With the cupboard so obviously bare of potential impact position players at Triple-A, and the cupboard so obviously full of Old Mother Hubbards at the big-league level, you’ve got every right in the world to roll your eyes at the notion of the Giants reinventing themselves into contenders over the course of general manager Brian Sabean’s freshly signed two-year contract extension.
And nobody with even cursory knowledge of the club’s recent track record of underachieving free-agent acquisitions and similarly disappointing Quadruple-A prospects — Hi, Lance Niekro! Whatcha up to these days, Todd Linden? — can accuse you of undue pessimism if you’re looking at Sabean’s third-year option, which would keep him at the wheel through 2010 and thinking, “You know what? That’s probably not enough time, either.”
But believe it or not, as justifiable as your inner doubt is, you’ll be proven wrong.
Believe it or not, Sabean’s greatest sound bite hit, the subtly defensive/not-so-subtly indignant claim in the wake of the wildly unpopular Matt Williams trade — “I am not an idiot,” remember? — applies even more so today than it did before. And remember, that claim was on the strength of a fabulous run in orange and black by Jeff Kent and a National League pennant in 2002, proven spot-on back in the day.
Like every GM in the game, Sabean has whiffed on some mighty hacks. There’s no disputing that fact, but if you’d really like to try, take a look at where Jeremy Accardo and Shea Hillenbrand are and what they’re doing to make the baseball world a better place today.
Nor can anyone defend the club’s failure, under Sabean’s watch, to produce a genuine buzz-producing homegrown position player like the ones that the A’s seem to trot out every spring. Like the Giants, Oakland has quickly slipped into irrelevance this season, but the fans on the other side of the Bay have hope in the form of Nick Swisher, Travis Buck and, coming to an American League batting leaders list near you very soon, Daric Barton.
But along with the announcement of Sabean’s new deal came two things Giants fans have been waiting to hear for quite some time: An admission from upper management that the build-around-Bonds plan in place over the past few years failed and that it’s being replaced by a new — albeit vague — plan.
And make no mistake: The new plan will give Sabean a freedom he probably didn’t have during the build-around-Barry era, and with that freedom — as well as another trusted set of eyes, which has been promised — he will restore his reputation as one of the best pure baseball men in the business.
He’s not an idiot, he’s turned the club around in a hurry before, and he’ll do it again.
Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com. He also hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).
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