Brian Sabean is in lockstep with the rest of the Giants’ front office and ownership mentality.
Many diehard San Francisco Giants want to rag on Brian Sabean for not committing multiple high valued prospects for David Murphy or Chase Utley to fill the Giants’ second base void. I’m not in that diehard camp, nor would I rip a team enjoying one of its most successful eras since moving to this city in 1958.
Fact of the matter is, the Giants payroll has increased every year since 2009. It was $82 million in 2009 and is near $150 million for 2014. That’s with Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand completely off the books. Matt Cain, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, and Madison Bumgarner signed long-term deals. It could keep ascending when you consider Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt’s status moving forward.
The Giants were a mockery of a large market team in the 1970s and for five seasons in the 2000s. It came following a very good run that began in the late 1980s through 2003.
Riding into the sunset with Barry Bonds handicapped Sabean into transitioning the team for a better approach to seasons without the Hall of Fame slugger. Peter Magowan, the Burns family, and Charles Johnson have maintained a fiscally disciplined approach in step with smaller markets teams in terms of balancing spending with bottom line revenue. Don’t confuse them with the Oakland A’s though.
Bill Neukom’s Microsoft lawyer fees afforded him a spot to become an investor in the mid 1990s. Once Magowan stepped down, Neukom purchased more shares and became active lead investor in 2008.
Neukom vowed to return the Giants to prominence at some point, referring to his “Giants way” philosophy. He was around for the 2010 World Series victory, but perhaps his signature bow tie and championship ring inflated his ego one level too high.
He was ousted due to differences on how to share revenue with managing partners after the 2010 season. Another reason was for his propensity to increase payroll at an unsatisfactory rate.
That’s when Larry Baer took over as CEO. Baer reverted back to implementing what the Giants valued most. Signing big name sluggers nearing or past their prime wasn’t included in that list.
Drafting, scouting, and lastly pitching are what Brian Sabean and Baer constantly allude to. Sabean took over for Bob Quinn in 1997. Sabean’s creed is you can never have enough pitching and a surplus can permit other potential deals to be made down the road. His worst signing to date was free agent Barry Zito for $126 million and easily surpasses Aaron Rowand. Again a free agent pitcher over a hitter.
With the exception of Barry Bonds in 1993, the Giants have failed or simply refused to ante up top dollar on free agent sluggers in a pitcher friendly home park. Vladimir Guerrero, Adam LaRoche, and Carlos Beltran are a sampling of those player types.
It’s not to say having an elder Bonds is the sole reason for San Francisco lagging after being right there in 2002 and 2003. Bonds’ salary commanded anywhere from $15 to $20 million in his twilight years. San Francisco’s payroll leveled at $90 million from 2005 to 2007. It dipped to $76 million once Bonds retired.
Sabean kept trying to find veterans to pair along Jason Schmidt and Bonds to remain competitive instead of surrounding them with unproven youngsters. It blew up egregiously when you consider results from Marquis Grissom, Ray Durham, Pedro Feliz, Michael Tucker, A.J. Pierzynski, Matt Morris, Sidney Ponson, Dustin Hermanson, Omar Vizquel, Mike Matheny, Ryan Klesko, Miguel Tejada, and Armando Benitez teams.
People think it was about Bonds’ home run chase alone and being content with filling the park. If that were the case, Sabean might as well re-sign Sandoval on account of Panda-hat infamy alone.
It took an oft-injured Bonds until 2007 to finish at 762. In the meantime, Sabean would have gotten publicly crushed just the same had he called up Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, and Madison Bumgarner promptly after being drafted.
Don’t forget mixed in with these names are picks like Conor Gillaspie, Charlie Culberson, Tim Alderson, Nick Noonan, and Emmanuel Burriss. It’s not like 70 win seasons for the Giants resulted in nothing but can’t miss draft selections, which paved the way for 2010 and 2012 titles.
Could the Giants payroll be hiked up? Absolutely. Is it doable to reach the levels of the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, or Rangers? Yes, but it’s not prudent and they aren’t going to play keeping up with the Joneses.
The situation at second base is a major concern. Yet, a healthy Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan could act as post trade deadline upgrades all by themselves. Experience at second base is absent, but it’s better to roll the dice than have to mortgage the farm for $15 million of Utley for multiple years. Fans don’t want to hear it, but that’s precisely why they aren’t running teams. It’s not a MLB 2K14 video game.
Don’t crucify Sabean for not pulling a deal he determined to be unworthy for 2014. Especially when the current business plan has yielded two Giants World Series in three seasons.