Friday, March 21, 2008

How is Sabean Skating?

CBS' Scott Miller takes a look at the post-Bonds Giants and, as so many others have this spring, concludes that things will be bleak by the Bay this season. And he's right, of course.

One thing I'd like to see in these articles, however, is less of a "what will the Giants do without Bonds?" tack and more of a "how in the heck did Brian Sabean allow this team to so thoroughly crater" analysis.

As Miller notes, the Giants lost 41 more games than they won over the past three seasons, all three of which featured a Barry Bonds who, while still quite effective when he played, was clearly in decline and soon to be gone. Sabean should have been preparing for the post-Bonds world years ago, but in no event should he have put this off any later than 2005, when the Giants played the first 142 games without him. Finishing that year with 87 losses, Sabean was offered a clear glimpse of the near future, which should have inspired him to spring into action.

He didn't, however, eschewing any hint of a youth movement and choosing instead to keep or add a cast of relative geriatrics: Reggie Sanders, Marquis Grissom, Michael Tucker, Omar Vizquel, Moises Alou, Mike Matheny, Steve Finley, Randy Winn, J.T. Snow, Matt Morris, Armando Benitez, and Tim Worrell. Guys who were capable of turning in some good seasons and in some cases did, but guys who in no event were going to be part of a future Giants' championship run. As a result of this strategy, the Giants now have the worst offense in baseball, no position players in the pipeline who are worth a tinker's damn, and a comically-old roster which stands to do no damage whatsoever in the foreseeable future.

Nine out of ten stories you read about the Giants as they embark on what stands to be a historically bad season will be pegged to the absence of Barry Bonds. As you read them, however, you should remember that the true architect of this crumbling edifice was Brian Sabean, whose negligence or ineptness -- or both -- are responsible for his team's sorry state.

the influx of Rob Neyer readers (welcome!) are revealing just how angry Giants fans really are. Within the last 20 minutes, I've received several emails voicing their displeasure with the Sabean regime. One commenter (below) noted that in order for season ticket holders to get All Star Game tickets last year, you had to buy season tickets for 2008 as well. Another contends that, no matter what the official attendance figures say, the butts in the seats are going to tell the real story:
I've had season tickets since Pac Bell opened. 4 of my 5 ticket partners have bailed and I can't even give free games away to entice others to buy. As a CSL holder you're forced to buy or lose your license. Go on craig's list and there's a horde of people trying to sell their Charter Seat Licenses below cost, which for me was $6K for 2 seats. Tickets on top of that are $6500 a season. Magowan and Sabean should be hung for letting this team disintegrate for the sake of 1 player and their bottom line. The place will be empty by July, paid seats or not.
Yeah, there is some displeasure here, and I can't say as I blame them. If you're a Giants fan, and if you're mad, feel free to let me know about it. Even better? Feel free to let the Giants know about it.


Don Evans said...

Aww Shyster you must keep in mind that those veterans bring leadership and "know how to win" ....

Anonymous said...


Also, keep in mind the real architect of this fiasco: Peter McGowan, scion of the Safeway empire and builder of the fabulous AT & T park, mainly with his own money.

From all accounts, the most pressing matter on McGowan's mind was keeping seats full to pay off the debt on the stadium as quickly as possible. As the ultra wealthy know: "debt bad, equity good".

Anyway, the whole Bonds circus was nothing more than pure Ringling Brothers. The star of the show, the lion tamer, had to be kept happy at all costs. Hence the retinue, the lounger, the veteran teammates, and management looking the other way.

Everything was subordinated to that end, to keeping the drama of "the chase" alive. Now the marketing has turned to the stadium itself, and since a tremendous percentage of ticket buyers were tourists, the hope, from ownership's perspective, is that the severity of the attendance dropoff can be minimized and that payroll reductions will accomodate the reduced cash flow in such a way as to continue the accelerated repayment of stadium debt.

That is Sabean's priority. That priority is set by ownership. Winning games? Not so much.

Will the Giants turn into the Orioles? That's the question.

Anonymous said...

#1. Fred Lewis is at least worth a legitimate shot to be a decent big-leaguer. Schierholtz too.

#2. While Sabean has made some bone-headed moves, he also constructed some great teams with some savvy moves (Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow, Jason Schmidt, Robb Nen, etc).

#3. There's a stadium to pay off.

#4. As a Giants fan, all you can do now is be patient and enjoy some pretty damn good pitching in the mean time. And wait for Big V, Noonan, Bumgarner, Henry Sosa, Alderson, and Fairley.

#5. Where'd you grow up punk?!

Shyster said...

1. Fred Lewis is already 27 years old, and has had less than 200 major league plate appearances. While his most recent AAA OPS was over 900, that was for his third whirl around the PCL. While he may be useful for a spell, he's neither young enough nor good enough to count as a legitimate young talent upon which the Giants should base their future.

2. The Giants acquired Jeff Kent and JT Snow over 11 years ago. Tob Nen over 10 years ago. Schmidt was signed over six years ago. Sure, all of those were good moves, and they helped build a team that would eventually win a lot of ballgames and a pennant, but how long should Giant fans be expected to savor wins from so long ago? I had a great pizza in NY in 1994, but I've had to eat since then.

3. The correlation between wins and attendance is well-established. The Giants current approach is almost guaranteed to lead to very bad gate this year, which isn't going to help make those mortgage payments. If anything, the fact the Giants have to pay off the stadium makes Sabean's inattention to rebuilding all the more inexcusable.

4. Cain (if he's healthy) and Lincecum are indeed nice things to have. How much nicer would it be if they had some run support?

5. Where did I grow up? You first.

Richard Dansky said...

But hey, the team will be "loose", "relaxed", and "not under pressure" now that Barry's gone.

That's got to be worth something, right?

Mr Lomez said...

I think the media at large might be putting too much emphasis/blame on Bonds for the Giants current sorry state, but most honest baseball people (readers and friends of this site for instance), and EVERY Giants fan in our community of Giants bloggers and amateur pundits, all recognize that Sabean is the guy to be pointing the finger at.

He's not getting a free ride.

On what bizarro planet are Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz evidence that a GM is doing a good job?

And "damn good pitching" that could include Liriano, Bonser and Joe Nathan, and not include Barry Zito earning 16mil to throw mid 80's gas.

Anonymous said...

1. I didn't say Lewis was a "base" for the future. But he has talent. And I'm not one of those "Keith Law is God," but even he says he thinks Lewis could be a solid to above-average everyday player.

2. Good point. And just because I'm reaching, how about dumping Matt Morris and his contract and receiving a 5th outfielder in return? I think I might have paid to get Morris off the team. And Benitez too. At least Sabean has owned up to a couple of his absurd moves.

3. Good point.

4. Is something wrong with Cain health wise? That would suck. And hey, I'm looking forward to seeing if Sanchez can put together his nasty stuff (10.73 K/9 last year) into consistency. And Brian Wilson looks pretty good also. And who doesn't want to see how bad Zito can be this year???

5. I asked you first!

Shyster said...

I had it in my head that Matt Cain had some sort of injury this spring, but I couldn't find anything about it, so maybe I'm on crack. Oh well.

I was born in Flint, Michigan and grew up there, in Parkersburg, WV and Beckley, WV.

I'm not a Giants fan, though I admired them quite a bit during the Will Clark/Roger Craig years.

Why I have chosen this week to beat up on Brian Sabean I'm not sure, but something feels right about it.

Anonymous said...

Well I grew up in Stockton, CA. I still live here actually. But I'm going to Boston this fall. It's good to meet you Mr. Shyster Ball.

I guess this can be "Despise Sabean Week." The problem for me is, after the Giants start off 3-20it's gonna be "Despise Sabean Year."

And if you ever need someone to hook you up with the crack...I know a guy.

Anonymous said...


It's touching watching this love fest bloom, but the Giants will have competition for Worst Team this year: both the Orioles and the Nationals could make a run for that coveted title.

Personally, I think the Orioles will be worse than the Giants, if not in the standings certainly aesthetically.

While that won't make for less criticism of Brian Sabean, I still say the real culprit is the owner.

Anonymous said...


Shyster said...

Oh, it's no love fest. We're just waiting until you leave, APBA, and then we're going at it UFC-style!

Funny thing about ownership is that McGowan is only one member of a largish ownership group. While he's certainly out front, his interest (as least as far as I understand) isn't so big that he can do whatever he wants forever. If the Giants suffer a serious drop off in attendance that lasts a couple of years (i.e. to the point where they have trouble making the vig on the stadium) who's to say that HE'S safe?

Anonymous said...

As an FYI...for Giants fans who wanted all-star game seats, you had to purchase season tix for both 2007 and 2008. Teh way the numbers seem to crunch out...Some how this team is on track for another 3,000,000 attendance...granted...not likely everyone will show...but still money in the bank.

Anonymous said...

Since ownership gave Sabean a two year extension at the end of last summer, the question is who is the decider (I'm already starting to miss Bushguistics) in that ownership group? And what was that reward for anyway?

Anonymous said...

I've had season tickets since Pac Bell opened. 4 of my 5 ticket partners have bailed and I can't even give free games away to entice other to buy. As a CSL holder you're forced to buy or lose your license. Go on craig's list and theres a horde of people trying to sell their Charter Seat Licenses below cost, which for me was $6K for 2 seats. Tickets on top of that are $6500 a season. Magowan and Sabean should be hung for letting this team disintegrate for the sake of 1 player and their bottom line. The place will be empty by July, paid seats or not.