Tag Archives: Pablo Sandoval

Build a SF Dynasty: Quality over quantity

What would be off-season baseball without playing a little general manager. I don’t play fantasy baseball, but I do spend a ridiculous amount of wasted time thinking what I would do if I had the single best job in the world: General Manager of the San Francisco Giants.

This envy is probably why I am certain Bruce Bochey is the greatest living manager and yet Brian Sabean, who by all rights built this team from the ground up, rates barely above George Bush’s approval ratings. I try to be fair, but I can’t help it. I’d sell my soul to the devil to come back to this life in Sabean’s job.

Truth be told I’ve spent a fair amount of my life second guessing the great ones like Terry Francona during Boston’s historic run and Bruce Bochey during every torturous decision over the past five years. But right about the time Bochey put a lineup that couldn’t win a Triple A game, chalk full of lefties against a lefty flame thrower, against the powerful Washington Nationals and won is the time I realized the Bochey is a warlock, shaman and zen master rolled into one. I vowed to never again think I could do his job.

But Sabean… well, I truly believe I could do better so the second-guessing will continue long after both of us are gone.

We dispensed of the bad news in the last post: Sandoval has to go on to other adventures in other places. Take the pebble from my hand Kung Fu Panda and see you in ten years at a reunion where fans will give you the longest of standing ovations. Just don’t put on the uniform as a player again because I don’t want to pay you. No hard feelings.

That sets up the good news. If I was Brian Sabean today, I think I could actually build a team that would win a World Series in an odd number year. Next year in fact. Back-to-back. Remove all doubt about the Dynasty. Cement it.

Timmy

Here’s how:

First: do nothing. Let Panda go. Do not reach out to Jake Peavy (we already have him signed; he’s named Tim Hudson), Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo or Michael Morse. Each played well, each is in line for a better pay day, and each will find suitors willing to over pay despite the flaws we saw in them over the season.

Thanks guys, see you at the reunion too. Romo is a tough one because he’s been such a staple for the Giants through this whole championship era. But he wants closer money and closer responsibilities and as we found out, he’s a right-handed specialists in closer camo and nowhere worth the $10 million a year his hometown LA Dodgers will give him. Say goodbye.

From the moment I heard Morse using the 1980s classic Ah Ha’s “Take on Me” I knew I loved the guy. His playoff at bats were probably more important than any other player on the roster not named Panda. But he’s lost in the outfield and went a better part of three months with fewer home runs than can be counted on one hand because teams busted him inside and he couldn’t adjust. His future is as an American League DH, so go forth my friend and prosper. We really will miss you.

Second, take all of that money, every last bit of savings and sign one guy. For once, go against the Brian Sabean grain to spread the wealth, win some and lose some philosophy of overpaying veterans trying to catch lightening in the bottle and find one true superstar. We absolutely need a cleanup hitter, and don’t say Nelson Cruz. We need a younger cleanup hitter. Think Giancarlo Stanton. Empty the minor leagues, load up the vault. Pay him the $25 million a year you saved by letting all those other guys go, give away your top three prospects, throw in an Andrew Susac or Matt Duffy (anybody but Joe Panik) and go get Stanton.

It’s exactly what Sabean should have done with Adrian Gonzalez four years ago but never tried.

If that fails try to raid the Kansas City Royals for Lorenzo Cain or go get Yoenis Cespedes from the Red Sox’ crowded outfield. Or if all else fails, open the check book and make sure you sign the next great Cuban, according to the USA Today:

Yasmany Tomas, Industriales in Cuba: Tomas is often compared to other Cuban outfielders like Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, and Cuban baseball expert Peter Bjarkman said body- and strength-wise he can hold his own with Puig. But Tomas’ plate discipline is even less refined than what the Los Angeles Dodgers star showed in his early days in the minors. And while Tomas, about to turn 24, throws well, he doesn’t match Puig’s arm, speed or zest for the game. Tomas’ size and athleticism, as well as the Cuban lineage, make him appealing – perhaps enough to garner a contract in the $60-70 million range – but he figures to need some time in the minors polishing his game.

I’ll give Sabean credit. He already signed one cheap alternative, Daniel Carbonell, who might become a great outfielder from Cuba. And folks think the Giants are going to make a strong push for Tomas, who baseball writer George King says is better than the Red Sox’ Rusney Castillo.

The Giants have lacked a true cleanup hitter since the retirement of Barry Bonds. One can argue the lead-off spot has been a decade-long problem, but when Pagan is healthy he may not be Rickey Henderson, but the team wins. Signed for two more years, we have to ride with him for now. That leaves the four-spot as the one glaring need that would make everyone else in the lineup fall in place.

Pagan, Panik, Posey, XXX, Pence, Belt, Crawford and 3b.

Admittedly replacing Sandoval will be tough, but this is what Sabean does best: bargain-basement signings. He found Cody Ross and Pat the Bat and even Morse on the scrap heap. He can find a 3b for this year or even let the dynamic Matt Duffy play there despite his absence of power. Or give Adam Duval a real chance to unleash his power. Regardless of who plays there that’s a team that can can dominate with bench players like Ishikawa, Arias, Blanco and Sanchez who are proven role players.

The rotation is just fine: You have to give Tim Lincecum one more chance. Matt Cain should be back and better than ever. Petit earned a chance and is a bargain. Bumgarner is worth two starters. Hudson at 40 is the best end-of-the-rotation guy in baseball. Finally, once the off-season signing hysterics play out, Sabean will find some talent off the scrap heap or some of the talent in the minors will rise just as they did this year.

We don’t need much. We simply need one highly quality linchpin to bring this fabulous team together from overachiever to true powerhouse.

There it is. April 2015 can’t get here soon enough but for now, it’s time I become like Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch, the normal winter guy who doesn’t obsess about baseball every waking moment. Let the baseball diet begin. Happy off-season.

Building a SF Dynasty: don’t re-sign the panda

Let’s just get the bad news out there first: Pablo Sandoval, beloved, chubby, enigmatic, playoff heroic third baseman for the World Champion San Francisco Giants should not be re-signed this off-season.

It will be a disastrously unpopular move if the Giants, but it is the correct one. This will feel like John Lennon leaving the Beatles or Joe Montana in Kansas City Chiefs uniform. But it still needs to be done.

The ticker tape is over, the billion-dollar debacle that is Levi’s Stadium is now open and our beloved AT&T Park closed for the winter. The love remains, but if we want to celebrate at City Hall again anytime soon, the tough love part of the thankless job of general manager must begin now.

Yet I know it likely won’t. GM Brian Sabean will likely overpay the Panda out of loyalty and love. For the next six years we will have a ginormous dead weight on the books that will rival Barry Zito’s awful deal. (Note: Barry Zito is a true member of the Giant. He is a better person. He saved us in 2012. His grace under fire proved him a true role model. I love the guy, but his contract remains one of the worst in baseball).

Because that’s what Sabes does. He overpays for veteran talent, even when it’s not ours. Remember Edgar Renteria’s $18 million?

Bill Simmons of ESPN did when he wrote simply of the Renteria signing, “Does Brian Sabean even watch baseball?”

Old, disinterested and slow are not what you pay over-market for a shortshop, but Sabes did and it was disaster right up until the 2010 World Series where Renteria made his last stand as a clutch ballplayer and led the Giants to a historic first championship. $18 million for a World Series is a steal. But toss in Barry Zito’s nine-figure albatross and Marco Scutaro’s millions not to play, Angel Pagan’s $40 million for part-time work and Tim Lincecum’s $35 million for long relief and well, you get the picture. Loyalty pays a dear price, which may just explain why the Giants can only win every other year.

Pablo Sandoval

Of course it sounds ridiculous to expect better than three World Series in five years. It’s astounding and nearly historic. But I’ll say what most everyone really believes: The Giants overachieve and win unlikely championships despite Sabean and his obvious problems in the roster because of sure-fire Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochey.

The reason the Giants are always underachievers? Because of those loyalty contracts weighing down the roster every single year. The team has a $150 million payroll that in reality is like a small-market $90 million payroll because of the dead wood contracts.

Sandoval is a charismatic talent and a great playoff player. During the season, he is prone to huge slumps, excessive weight gain, up and down years and a decided lack of power for a guy so… robust. Those Octobers makes you see what you miss during most of the season except for a few hot streaks when he single-handily carries the team. We love Sandoval because his energy is terrific, he is a model team player, he comes to play every single day and plays through pain. He loves baseball and plays like it.

He has vastly improved his defense, but remained a guy Bochey subbed for in the late innings. He couldn’t hit left-handers this year. He was a platoon player in disguise. You don’t pay $100 million for a platoon?

But what happens when he turns 30, gains another 30, and his love for other life’s pleasures tips the delicate scales of his unique talent toward debauchery?

Sandoval hitting .330 when he was a spry, agile catcher who had to train to stay in the lineup was a budding superstar. But since moving to 3B, he’s added weight, become a .270 hitter who never really did have much consistent power.  Now he wants — and some fool team like the Yankees will pay him — superstar dollars in excess of $100 million guaranteed. This is a man who ate his way out of the lineup in 2010 and couldn’t keep the weight of this season with a huge contract on the line. Do we really think he’ll stay in shape with $100 million bucks?

Just think of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth years of this deal? For a guy with a clearly neurotic compulsion to avoid waste, the thought makes me anxiously scan Google for a shrink.

I love the Giants. I love Pablo and the Panda hats. I’d hate to see him go, and knowing Sabean’s past I suspect I won’t. Instead I’ll see his contract become dead wood over a painfully long period that will cost the Panda all the love he’s stored up over his wonderful time here in San Francisco. Some good things must come to an end. This is one and it likely won’t and there won’t be much good to come of it.