For each Bobby Evans and Dick Tidrow, there is a Brian Sabean
For each Dave Righetti and Ron Wotus, there is a Bruce Bochy
For each Aubrey Huff at $3 Million there is an Edgar Renteria at $10 Million.
For each Pat Burrell at $0.3 Million there is a Freddy Sanchez. $6 Million
For each Andres Torres at league minimum, there is an Aaron Rowand at $13.6 Million .
For each Buster Posey at league minimum there was Bengie Molina ($4.5 Million) and Mark DeRosa ($6 Million). Now there is a Nate Scheirholtz and Eli Whiteside to take their place. Marginally better, substantially cheaper.
Here’s what I mean: Aubrey Huff was cut loose by Detroit (his 7th team in 9 years) after posting a 43 OPS+. To say his mind wasn’t in the game at the time is an understatement. Andres Torres had been released/free-agented 6 times in his 6 year career before being picked up for the league minimum by the Giants before the 2009 season. He spent most of it enjoying bus rides and economy class flights touring the Pacific Coast League. Pat Burrell and his $9 Million were sent packing unconditionally by Tampa just 7 weeks into the 2010 season. he and his paycheck bopped out an embarrassing .629 OPS(69 OPS+) during that time. So long Tampa. Hello San Francisco.
So desperate were the Giants that all three were picked up for nothing, and all three had moved right into starting positions by this June. The heart of the batting order. So much for "Central Planning". Huff replaced the injured DeRosa. Burrell has replaced the departed 28 year old career minor leaguer John Bowker and Posey has replaced Molina in the lineup but they are still not enough to offset the continuing presence of Aaron Rowand, Freddy Sanchez, and Edgar Renteria. Sandoval is under-performing about as well as Uribe is over-performing and each is still more valuable than the trio of Travis Ishikawa, Eli Whitesides, and Nate Scheirholtz who play merry-go-round in and out of the the line-up. There is just not a lot to work with.
This table is the part that draws attention to the people who make roster composition their career. But to be fair to the Giants, just about every winning team has its share of bad contracts. Free Agency is a system of bidding wars where the high bidder has nothing to fall back on but "let the buyer beware". The Yankees, Angels, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies, Braves and Cardinals always have their fair share of sunk costs meaning bad free agent signings. The difference is, the winners cut their losses. They don’t ride an Aaron Rowand and Freddy Sanchez day in and day out just because they’re expensive. Just like the Cards cut loose Dave Duncan’s kid Chris Duncan. Just like the Braves cut loose Nate McLouth. Like the Angels sat down Gary Matthews, Jr. and went out got Tori Hunter to replace him.
Good teams cut their losses. I don’t eat five-month old room temperature steak just because it was $11.99 a pound. If I want fine dining, I’m going to throw out the mold-infested mess, break out the bank, go back to the meat market, and chalk it up as a cost of eating well. The problem with the Giants over the last few seasons is that they have not been replacing the old spoiled food with quality choice product. They merely add garnishment to the menu with players like Ryan Klesko, Mark Sweeney, Todd Greene, Steve Finley, Omar Vizquel, Randy Winn, and lots of other older guys. This season, they got lucky with Huff, Burrell and Torres, who except for Torres, are eligible for free-agency after this season, so they’re still in the same boat as they have been in for the last several years. There seems to be no long-term solution in play. Posey is the first position player to come out of the system worth more than a nickel since Matt Williams. That was over twenty seasons ago.
The nice little hot streak in July where they led all of Major League Baseball in wins and runs scored, has come to an end. But because of the vagaries of divisional playoffs, a Dick Tidrow-scouted and Dave Righetti-managed pitching staff, combined with Ron Wotus’ under-regarded defense positioning, the Giants are in contention for a post-season invite. For the average fan, that is something to be excited about. For me, I wait until September to decide if what appears to be illusion on the field really is what it appears to be in the standings–a serious contender for a pennant. My experience with baseball and business tells me this franchise needs a change. Sabean has been in charge longer than any GM in Major League Baseball and appears to be at the age that Shakespeare refers to as "the slippered pantaloons, shrunk shank" stage of life in "As You Like It."
Good change is about growth. Growth is about good change. Growth is good. It expands your vistas and your accomplishments. If you’re standing still, you’re moving backward because your competition is moving forward. Expecting improved results from the old processes, ideas, and methodologies while new knowledge is constantly being discovered is a sign of stubbornness, arrogance, stupidity, inattention or unconsciousness. A plethora of false expectations is the order of the day. And those false expectations will bring you up short, or worse, will humiliate and embarrass you and those who look to you for leadership.
It has been seven years since the Giants cracked the top 25% of Major League teams in on field performance. In the first four of those years, they had the greatest position player of their generation and the most disruptive lineup presence in the history of the game, yet they never sniffed the post season after 2003.
The prior two seasons have been marked by the presence of back to back Cy Young performances by Tim Lincecum and the fine work of one of the best pitching staffs in Giants history. Yet their best has netted them a measly third place finish in a five-team division, so poorly has the offense performed. It is highly problematic whether they reach the post-season this year; the near-miraculous seasons of Huff, Burrell, Torres and Posey not withstanding. And it hasn’t been for lack of spending of the Giants owners’ money in recent years that is the problem. Almost $100 Million in player payroll this year. Only a handful of teams are spending more. But few as foolishly. The Giants are always among the leaders in attendance, and their per capita cost per fan to attend a game is amongst the highest in Major League Baseball. Its not the park. Its one of the best if not the best in the world. Do the best free-agents wish to play here, or does it require overpaying underachievers to attract even the most underwhelming of old baseball cards and over-the-hill matinee idols. It eventually comes down to the leadership. The leadership buck stops on the GMs desk. War. Government. School. Sport. Leadership.
At some point, one would think, something has to change.