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The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Out of Bounds: Get over your hatred of Brian Sabean

Editor in Chief Jonathan Roisman (Chris Corbin/The Inquirer 2010)

It’s hard to tell if Brian Sabean is actually hated by Giants fans or not. He’s been a lighting rod for critics ever since he arrived on the scene as the team’s general manager in 1996.

Sabean has made some controversial decisions in the past 14 years, but most of the good he brought to the team is overlooked because, like with anything, it’s more fun to nitpick at the bad.

His first move was trading the popular third baseman Matt Williams to the Indians for Jeff Kent and other players. “Sporting News” writer Joe Hoppel said, “the Giants have been fleeced” when referring to the deal.

I bet he felt stupid after Kent went on to have a .903 OPS while hitting 175 home runs and winning the NL MVP during his six-year tenure with San Francisco. Not bad.

Sabean orchestrated the deals that brought in other players such as J.T. Snow, Robb Nen, Jason Schmidt, Kenny Lofton and many other key veterans who helped lead the Giants to the 2002 World Series.

I don’t want to make it sound like the man’s a god or anything. The A.J. Pierzynski trade will always haunt him – it was a terrible trade. It undid the locker room and San Francisco sacrificed key assets in pitchers Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano.

However, it’s hard to say this move actually hurt the Giants in the long term. Yes, Nathan was a huge loss. It created a vacuum as far as closers go for nearly five years. However, losing Liriano isn’t a big deal. He didn’t have a fully healthy season until this year, and even then he would’ve been the Giants fifth best pitcher in the rotation.

From 2005-09, Liriano pitched a whopping 357.1 innings with a 4.16 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. Not exactly top of the rotation numbers. San Francisco also surrendered pitcher Boof Bonser in the trade, but um, who cares, right?

For those of you harping about the Barry Zito signing: calm down. That was out of Sabean’s hands.

The decision was made by ownership to fill the upcoming void that Barry Bonds was going to leave as far as star power went. Not that Zito should have been signed. He’s a sunken cost. But it wasn’t Sabes fault.

What was his fault, however, was the Aaron Rowand signing. Yuck.

What should be mentioned, though, is that he fixed the problem by replacing Rowand with minor-league gem Andres Torres. Yeah, he wasted $60 million, but we’ve seen worse from other general managers.

And it’s not like it’s actually affected the Giants during the past three years. They had a winning record in 2009, and they made the playoffs this year. Does it really matter? He screwed up and fixed it.

Sabean’s work this season has been overlooked because he didn’t make any flashy moves like acquiring a big name hitter. He is smarter than that. He got left-fielder Pat Burrell for the league minimum after the Rays released him in May and he responded by hitting 18 homers and posting a .872 OPS in just 341 plate appearances.

Hot bat, combined with the outstanding newcomer Buster Posey (who should win the Rookie of the Year award), was all the Giants needed as far as hitting went this year when it came to filling in the gaps.

Sabean even got rid of the whiney Bengie Molina – that was a big plus. And the two relievers he picked up at the trade deadline, Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez, proved to be huge pieces for the Giants bullpen. Are you crying over the loss of AAAA players Joe Martinez and John Bowker, who were sent to the Pirates in the Lopez deal? Didn’t think so.

Even Cody Ross and Jose Guillen helped with outfield depth this year. You’d be hard pressed to call them bad deals.

Plus, I’m pretty sure it would be a crime to overlook the Aubrey Huff signing. For $3 million Huff anchored the Giants lineup all season long while providing an outstanding presence in the locker room and also playing good defense.

Juan Uribe played above-average defense at second and shortstop while blasting 24 home runs – another nice signing by Sabean. There are more moves I could mention, but I think the picture is pretty clear by now.

Here’s the thing: Sabean isn’t the best GM in the league. I get that. He’s flawed. He’s made some lousy trades and poor free-agent signings. The 2005-08 run was painful; his overdependence on over-the-hill free agents cost San Francisco not only money, but draft picks. It stung and set the team back, but in comparison to most of the league, the Giants are doing better than okay. Sabean’s moves led the team back to the playoffs.

Remember, he drafted Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, Brian Wilson, Buster Posey, etc. – you know, the main cogs of the current playoff team.

We can look into the past and focus on all the poor decisions he made over the past few years, or we could appreciate the good moves he made and watch the 2010 San Francisco Giants compete in the playoffs right now. It’s your choice.



Contact Jonathan Roisman at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Jonathan Roisman
Jonathan Roisman, Editor-in-chief
Co-editor-in-chief, fall 2010.

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Out of Bounds: Get over your hatred of Brian Sabean