Jon Miller interviewed him during the final game of the season. I transcribed those comments to the best of my ability.
Miller: … Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News was talking about how just a couple of wins last week on that road trip and the Giants would also be tied [for the Wild Card], so, the team still came awfully close.
Sabean: Well, I got one big question: what the hell are all these people doing here? It’s a testament to their interest in the team, including us getting swept in Arizona and virtually being eliminated from the division and the Wild Card. To think it was sold out that the people showed up really is heart-warming. I know our players appreciated it. It certainly has been a tough year to navigate for anybody that was part of the team…
Miller: [the organizational meetings start soon], do they not?
Sabean: Well, we’re gonna start tomorrow, and, actually, that’s our first for us. Given all that happened last year, which was the good, it seems like it’s all one whole year which last year was the good and the this year has been the bad and ugly, while everything was fresh in everybody’s mind we wanted to get everybody in the room, starting with the manager, the coaching staff, some of the front office personnel and kinda, you know, share and care what our thoughts are and how we can get better first internally and how we go forward to build, you know, the team in the near future and get back to our winning ways, so, the sooner the better.
Miller: …you wanna see how the people in the organization are evaluating the players themselves? You wanna hear from everybody and get all of their input before you start making the decisions that are still to come this winter?
Sabean: Exactly. We’ll go over everybody on the 40 man roster and, uh, try to do whatever we can to judge their situation fairly whether they’re a free agent, arbitration-eligible to be, somebody that was a September call-up, and see how we can evaluate their role… how we would go forward or not go forward with specific needs and wants, and I think it’s important, that, you know, especially after the two years we’ve been through that everybody gets a chance to kinda exercise their demons. And, you know, I think everybody will appreciate the opportunity to get in on their first gasp. We traditionally do it later and in a different fashion, but this year we decided that…
[Kouzmanoff singles, Fowler scores.]
Miller: You wanna hear not just about the players on the 40-man roster, then, but any possible free agents the Giants might go after. You wanna hear the feedback from everybody on different guys and that sort of thing, too.
Sabean: Well, everybody does have an opportunity in written form a) with the roster at hand and how we go forward with controlling who has contract left with us or who would be under contract; they have the opportunity to write out the 25-man roster. We also give them the complete free agent field and they have an opportunity to circle their desirable players, and then we compile that, and we’ll go into those meetings in the next couple days and debrief all that information and kinda put together a relative game plan in both areas, first what we can do to get better internally and secondly, how the outside world looks at, will favor us as we identify our needs and what the possibilities will be.
Miller: … there really is no off-season if you’re a GM… so, what are you anticipating… you think the Giants will dabble in the free agent market? They likely to pursue some trades? Try to fill some holes internally…?
Sabean: Well, I’ve already spoke to this publically and one of our themes going into tomorrow, we know two things: our pitching is our gold standard. Anything we can do will, uh, to keep that intact , uh, we need to identify what that means against payroll present and into the future. And secondarily, that’s really how you build your ballclub and then whatever dollars you have left, how you’ll decide to either keep your own free agent to be or pursue whoever you can in the market… but first and foremost we have to find a placeholder in our budget for what is our greatest strength in our pitching, and that’s obvious.
Miller: [How do you see the wild cards playing out?]
Sabean: Well, you have to give all the credit in the world to teams like Tampa and St. Louis. You know, we were part of an interesting race like this for the wild card in ’98, where I think we were five out with ten to play and ended up tying with Chicago to play a one-game playoff and losing it to them. But, uh, it just proves that with this new format – and, evidently, we may add even another wild card in the near future – uh, that, the season is never really over until you are mathematically eliminated. And, quite frankly, I’d like to see it tied in both leagues and go to a playoff game. It’s great theater.
Miller: It really is… [I think the playoff used to be decided by a coin flip].
Sabean: Exactly. Back then, the coin flip was the old saying, "Always say heads and you’ll probably make out." What is it? 51 percent against 49 percent, as ridiculous as that sounds.
[Miller and Sabean talk about ’98 wild card.]
Sabean: Well, it proves exactly what we’re talking about. It’s a wonderful game. It’s like life. Day to day, you don’t know what the result’s gonna be and, uh, you know, fall baseball, September baseball is meant to be meaningful and, uh, we’ve had a lot of Septembers like that. Fortunately, in most cases, we’ve had a chance, as we’ve been in a position to win the division, we’ve done it. In that case, we didn’t get by that playoff game, but, uh, you know, it proves to what I said earlier: keep playing and good things can happen. I think that’s the type of attitude we’ve built here in the last three years. The thing I’m most proud of was at least we’re gonna win 86 games and that’s pretty amazing to me, and a lot of it’s the culture we’ve created, the fact that a lot of these guys come to play, expect to win, and a lotta other organizations would’ve gone the other way or perhaps their players would’ve tanked it and we certainly haven’t done that.
Fleming: [Thoughts on how Beltran performed and integrated into the organization’s "culture."]
Sabean: Well, it’s obvious the guy can hit. I mean, I said it when we acquired him. He’s gonna be every bit of what you want in a number three hitter in almost anybody’s lineup. You know, as fate would have it, he gets here, he gets injured, and I think we were 5-8 in the 13 games he was out, but uh, he made a difference not only in lengthening our lineup but had the professional at bats you’re looking for and I think it rubbed off on a lot of players, especially Pablo, so, he’s the type of player that you wanna acquire at the deadline and we’re certainly lucky that he’s in a Giant uniform and we’ll see what the offseason brings with him.
Miller: [On Beltran’s comments to the media that Sabean should get a leadoff hitter.]
Sabean: Well, I think he’s amongst a million other people that offer assistance and I certainly think he’s right! You know, we’ve missed having the leadoff hitter the whole year. It’s been difficult to put together an offense on the day to day basis including the leadoff hitter.
Miller: Brian, the Giants first round draft choice was Joe Panik… how well did Panik actually do up there [in the minors]?
Sabean: Well, the fact that he’s a left-handed hitter in the middle of the diamond, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll stay at shortstop – in fact, he’s going to the fall league to play a little second base ‘cause we could only protect one primary position and that’s gonna be Crawford playing shortstop everyday – but, uh, our scouting people did a real good job on him. He’s got good all-around skills and can handle himself at the plate and that’s comforting to know that you have a bat like that coming in the middle of the diamond.
Miller: [re: AZ Fall League – there’s only so much control any one team can have over their own players?]
Sabean: Well, by naming that player as the primary player you’re pretty much guaranteeing he’s gonna play four-plus times a week; and, in Panik’s case, in Gary Brown’s case, they’ll only play a couple games a week.
Miller: [Brown had a great year in San Jose. Brass must be impressed by Brown. How good was he? How do we project him?]
Sabean: Well, we hope he’s the prototypical leadoff hitter in time. And, he certainly can play center field. And to have the type of year, first full year in pro baseball is exactly what you wanna see, so, this kid’s right on schedule. Good things are gonna happen to him. He came out of college as an accomplished all-around baseball player and that certainly helps with his being so well-rounded.
Miller: [Could Belt, Pill and Sanchez be on the big league roster next year?]
Sabean: Well, I think we’ve learned a lot about all of them and the one thing I’ll say about young players in general: the game has gone – especially true in our division – to the pitching getting so much better that, as we found out starting with Belt in his case, you wonder whether he actually earned his way onto the team or was he here by default with Ross’s injury? We know that we had to react, be quick on our feet in moving Crawford from A-ball … [Miller calls flyout, asks Sabean to continue:] We moved Crawford all the way from A-ball under duress because Pablo had gone down. We had to move Tejada to third base. In Sanchez’s case, we were scratching our heads to try to get more offense and, you know, he had jumped from a real good start of his season in San Jose to Triple-A and was holding his own and we wanted to see what it looked like in the big leagues, but, uh, I mention those three first because as we found out, they’re really not ready to play in the big leagues. We shouldn’t expect them to be ready to play in the big leagues and it’s tougher and tougher because of this pitching for them to perform; whereas, if you take somebody, by example, like Pill, who’s got three thousand at bats in the minor leagues… who’s played winter ball… seems to be a guy that you might be able to turn to next year in some form with your major league roster. So, the other three guys are still earning their way and we’re gonna figure out whether they’re in our plans or not in the immediate future.