You know...it's hard to say exactly how I feel about Brian Sabean's performances as general manager for the San Francisco Giants this off-season. I didn't agree with him getting a two-year extension this off-season, but owner Bill Neukom gave him one anyway, simply because of the 88-74 season the Giants had in 2009. Granted, I do think Sabes deserved some credit for that season. Everybody expected the Giants to hover around .500, but they stayed in the playoff race until the last week of the season. That should be commended, no doubt. I am not one of those kinds of fans where "no playoffs = no success." Last season was very successful for the Giants, they just played in a division where there were two other playoff-caliber teams. If the Giants are in the NL Central, maybe they're in the playoffs instead of the Cardinals. Who knows.
Thus, while I didn't agree with Sabean coming back, I tolerated it just because he deserved a shot to show whether or not 2009 was a sign of progress or a fluke.
For some reason, I just get this bad lingering feeling 2009 could be a fluke.
I understand the deals Sabes made. I understand you can't just release Freddy Sanchez when you traded your second-best pitching prospect (Tim Alderson) for him at the Trade Deadline last July. I understand the Juan Uribe signing because he might need to take over at shortstop if Edgar Renteria flounders once again for a third-straight season, and you don't want to have another situation like 2008 where your only backup is a career Single-A player like Brian Bocock. I think Mark Derosa is a safe pickup because he can play multiple positions. I also like the fact that Sabes waited until the end of the off-season and scrapped guys Aubrey Huff and Bengie Molina off the bargain bin for one-year deals, when in the past, he would sign them early and for more money and years than they worth (e.g. Dave Roberts).
That being said, the Giants built success last year of their pitching and defense. So, you think, if your a general manager that needs to improve their offense from laughable to just mediocre, you would want to sign guys that wouldn't jeopardize the qualities that made your teams so successful a season ago.
Huff is a designated hitter. Derosa is going to be 35. Bengie is Bengie, only he's a year older and a year more out-of-shape.
The Giants may be on paper better on offense, but the defense without a doubt is going to dip, and that makes you wonder what the pitching staff is thinking. You think Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain feel comfortable taking the hill with Huff manning first base? You think Brian Wilson, who's already defensively deficient on the hill as it is, will feel even more comfortable with an aging defense that might not be able to make the plays they did in 2009?
In many ways, this off-season was just typical of every off-season the Giants have had under Sabean. A lot of big-names, a lot of promise, but in the end, usually not a lot of follow-through. The list of big-names who seemed to "tank" for the Giants is practically a mile long: Renteria, Roberts, Edgardo Alfonso, Mike Matheny, Michael Tucker, Jeffrey Hammonds, Ryan Klesko, Steve Finley etc., etc.
Grant from the McCovey Chronicles summed it all up in a great post about Sabean and this off-season: Sabean is a great developer of pitching talent and has made a solid knack in the past couple of years in terms of finding hiddeng gems to add to the bullpen, but is a lousy evaluator of offensive talent.
In many ways, that seems to be the case again this season. The Giants rotation can only get better with a young Madison Bumgarner in the number five spot in the rotation. The squad has two young, incredible arms in Dan Runzler and Waldis Joaquin that are ready to contribute to an already solid bullpen led by Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo. Sabean also spurned the common route that a lot of GMs take in terms of adding big-name arms to the bullpen even though they are at the end of their primes or in fact, past it.
Yet the guy is still clueless. I understand Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche didn't want to play in San Francisco, and I understand you can't do anything about that. However, really...Huff is an upgrade over Travis Ishikawa even though Huff struggled in a pitcher's park like Comerica last season? Molina is really that much better than Buster Posey? Sanchez is better than Orlando Hudson, who could go into "eff you" mode after the Dodgers spurned to re-sign him this off-season?
It's just the same old Dog and Pony show from Sabean. He didn't deserve his extension at the end of last season, and he didn't seem to do anything to show he was worth it at the end of this off-season.
Let's just hope Sabean and the Giants get away with it like they did last year. Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval can carry us to the playoffs, right?