I was waiting to post this for when Brian Sabean was not retained. However, it then occured to me that regardless of whether he was kept or let go it was a good time to try and sort out Brian Sabean's legacy here in San Francisco.
On the surface, Brian Sabean has been all over the map. He's been bold; he's been conservative. He's made big moves; he's been gunshy. He's had veteran lust; he's had a rotation with three pitchers 24 and under. With all of this bouncing around, it's kind of hard to put a finger on Brian Sabean's legacy.
But if you stare long enough, a pattern starts to emerge. Brian Sabean's legacy is mediocrity. It's there; right from the beginning.
His bold move to trade Matt Williams for Jeff Kent, Julian Tavarez and...uh...?Jim Poole? was the very definition of coveting mediocrity. Jeff Kent, a mediocre second/third baseman, and two relief pitchers for a slick fielding third baseman who had just had four straight 130 OPS+ seasons. Sure, Jeff Kent became a hall-of-fame caliber second baseman after his move to the bay. But are we really to believe that Sabean had a premonition that a mediocre player heading into his age 29 season would suddenly become a hall-of-famer?
Jeff Kent was the definition of mediocrity when Brain Sabean acquired him.
Look at any of the great players Sabean has had on his team and you will see the pattern emerge.
Barry Bonds - Gifted to Sabean. The biggest non-decisions ever were to re-sign Bonds when his contracts were up...until he decided not to bring him back.
Jason Schmidt - Maybe you can give him credit because of the organizational ability to find good pitching. But the most credit I can give is that he saw some untapped potential and went for it. But, just like Kent, he was a mediocrity and he was already into his prime (28) when the Giants acquired him.
Ellis Burks - The only real exception to the pattern, until you realize that to get Burks Sabean traded away his starting centerfielder (who had a .393 on base percentage). Even when he goes after something better than mediocrity, he makes it a mediocre move.
Robb Nen - Great closer. But only a closer. He never pitched more than 71 innings in a season.
Armando Benitez - I have to include him because Sabean signed him after his fantastic season with the Marlins. Even had he been that type of closer for the Giants, he still would have only been a closer.
Moises Alou - Great hitter. So-so fielder. 38 years old. Missed a bunch of playing time. It all adds up to mediocrity.
Who else? There's been nobody else Sabean has gone out and acquired that you can classify as great.
Just about everything else has been mediocrity from start to finish. J.T. Snow (I loved him) - mediocrity. Joe Carter - mediocrity. A.J. Pierzynski - mediocrity. Andres Galarraga (at the time Sabean acquired him) - mediocrity. Sidney Ponson (I know, he was having a very good season) - mediocrity. Rowand, Roberts, Renteria, Zito - mediocrity.
Yes, I'm painting with a broad brush. I'm putting a lot of categories into one broad one. But it's all illustrative. Brian Sabean's legacy: "For the price we'd be paying Vlad Guerrero, we can get all of this MEDIOCRITY."
I've gone back and forth on Sabean. Sometimes I see rays of light break through the clouds. I now realize that the clouds were always there and they will never go away. Brian Sabean's mediocrity hindered the post-Burks Giants and the only reason why his teams haven't been complete disasters from start to finish is because he has lucked into greatness (Bonds, Kent, Schmidt, Lincecum, Sandoval). It will only continue. So long as Brian Sabean is running the organization, we'll get mediocrity like Renteria, Molina, Rowand, Garko-on-the-bench and Winn unless somebody has such an unearthly rise that he can not be ignored.
Who knows how good the next GM will be. But one thing we do know is that Sabean's approach doesn't work. We have enough data now to support this, I believe. Let's end the era of mediocrity. Make a splash of your own Mr. Neukom.