There has been a good deal of Brian Sabean chatter lately, as you'd expect after his second championship in three years. It was before this season -- this season! -- that FanGraphs famously ranked the Giants' front office 27th out of 30 teams. Even I, a chronic complainer, found that a bit much. It's like when you call your sister "fart breath" for years, but the second some other dude does it on the playground, you take offense. But the ranking serves as a good shorthand for how a lot of Internet- and stat-savvy baseball fans viewed Sabean.
Now there's a chance for reevaluation. Our own Bryan Murphy wrote a very good, very earnest mea culpa here. Ian Miller tried to figure out the disconnect between results and perception here. It would be pretty hard for a GM to win two divisions (much less championships) in three years while being awful at building teams, so here we are. As someone who still lights candles for the memory of Steve Reed -- oh, Steve -- it's odd to hear and read all of these nice things about Sabean.
So it's probably time to update my official position on the great kicker of tires. My current position, then, in five parts:
1. Sabean can make good moves, and he can make bad moves.
Which is how you can describe every GM to ever live.
2. We don't know the real reasons behind all of Sabean's moves
For example, we don't know what attracted him to Angel Pagan. Besides the full, brooding lips, I mean. We don't know what sort of risk/reward calculus went into deciding that Melky Cabrera made more sense than Carlos Beltran. The reasoning behind the Marco Scutaro trade might have resembled the reasoning behind the Orlando Cabrera deal. One worked out, and one didn't, but the organizational philosophy behind both moves might have been similar. We don't know what goes in the secret sauce.
3. We can still complain about the moves we don't like
This is our right as whiny sports fans. Assuming that there's always some secret reason or explanation that turns every bad move into a perfectly rational decision? That's no way to go through life.
4. Sabean sure has earned a helluva lot of benefit of the doubt these past three seasons
I'm not ready to suggest that Sabean has always been right, and we just couldn't tell because of poor luck. But there's a process that's working somewhere. Hitters are developing. Trades are working out. Pitchers are staying healthy. All of that adds up to a GM that I trust a lot more than the one from 2008.
For example, a prospect-for-veteran trade like Tim Alderson for Freddy Sanchez used to be viewed through the prism of Dave Roberts. The Giants actively sought out Dave Roberts for some reason, and he stunk. The Giants actively sought out Freddy Sanchez, which meant he probably stunk, too. And for a top prospect? Raaaaaage.
If that trade went down today, it'd be viewed through the prism of the last three years. Most of the trades worked out. The prospects usually don't. The idea behind the Shea Hillenbrand trade and the Sanchez deal might have been the same, but Sabean's getting better at separating the Sanchezs from the Hillenbrands and the Pagans from the Robertses, I think, and it's rare that he gives up a prospect he's totally enamored of. Zack Wheeler was an exception, not the rule.
5. Sabean offered Willie Bloomquist a two-year deal before the season
It's not all Apple Jacks and Ovaltine over here. Let's not forget there are always some weird moves and ideas that even #2 up there can't explain away.
It adds up to a flawed GM, but they're all flawed. I'm not sure if I'd consider him the best in baseball, but I know he's not close to 27th, either. Even when you consider the amazing turnover of the A's, you can make an argument that Sabean had the best year of any GM. Turning Andres Torres into Pagan, getting something of value for Jonathan Sanchez, trusting Brandon Crawford, giving up a non-prospect for Marco Scutaro, trusting Romo instead of overpaying for Jonathan Broxton … it was masterful stuff.
It's a complicated relationship between Giants fans and Brian Sabean. But I'm okay with him now. Better than okay, really. I'm so okay with him, that I'm willing to spend my rent money and buy myself World Champions gear on his behalf. It's only fair.
Also, the title of this post is a delicious play on words that I didn't even notice until now. Even though I didn't intend it, I'm keeping it.