants finished dead last in 1995 and 1996 the 2 seasons preceding Sabean's arrival WITH BARRY BONDS ON THE TEAM?

    Yup, the Giants are in great shape for the future. It's ridiculous that Cincinnati, a team in a small market that will never be able to match payroll with the Giants, was rated by as the #9 organization while the Giants were #11. Just ridiculous!

  2. Hey, we all make mistakes, DrB, the main thing is that you were not stuck on your opinion on the deal and let it evolve as the results warranted. We admit our mistakes.

    The Naysayers basically are stuck in the mud, stuck in their opinion of Sabean. I was a Naysayer until I took the bother to study the draft and understand the difficulties a GM faces when he has his team winning. I changed my tune to fit the evidence, all the evidence, the Big Picture.

    The Naysayers don't look at the Big Picture, they would rather fling their well-flung and continual drone that Sabean is wrong and they are right, and that they've never been wrong. If they would have applied their same standards at tarring Sabean on their own statements, they would have realized that they would have done much worse than Sabean has.

    Great delineation of all the things Sabean has done during this career.

    In any business, you don't want a manager who never makes a mistake because that means he is not taking any risk, not trying to push the envelope in any way. Business is about taking calculated risks and sometimes they don't work. That is why famous companies fail, at some point the managers are managing not to fail, instead of taking intelligent, calculated risks along the way.

    You also want a manager with a strategy. The Naysayers never has a strategy that they can espouse, other than "I know baseball better than the manager." That and "any starting players who isn't above average is no good, the Giants can't win unless every player is above average."

    Sabean has been very clearly focused on building a great pitching staff, because the bullets with the greatest probability of hitting the target he has devoted to pitching, and not just good pitching but great pitching, going for the young high school pitchers with greater potential than the safe college picks that Baseball Prospectus advocated getting based on their baseball draft analysis. They swung for the fences and while there are those who failed, like Jerome Williams and Craig Whitaker, he has hit with Cain, Bumgarner, and Wheeler looks pretty good in small playing time.

    The key is that they seem mostly focused on getting the best player available with their first pick, the heavy on the pitching in the whole draft, and lately heavy on the position players after the first pick, for a few rounds, because now that they got the pitching, and hopefully the money to keep it around for a while, they are accumulating the hitting to go with the pitching.

    It's easy to say the Giants need more offense. Any idiot can see that. It takes more to understand that they can win with a poor offense, and can incrementally improve that offense over time.



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