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BY TED SILLANPAA

Tap the brakes a little, OK? I read that the world champion Giants have the best organization in baseball, that Brian Sabean’s the best general manager in baseball.

Like I say … tap the brakes. Let off the gas some. Sloooow down!

Sabean did a great job building a world champion in San Francisco, but it seems an argument can be made that he’s not the best builder of baseball teams in Northern California. I admire his work and have praised him when others were calling for him to lose his job. The work he did building two world champions is simply tremendous.

But, um, Billy Beane did a pretty nice job turning a bunch of kids named Joe (or Yoenis) into American League West champions in Oakland this year, without near the resources available to Sabean.

Woa! Don’t come after me with those collector’s edition baseball bats with a Giants’ World Series stamp on them I see selling, incredibly, for $99. It’s certain that Sabean doesn’t care how fans and media types rate his work. His team just won the World Series. He doesn’t care. Really.

Look, nobody got higher on the Giants’ run through the postseason than I did. I waited decades for the Giants, my team, to win a World Series. So, to go from imagining my dying without being able to savor a world title to their winning two in three years is pretty heady stuff. So, I get the “San Francisco is the best … the Giants are the best … Sabean’s the best GM … the smell of fish at the wharf is like perfume … black and orange are the best colors in the world … Bruce Bochy’s the best manager around … the parade was the best parade ever … the rain in the ninth inning of the NLCS clincher was the best rain in history …” (I’ll go along with Bochy being the best manager in baseball. That’s a no-brainer at this point.)

I get how people drunk on the Giants’ success can rush to coronate Sabean the best GM when, really, he’s the best builder of baseball teams in 2012 who has access to something close to piles of cash. Beane doesn’t have access to piles of cash, although the Athletics penny-pinching ownership did let him sign franchise stud Yoenis Cespedes and make some trade deadline deals to bolster a lineup that was really, really (really, really) young. (The sales job Beane must’ve done to get Cespedes fresh out of Cuba … man!)

Beane built a tougher than leather, never-say-die team of kids that featured a keystone combination (shortstop Stephen Drew and second baseman Cliff Pennington) that hit about .200 — combined. Beane wanted to fix his middle infield at the deadline so he got .200-hitting defender Drew and moved .200-hitting Pennington from short to second.

That’s considerably more impressive, given the results that followed, than sending a prospect nobody cared about to the Rockies for Marco Scutaro — who has been traded to more than one contender and helped every one.

The Giants had to trade a frontline catching prospect in Tommy Joseph to get right fielder Hunter Pence. Beane got right fielder Josh Reddick from the Red Sox for always-injured relief pitcher Andrew Bailey. Reddick won a Gold Glove after hitting 32 homers and driving in 85 runs.

The parade is long over, so I don’t feeling like I’m raining on it by pointing out that the Giants have a hole in left field and aren’t entirely certain whether Pence is worth what they’re paying him to play right. The A’s have Cespedes in left field and Reddick in right — anchoring the middle of the batting order.

It’s next year already, so … whose corner outfielders you like better? (It’s November and no time to go through the entire lineup or 40-man roster.)

How Beane dismantles one talented, young starting rotation after another and replaces it with another group of talented starters is mind boggling. And, yeah, everybody loves Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum again (now), but the A’s had far superior starting pitching down the stretch. Far superior. And, to my knowledge, no one is as worried about Jarrod Parker or A.J. Griffin like people who can remember past Game 2 of the World Series are worried about Madison Bumgarner.

Hey, I love the Giants. I’ve always liked the A’s. I’m not one of those love one-hate the other Bay Area baseball fans. So, tap the brakes and let off the gas because everything connected to the Giants isn’t necessarily the best in baseball.

 

 

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Comments

33 Comments

  1. John Donnelly

    I understand your comments about the A’s, but I think you go out of your way to downplay the Giants success. I am a Giants fan and frankly, they are a true TEAM in every aspect. So were the A’s. I was rooting for the A’s because they have that same feel, but with less credit. So I understand why you want to stick up for them. But the Giants won the whole shebang! No egos, large personalities. Very different feel than when Barry Bonds was the headliner. Give the A’s there kudos for sure, but don’t knock Sabean and the success he has had just because the A’s aren’t getting the press.

    November 1st, 2012 9:27 pm

  2. overtime

    John…Thanks for reading, at least the headline. :) Here’s what I actually wrote about Sabean as prelude to the piece:

    “Sabean did a great job building a world champion in San Francisco, but it seems an argument can be made that he’s not the best builder of baseball teams in Northern California. I admire his work and have praised him when others were calling for him to lose his job. The work he did building two world champions is simply tremendous.”

    Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing from you again.
    Ted

    November 1st, 2012 9:58 pm

  3. Nick Dimond

    Billy Beane does more with less than any other GM in baseball. Any time you compare two people….especially talented people you will have strong opinions on both sides. I choose to admire them both, as it seems you do as well…

    November 1st, 2012 10:12 pm

  4. overtime

    Nick…Thanks for reading. Baseball fans who understand how teams are built couldn’t help but appreciate Sabean and Beane. It’s easy to make an argument for either being the best … but, I really think they both do a fine, fine job and laugh at the many Giants fans who love Sabean today who wanted him fired at various times over the last many seasons. Ted

    November 1st, 2012 10:14 pm

  5. John P. Slevin

    Good article. It’s always difficult to determine a “best”. Certainly Beane and Sabean are among the best. Beane did wonders with comparatively no money and Sabean made the Dodgers choke on a quarter billion or so extra tip money they managed to undertake down the stretch. Sabean does deserve singular credit for making fools (again) of all those who periodically call for his scalp and who would love to hang him (and Bochy) in effigy after nearly every lost game. We missed a Bay Bridge Series by just a tiny bit. Here’s hoping Beane and Co. plus the Giants can meet in October 2013.

    November 2nd, 2012 1:43 am

  6. Tom Greybalt

    you have some decent points, but the focus on corner outfielders is odd given that they are the easiest position to fix. The Giants may have a hole in LF, the A’s have holes at 3b, SS, C, 2b….

    oh and:

    “make some trade deadline deals to bolster a lineup that was really, really (really, really) young. ”

    Is just wrong, the A’s lineup is not and was not ever that young this year. They had some youngish pitchers, but in general they were not as young as the Giants.

    November 2nd, 2012 7:46 am

  7. Matt

    Billy Beane is the best GM to have never produced a World Series winning team. Brian Sabean is the best GM never to have a book and movie written about his teams that never won a World Series. Any more comparisons?

    November 2nd, 2012 8:22 am

  8. Pat

    Interesting, Tom. How do you propose fixing the corner outfielders?

    November 2nd, 2012 8:29 am

  9. Pat

    Here’s one Matt. Sabean’s Giants had, roughly, a $117.6 million payroll, good for about 7th in MLB. Beane’s A’s had, roughly, a $55 million payroll, about 29th in MLB.

    November 2nd, 2012 8:33 am

  10. Pat

    Tom, the average age of the A’s position players with at least 100 PA’s was 27.63, for the Giants it was 27.47. If you include all position players it was 27.48 for the A’s and 28.32 for the Giants. In general, the A’s were just as young as the Giants.

    November 2nd, 2012 8:50 am

  11. bruce mcconnell

    for all the Giants success in the 12 years in their new ballpark with Sabean at the helm, they have won 12 less games than the Beane’s A’s in a crappy ballpark with zero budget. I guarantee that if Brian Cashman leaves the Yankee’s, Billy’s phone will ring long before Brian’s.

    November 2nd, 2012 9:08 am

  12. Brian

    AAAhh…. Spoken like a true oversenstitive and defensive A’s fan. I have no problem giving it up to the A’s when they win it all. This is the Giants year! They are the best in 2012. What Billy Beane does with what he has to work with is fantastic. But sometimes, you just have to admit your team isn’t the best, not make excuses and give it up for the team that got it done.

    November 2nd, 2012 9:58 am

  13. Cara

    The A’s “success” with on field talent is hardly sustained. Collect draft picks and top prospects in exchange for players traded to teams who are trying to win, sustain and develop their fan base. Then when it comes time to keep these guys around they get traded for more of the same.
    Yes, the underdog A’s are fun to watch and root for but they are shooting themselves in the foot business wise.
    If the A’s wanted respectable attendance, decent radio and tv ratings and merchandise success they would hang on to some of their emerging stars instead of the seemingly never-ending turnover of their roster.
    As far as comparing the GM’s, it is apples to oranges. There is pressure in SF to keep that stadium full and the Giants have no equal when it comes to secondary marketing.
    A’s on the other hand are part of the MLB welfare system, barely market the team and seem to prefer small crowds so they can continue to cry poor mouth to the city and MLB.
    Both guys are doing fine working towards their business goals.

    November 2nd, 2012 10:28 am

  14. Che Cazzo Stai Dicendo?

    Interesting logic: beating the lowest expectations is “better” than meeting the highest.

    A number of teams have larger “piles of cash” than the Giants, but achieved nothing. Is good use of a larger sum less commendable than good use of a small sum, especially when the good use of the larger sum brings the greatest reward in the sport?

    If you’re an A’s fan, you would understand that their line-up is always subject to change. If past is prologue, Reddick and Cespedes could be on their way at any moment.

    Who did the Giants trade to get Buster Posey?

    November 2nd, 2012 11:08 am

  15. Matt

    I have to kind of agree with Cara; the A’s may put together scrappy teams that are fun to watch and seemingly in a position to contend (but factually, they haven’t made the playoffs since 2006, excluding this recent run and, if we’re comparing payrolls, the argument could be made that a lower payroll and constantly revolving roster may be why they manage to just fall short). I don’t think a lower payroll that fields a contender means squat if that team never contends which, strictly speaking, for the A’s only includes this year. The A’s should be rightly credited for producing three rookie starters in Parker, Milone and Griffin, the first team in major league history to do so.

    As far as their payroll and whether that makes Beane a better GM, if you compare the numbers, yes, one would have to give it up. But they haven’t won a world championship since 1989, right?

    Maybe we should judge a GM’s performance past the trading deadline, taking into account when and if their moves produced any differences in on-field production. In 2010, Sabean added Cody Ross, who proved, like Marco Scutaro did this year, to be an overlooked treasure who hit in the clutch like nobody’s business. And Scutaro was originally signed as a replacement for an injured Pablo Sandoval at third which, when Ryan Theriot proved inconsistent, proves a genius move when you can replace your perenially lost 2B (Sanchez), with a stalwart defensive player who can hit, AND get your 3B Panda back with a vengeance. Stephen Drew, whom you mentioned above, is a free-agent now, (as are Pagan, Scutaro and Jeremy Affeldt) and both teams have indicated they will decline to exercise their options, which might weaken either squad, so maybe we should wait until those moves are made before we make these comparisons? Or not.

    My point, like my snarky comment above, is that you cannot compare the two, precisely because of the reasons you give, Ted; Beane has less resources than Sabean. In a payroll contest vis a vis results on the field, Billy clearly gets the edge, but there are differences in the outcome, and Sabean faces far more scrutiny for his management, IMO, than Beane does. All Beane has managed to do for all his “Moneyball” genius, is establish a resume that will be very attractive to his next employer which, should the Yankees or Red Sox ever come calling, will finally give him the level playing field. Then again, the A’s owners might finally win their marketing rights standoff with the Giants, a new stadium might get built, and fans and money might start pouring in from San Jose and surrounding areas, right? Yeah, and there might be 300 lb pigs with wings taxiing for takeoff at LAX round 3 p.m.

    Great column and discussion though. Certain to invite responses, being that both fan bases share such love for one another ;-)

    November 2nd, 2012 11:36 am

  16. overtime

    Matt…Thanks for reading and sharing your own thoughts. The idea of generating fan discussion is lost a little on folks who come in with the snark.You get the right idea. TED

    November 2nd, 2012 12:55 pm

  17. overtime

    CCSD….Thanks for reading. I appreciate your thoughts. The idea is to get folks to kick things around. The A’s didn’t have Posey, but they maneuvered and wound up with a true rookie catcher and veteran few heard of and together they got the job done. And, I’m sure you read that I think Sabean has simply done a tremendous job over time and in 2012. TED

    November 2nd, 2012 12:57 pm

  18. overtime

    C…Good stuff. Thanks for the insight. . Stay in touch. TED

    November 2nd, 2012 1:01 pm

  19. overtime

    Brian…Thanks for reading. I’m not writing as an A’s fan or a Giants fan. I explained that pretty clearly. You read the whole thing, right? Ted

    November 2nd, 2012 1:02 pm

  20. overtime

    thanks for reading bruce! TED

    November 2nd, 2012 1:06 pm

  21. overtime

    Pat …Thanks weighing in. Thanks for reading. TED

    November 2nd, 2012 1:07 pm

  22. overtime

    Tom…Appreciate the read. Disagree with about everything you said, but it’s good to disagree. Love that you shared your opinion. TED

    November 2nd, 2012 1:08 pm

  23. overtime

    Matt…So who plays Sabean in movie? Bochy? TED

    November 2nd, 2012 1:08 pm

  24. overtime

    John…Thanks for restoring a little sanity in an energetic debate here. Appreciate your time. TED

    November 2nd, 2012 1:09 pm

  25. Pete

    What has Beane “the better architect” built/won again?

    November 2nd, 2012 1:43 pm

  26. Matt

    Great question: Maybe Nick Nolte? Since Russell Crowe with his added “character” of late might just be a PERFECT fit.

    November 2nd, 2012 1:49 pm

  27. Matt

    Bochy: Damn, it’s too bad Warren Oates is passed away, he would have been perfect, too. The guy who played the manager in “Major League” and Bochy share the same DNA, but he’s gone as well. If you could get Jefferey Dean Morgan (The Losers- Watchmen) to lose about thirty lbs of muscle and carry himself like the weight of the world was on his shoulders, he could pass.

    November 2nd, 2012 1:52 pm

  28. overtime

    Matt…Don’t forget…the Bochy actor needs a head that can be home to a size 8 1/2 cap. Ted

    November 2nd, 2012 3:06 pm

  29. overtime

    Pete…Thanks for reading. How many games did the A’s win the last 2, 3 years? How many games were they expected to win? How many games did the A’s win and where did they end up? Simple logic is always the only logic that applies. Ted

    November 2nd, 2012 3:08 pm

  30. Matt

    Well, everything looks bigger on the screen. Including heads.

    November 2nd, 2012 4:03 pm

  31. Che Cazzo Stai Dicendo?

    My point about Posey wasn’t that the A’s did have him, but he, Belt, Crawford, Panda and most of the pitching staff are homegrown. (and ironic that the most expensive pitcher is a former Athletic). Sabean isn’t just Scrooge McDuck throwing around the bills; the Giants have a program, perhaps equal to Oakland’s.

    November 2nd, 2012 5:49 pm

  32. K.T. Hastings

    “Simple logic is always the only logic that applies.”

    Occam’s Razor in a sports blog. Cool stuff. I enjoyed this thread.

    November 2nd, 2012 6:35 pm

  33. overtime

    CCSD…You make points worth considering, no question. Thanks for sharing. TED

    November 2nd, 2012 6:54 pm

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