By Scott Barzilla

This is one of those columns that is destined to get some fan response. Sure, the timing may seem a bit weird as the Giants are on the verge of winning their second World Series championship in three years. This might seem like the worst possible time to question the general manager, but I think it is the best possible time. After all, it is easy to question someone when they are down. It takes a little more chutzpah to question someone when they are on top.

To understand the logic here, you need to follow me through the following story. I was sitting at a blackjack table in Bioloxi, Mississippi. The person next to me proceeded to double down on 12, split fives, and stand on 13 when the dealer had a ten showing. Yet, through all of this they ended up winning and they had the tallest stack of chips at the table. So, were they the best poker player or were they the luckiest poker player?

Similarly, when looking at baseball teams and baseball executives we have to ask whether the team that wins was always the smartest throughout the season. The temptation is to assume that they are one in the same. After all, if you win two World Series titles in three years you must be doing something right. Truth is that you are, but you aren’t necessarily the best poker player on the board. Sometimes you are just dealt a better hand.

Sabean has been there long enough to where everything the team has done has his stamp on it. So, he deserves credit for developing Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner. He deserves credit for drafting  Buster Posey. Yet, he was the same general manager that signed Barry Zito to a ridiculous contract. Zito came up big in two post season starts this year, but does that erase the entirety of the bad deal?

You could throw in Aaron Rowand and others in the equation on the negative side. Yet, let’s take a look at what was done this year. The trade that will be his signature move will be the Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez trade. Sanchez fell apart in Kansas City and Colorado while Cabrera was an MVP candidate through the first four months of the season. The key to evaluating trades to evaluate them at the time of the trade. Cabrera was a good player in Kansas City, but he would be moving to a bigger ballpark and would be moving to a position (left field) where more offense would be expected.

Of course, it is fair to question how much he would have accomplished without the benefit of illegal substances. I’m not putting that one on Sabean. However, it was the kind of deal that could have gone either way and it happened to go the Giants way. The second major deal was the acquisition of Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez. It’s easy to assume that this one was a slam dunk for the Giants, but it’s important to remember that the Mets were getting a center fielder that performed better than Pagan in 2011 and a top flight middle reliever.

The final deals were done before the deadline. First, Sabean traded a organizational top ten prospect for Marco Scutaro. Scutaro had an OPS around .600 at sea level, but the Giants felt he could solidify their second base position. All trends and indications said that they should have stuck with the combination they had. All Scutaro did was finish the season hot and won the NLCS MVP.

The Hunter Pence deal was lauded at the time, but he had only a .784 OPS at the time of the trade and they traded three prospects to get him. Heck, Nate Schierholtz by himself was a superior player. In this case, the deal really didn’t work out for them, but he still collected a key hit or two down the stretch. So, the question remains, is Brian Sabean really that competent or is he just living a really charmed life? I guess it pays to be lucky rather than good.

 

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at hardballchat.com. He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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