Oct 31, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean speaks to the crowd during the World Series celebration at City Hall. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in game seven of the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
I will be the first person to admit, I did not agree with Brian Sabean’s team building philosophy. When he took over as the San Francisco Giants General Manager for Bob Quinn at the end of the ’96 season, he had a 31-year-old superstar, and a complimentary band of role players. And even after improving their win total 28 games from the previous season, and winning the division (after finishing 4th the previous year), I was continually skeptical of his every move.
Fast forward to 2015. Maybe it’s my accumulation of baseball wisdom and knowledge, or the gray hairs accumulating on my head, but the veteran GM and I are now seeing eye-to-eye. With his monotone voice, and his even-keeled demeanor, Sabean’s strategy reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies, “It’s like Novocain… Just give it time, it always works”.
Aug 14, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals right fielder Nori Aoki (23) drives in two runs with a triple against the Oakland Athletics during the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Royals won 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Take these past three months, for instance. He has successfully kept the core of the World Champion Giants squad intact. Ten years ago, I would have been livid that he couldn’t find a way to keep Michael Morse, or fork out the dough to secure (arguably the most popular player at AT&T Park since #25) Pablo Sandoval. I would’ve lost sleep that we didn’t bolster the rotation with another ace. I would’ve scoffed that our big signing was Nori Aoki.
Brian Sabean… pieces together a roster that captivates us with more than numbers, but with camaraderie and fun.
Nevertheless, Sabean has consistently put a competitive team on the field. And it’s always been more than that. Some of my favorite players, who were never going to win a batting title, or give a Hall of Fame induction speech, have taken the field in the orange and black. JT Snow and his life saving moment at home plate, Kirk “Woody” Rueter, and Omar Vizquel’s magic glove. Brian Sabean is the visionary, who looks beyond a player’s age and history, and past the stat sheet and pieces together a roster that captivates us with more than numbers, but with camaraderie and fun.
The amount of statistics that are now available in the information age is staggering. There’s WAR, and OPS, and SLG. There’s WHIP, BABIP, and DIPS. And what do all of these numbers tell us? Frankly, nothing if you’re not winning. That’s where the science of Brian Sabean is so brilliant. I say science because, although he doesn’t wow you with his off-season acquisitions or mid-season movement, he always has chemistry in mind.
Somehow, in our attention-deficit, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, Sabean has prompted us to slow down. He brings baseball to us to enjoy, and to savor. When I am at the yard, I feel at home. There’s a culture that has been constructed from the top down, and it starts with Larry Baer and Brian Sabean.
An excerpt from a 2014 letter to the fans, from President and CEO of the San Francisco Giants, Larry Baer. Though letters like this may be produced by every team in baseball, the appreciation for Giants fans is never left unnoticed
Oct 31, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; The San Francisco Giants team poses for photos during the World Series celebration at City Hall. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in game seven of the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Next year, Sabean will be chalking up his second decade as Giants GM. He is the longest tenured GM in Major League Baseball, and he has firmly secured his place as the architect of a Bay Area dynasty, and the builder of teams that have delivered us cherished memories.
Are you still not a believer? “Just give it time, it always works”.