I think it was "Ben Hur" in which a crucified man started whistling as he taught people to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." With the not-final-but-bloody-likely extensions to Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy, there's only so much raging with fists clenched towards the heavens that a fella can do. The bright side:
The pitching was fantastic. Another GM might have said, "No on this Cain guy. I don't like high school pitchers," or, "Lincecum's skinny frame worries me. Pass." Another GM could have targeted Brian Fuentes instead of Jeremy Affeldt. And I'm almost always a fan of the collection of 30-something AAA arms that Sabean collects, even if this is the first time in a while that some of them worked out well. Under Sabean's watch, the Giants built one of the best pitching staffs in the game.
Bochy doesn't really care for the sacrifice bunt. I don't really care for the sacrifice bunt. There. Something in common. And other managers would have lazily banished Sergio Romo to the back of the bullpen when he had a couple of tough outings that shot his ERA about 5.00, but Bochy stuck with him as a late-inning option. When Bochy gets a new arm to play with, like Dan Runzler, Bochy isn't shy about letting the youngsters prove themselves on the mound. That's a good thing.
There. Something optimistic. I would have taken the organization in a different direction, but let's start with the good stuff. And if you want to get really optimistic, follow this train of thought...
Sabean can't be so obstinate, stubborn, and out of touch that he doesn't know why he offense was so bad for the last couple of years. For the last five seasons, the Giants have had an offense that scored fewer runs than the average NL team. For four of those seasons, the Giants were in the bottom three of the NL. The only thing keeping them from having the worst offense in baseball this season was Pablo Sandoval, and he wasn't exactly a part of the organizational blueprint fifteen months ago. Every active decision Sabean has made to fix a bad offense has done nothing to fix a bad offense. Five years and over $100M later, the Giants still have a bad offense.
So maybe this is the season that Sabean did some soul-searching. The Giants do have statistically minded people in the front office -- really, I'm told they do -- and maybe this is the season that he picked their brain. Heck, it doesn't need to be a stat person at all; anyone with a scrap of cognitive thinking ability should know that Brian Sabean has struggled to differentiate good hitters from average hitters from bad hitters. Maybe after the fifth straight sub-par offense, Sabean's really trying to figure it out.
Confidante: Tell me about Randy Winn.
Brian Sabean: Switch-hitter. He's been a .300 hitter in the past. Runs well.
Confidante: Tell me about Aaron Rowand.
Brian Sabean: Good power. Plays hard. Streaky, but good.
Confidante repeats the line of questioning for every non-Sandoval in the lineup
Confidante: So, you see that you've said mostly positive things about each player in isolation. Collectively, though, they represent one of the worst offenses in the National League. You watched it all season. I watched it all season. You can't have a bunch of good, professional hitters and still have one of the worst offenses in the National League. Let's go over the list again.
Brian Sabean (sobbing): I get it...I get it. These guys aren't good when you compare them to other players around the league. They have a loose collection of individual skills, but I need to compare them against my competition. I can't just evaluate players using the vague qualities that I think make up a good hitter. I get it now...oh, no, what have I done?
That's step one. A breakthrough is needed. Maybe it's already happened. I'm not saying it's likely, I'm just saying it's what I'd like to believe. Step two is simple. Get the booze out of the alcoholic's liquor cabinet. Take the credit cards out of the shopoholic's wallet. Remove the lighter from the pyromaniac's dresser drawer. Do not give Bruce Bochy any bad veteran players to tempt him.
A reminder: Bruce Bochy started Vinny Castilla every day when they were with the Padres, even though it was clear to everyone else in the world, including Castilla's family, that Castilla was a burned husk of a player. When Kevin Towers asked Bochy not to play Castilla, Bochy responded with something like, "Well, don't give me the players if you don't want me to play them." Then Towers released Castilla. After 21 at-bats of nothingness with the Rockies, there wasn't another team willing to give Castilla a shot. Because, again, he was a shell of a player that wasn't very good to begin with.
Bruce Bochy cannot evaluate hitters. He might be the worst evaluator of offensive talent I've ever seen. He really thinks that the difference between Eli Whiteside's defense and Buster Posey's defense can't be made up by Posey's superior hitting, which means that Whiteside contributes more to a team trying to win. He really thinks that Randy Winn had any business as a #3 hitter at the same time Aaron Rowand was hitting eighth. He uses tiny, tiny samples to form indelible opinions; a player who gets hot over 100 at-bats will get 200 more to prove it was a fluke.
So don't give Bochy bad veterans. And if the plan is to start Posey next season-- you know, the first Giants catcher in decades to have a chance at an above-average on-base percentage -- give Bochy a rookie catcher as a backup at the same time. Don't re-sign Bengie Molina. Don't go after a guy like Yorvit Torrealba, even if that would make a lot of sense on a normal team.
And don't sign Garret Anderson. Don't sign Marlon Byrd. Don't sign Brian Giles. Don't give Bochy a chance to put players like that on his permanently inked "Good Player List!"
That's all I want. I want the GM to examine honestly why he has consistently failed to build average offensive teams. And I want the organization to realize that Bochy's strengths are not in player evaluation, crafting a roster that makes the decisions easy for him.
So why is it so cold in here all of a sudden? Brrrrrr. I'm shaking. And heading toward a bright light. I'm not asking for much. What's happening?