or: WTF is this guy smoking?
Hillary or Obama, Mitt or McCain, Patriots or Giants, buy or sell? It seems no one can agree on much of anything these days, except for one thing. Brian Sabean is universally regarded as an idiot. So, in the spirit of contrary thinking, I would like to present several reasons why Brian Sabean is not the world's worst baseball GM.
First, some good things Brian has done for the Giants (for those of you who can't think of any): Kent, Schmidt, Nen, Roberto Hernandez, Wilson Alvarez, Andres Galaraga, Randy Winn. These were all trades that went on to help the Giants, some of a patented end-of-season sort that provided a push to get the Giants into the playoffs sort. That we didn't win the world series as a result is hardly Sabean's fault. Then too: Mattheny, Zito, Matt Morris. Now some may take exception to adding Zito and Morris to a good things done list. But the fact is that Sabean went out and got the two best free agent pitchers two years in a row for the Giants. Some may argue that we overpaid, but that arguement can't really be validated until a contract is over, and in context with what comparable pitchers are being paid by the end of the contract. Remember how excited we (at least we at RMC) were at these acquisitions? Yes, we thought they were good things.
Now, to be fair: Joe Nathan. This was a horrible trade, and made worse by the fact that Pierzynsky was such an flaming asshole to compliment with his total suckiness as a player. But seriously, if Rob Nen had been able to come back, would we be whining about this now? No, it would have gone down in history as a poor trade, not a terrible one. And that brings us to last year. According to the Giants, Sabean chased Soriano, but came up empty. It seems like Aurilia and Durham were less than inspired signings, but they also underperformed what would be a reasonable expectation (although, to be fair, they would have had to overperform a reasonable expectation to make the Giants competitive).
Now, this year. Aaron Rowland. Have we overpaid? Perhaps not, if you review the contract values of free agents this year. Do we need more? Yes. Have we pissed away our best young pitchers for dubious, aging talent? No. Not yet, anway, in spite of everyone's expectation that this will happen any minute. This alone should get a few folks to lighten up on Sabean, except that, well, it won't.
And another thing, on personality. Would you really rather have a GM who tells everybody what he is going to do all the time? Doesn't seem like a very good strategy to me, sort of like Warren Buffett telling everyone what he will be buying and selling this year. Look at what Brian Sabean does, not what he says. The big moves, historically, have been largely un-heralded before they were made. There has been much discussion of whether Bonds' presence on the Giants in 2007 was the result of Sabean or ownership. We may never know the answer to this, but as a sage observer said back about 2006, "It's all about Barry."
Were I a GM, I think I would hire the best computer people I could find, and then make statements to the press about how I made these trades because the players were hard-nosed and scrappy. I would not refer to any stats other than era and batting average and wins when talking to the press. I would talk about how I need to look into a player's eyes to see his drive and desire, and I would use the phrase, "Knows how to win" a lot. I'm not saying that Brian Sabean is a genius, only that the Giants have been a pretty good team to watch for most of the last decade. I don't think the worst GM in the universe could have achieved that.