Club and league sources have confirmed that Sabean did not take the lead role when the club signed Rowand (2007) and Zito (2006); both contracts were panned at the time and have turned out perhaps even worse than critics predicted.Of course, while most others thought literally "how could he?", I was more "It don't make sense" because Sabean throughout his career has shown that he knows how to recognize talent. I think fans generally don't understand all the nuances involved with player acquisition.
Signing free agents have less to do with recognizing talent than your team's need for body to fill a position, so you are stuck with whatever is available when you need to get someone to fill a position. Same with a lot of trades as well, when Sabean is unwilling to give up players that he thinks are keepers, you get so-so players, but sometimes you just have to roll the dice, particularly if he does not think that the player he is giving up will not make it as a good major league player. Even the draft, while obviously requiring some ability to discern talent, is filled with a lot of unknowable factors that there is no team that can consistently find talent, it is mostly hit and miss with a lot more misses.
But in terms of trading prospects, Sabean has a great record, very few of his traded prospects have made the majors and few have been that good, except for Liriano (Nathan was not a prospect anymore at that point), but his injuries have made managing the Twins a nightmare not knowing if you have your ace that season or not. Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, David Aardma, Carlos Villanueva, Clay Hensley are probably the most valuable of the bunch (with Foulke being the one true miss), then there is Jeremy Accardo, Boof Bonser, Jason Grilli, even Ryan Vogelsong, until this season. Plus, there are the ones who the Giants let go and other teams picked up: Brian Buscher, Pat Misch, Brian Burres, Freddy Lewis, etc.
But there was no overwhelming need for the Giants, baseball-wise, to sign either Rowand or Zito to huge contracts. When Sabean signed other players, there was that need, in order to field a team to win. By that time, the Giants were beyond just one player to win, neither Rowand nor Zito were players to get us over the hump. Both clearly looked like overpays. Both looked like they would never fulfill their contract to the amount paid, let alone exceed it. This did not seem like a Sabean signing to me and others, mostly because it looked like the moves were more for marketing and PR purposes, not baseball purposes. And now Andy Baggarly cleared that all up with his great reporting and investigative abilities.
This also supports the ease with which the Giants let go Rowand now, versus just playing out the string and keeping him around in September just in case. It is much harder to let go of your own mistake, but when it is the mistake of someone else's that you have been living with, the release should be easier.
I know some will wonder why it didn't happen sooner and blame Sabean for that. But these people don't understand that veteran players do come back from bad stretches of poor play. They can also contribute, much like how Rowand, while not a key player in the playoffs, made some key plays and hits that helped the team reach the pinnacle of their profession. Even better example: Renteria during the playoffs.
But with the season spiraling away, Sabean needed to do something for shock value before meeting up with Arizona, whereas one would reasonably think the Giants should have been able to take on the Astros and Cubbies, but weren't. Rowand by complaining internally didn't help, and Baggarly has been giving us a foreboding of that with his prior reportage. His poor hitting has probably been a reflection of his unhappiness too, as well as a reflection of his diminishing skills.
Plus, Arizona has been on fire winning, but have been really being lucky in that regard because they have not been scoring that much more runs than allowed in August. They ended August at 120-106, which has a Pythagorean of .553 or 16-13 record: they ended up 19-10. Take away those three games and the Giants are only 3 games behind right now.
It would be hard to predict both a Giants collapse against poor teams as well as a streak of winning by Arizona. If neither happens, the Giants are still in the hunt, behind by 2-4 games, and not on the fringe like they are now, 6 games back. And Sabean would not be second-guessed as much.
At this point, all the Giants can do is try to right their ship and not worry so much about Arizona except for the upcoming six games against them. They need a hero and they need him to take charge now, and the team needs to win at least 4 out of 6 and ideally win 5 or 6 games (i.e. sweep). Unlikely, but that is our state of the union right now, try to finish off with a nice record this season and hope that it is good enough. But it will take a lot of opponents taking down the D-backs and D-backs regressing to the mean for the Giants to make the playoffs.
Not a pretty picture for Giants fans, but them's the facts. Still, plenty of time to go before the season ends, plenty of time for a young team like the D-backs to fall on their faces. Better teams have stumbled on their way to the finish line and screw up their playoff chances. But right now, they got the look of a team that wants it, much like the Giants last season when Posey was leading them down the stretch, and they got a huge enough lead that they could coast if they wanted to. I'll still be rooting for my team to win, hardcore, I haven't given up yet.
Buy "A Band of MiSFits"!
Thank you Andy for another big Giants scoop, clearing up that Sabean did not take the lead role in signing either Rowand or Zito. Now we need the Pierzynski trade to be clarified as well, and either take that off his record as well (as it has been implied before by Magowan's comment that he wouldn't have allowed the trade if he were appraised of it; one would think Sabean would know which trades to run by him or not) or mark it clearly his mistake.
These scoops are why I love reading Andy Baggerly's book "A Band of MiSFits", there is a lot of inside information about the Giants and their personnel in there, chockful that really improved my enjoyment of my favorite team, like how much money Neukom is really worth. I really recommend buying it (really inexpensive on Amazon and I believe it is on iBooks as well), as it was an enjoyable read and, like I said, it improved my enjoyment of last season's Giants dream run.
FYI, in case you are wondering, I make nothing off his sales, just want to share something really good with fellow Giants fans.