Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sabean's Contract Has Been Extended! Uh, yay?

The Giants have made an announcement announcing something that apparently happened late last year. Brian Sabean's contract has been extended through 2006, and that means...Something. What exactly, I don't know.

I would clap my hands in glee, but have Sabean's moves been that good? I would curse in frustration, but have Sabean's moves been that bad? One could, I suppose, break down all of Sabean's moves one-by-one, and make up a scoresheet to determine if he's ahead or behind. However, I'm much too lazy to do all of that, and besides, only four years of Sabean's tenure will really matter, anyway, and that's the 2002 through 2005 seasons.

2002 - obviously, because of the World Series appearance, and near World Series title (curse you, Scott Spezio, curse you...).

2003 - obvious again, because of all of the changes in the team following their success the season before. Most times teams appearing in championship games/series in a sport will simply gear up for another run the next season, making only minor adjustments in their roster. Not so the 2003 Giants. From the year before, the following changes happened: the manager changed (Dusty Baker to Felipe Alou), the 2nd baseman changed (Jeff Kent to Ray Durham), the 3rd baseman changed (David Bell to Edgardo Alfonzo), the CF changed (Tsuyoshi Shinjo/Kenny Lofton to Marquis Grissom), the RF changed (Reggie Sanders to Jose Cruz, Jr.), the closer changed (Robb Nen to Tim Worrell), 3/5ths of the starting rotation changed, and of course there were changes to the bullpen. Despite all these changes (or because of them), the 2003 team actually won five more games than the 2002 team, though if one looks closer (specifically the Pygathorean standings), one can see that the 2002 Giants were the better team (they scored more runs than the 2003 team, while allowing less runs during the regular season).

2004 - the most recent failures usually hurt more than the older ones, but the thing that stands out about last year's team was the ease with which one could spot the weakness of the team: the bullpen. The 2002 and 2003 teams both had very strong bullpens, with only a couple of weak links for each year, while the 2004 team was the exact opposite, with only a couple of relievers having good seasons, and the rest either being shaky or just plain bad. The absense of Joe Nathan and Worrell seem to be the easiest blame for this -- one was traded away, and the other wasn't re-signed. Worrell's replacement, Matt Herges, stunk horribly, adding to Sabean's liability for this season.

2005 - well, Sabean's identified what he believed to be the problems with last year's team, and he made changes/fixes in the form of Moises Alou, Omar Vizquel, Mike Matheny, and Armando Benitez. Time will tell here.

In essence, to me, Sabean's extention means as close to absolutely nothing as it can. Sabean's year will have to be 2005, because if any or all of the players he's brought in fail in some way, they'll have virtually no chance to turn it around, being that they're all at an advanced age. If M. Alou, Vizquel, or Matheny underperform, it will more than likely be because they've lost it for good. If Benitez underperforms, the Giants bullpen will likely stink again, because stabilizing the bullpen is exactly why Benitez has been brought in. While Benitez could conceivably come back after a subpar 2005, any performance dropoff in the other three players is a death sentence to themselves and the Giants, because of their ages and their multi-year contracts. For the amount they've been signed for, Sabean will find it extremely difficult to move/trade those players next offseason if they tank this year.

So while I sometimes poke fun...okay, while I always poke fun at the Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers for putting all their fragile eggs into one poorly made basket for 2005, the Giants really aren't any different, and in a sense are worse. For one, the Tigers and D-Backs don't have Barry Bonds on their team, and secondly, those two teams are attempting to contend, while for the Giants, contention is supposed to be a foregone conclusion. The stakes are much higher for Sabean than for most other teams, because everyone is watching, and Barry Bonds' internal clock is ticking.

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