Theo Epstein has decided to leave the Red Sox. Discussing the relative merits of Epstein can be done at this diary, but it's all theoretical pilates at this point, as there is no chance for the Giants to suddenly have Epstein molding this team.
The more interesting twist in the story concerns who the Red Sox are going to hire for Epstein's replacement. Brian Sabean is from New England. Boston is in New England. Say, you don't think.... That's about the bulk of the evidence behind the rumors, but it's enough to take seriously. Most people here have mixed feelings about Sabean. He impresses us, infuriates us, makes us scream his name in vain, and makes us scream his name in bed. Well, not so much that last one, but it seemed to tie the sentence together.
For every inspired move like Ellis Burks, there is a LaTroy Hawkins lurking around the corner. And since the halcyon days of Mays Field's early years, it seems as if the inspired moves haven't been coming at the same pace. But while the results haven't been so hot, it was plausible to initially support some of the worst deals of the past few years. The Pierzynski trade might have set this team back three decades, but it was understandable at the time. Overpaying in arms for Sidney Ponson was worth the risk, even admitting the rewards weren't there in retrospect. Mike Matheny was already able to give us one more acceptable year than I had predicted, and a hope that the next two years aren't going to be the catchpocalypse we were steeling ourselves for.
Where he scares the hell out of me is with a trade like the one to bring in LaTroy Hawkins. The market was set for an above-average middle reliever who was unpopular with his home fans, and who was saddled with a pricey contract. What the Giants received for such a reliever, Felix Rodriguez, was a bench player and a mid-level prospect. What the Giants gave up for such a reliever was a mid-level prospect, and an affordable starting pitcher experiencing the first two months of pitching struggles in his life.
Here's where being an outsider hurts the analysis, as I don't know if Williams had set fire to Dave Righetti's locker, or was planning to tear up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live. The extent to which Williams was not willing to listen to coaching is unknown to us. But from a strict baseball sense, that trade looked like one of the worst imaginable deals at the time, and it is just looking worse. It's a deal so awful, it makes me question Sabean's tenure as a whole. Williams came on strong for the Cubs toward the end of the season. LaTroy pitched like LaTroy was expected to pitch. Winner: not us.
But there are worse - much worse - general managers out there. Sabean is adept at singling out areas of weakness on his team, and not waiting for the weaknesses to magically fix themselves. He isn't an incompetent judge of talent; far from it. He comes from a scouting-based background, though, so his hunches and whims are going to be different then the ones coming from the stat-based background most of us have. His Michael Tucker might be our Jack Cust. We can point to OBPs and isolated power in our defense of a failed player like Cust, he could point to athleticism and level swings. There are going to be hits and misses on both sides of the analysis coin.
A point. I guess you'll be looking for a point right about here. Point is, I don't know if the Giants could do better than Sabean. I do know they could do worse. I'm not entirely sure if I'd prefer DePodesta to Sabean, especially considering how much I dislike the contracts given to J.D. Drew and Derek Lowe. Epstein is an idea, but it's hard to know what he could do with a smaller budget. His greatest achievement to me, as a non-Red Sox fan, was having a grandfather help write my favorite all-time movie.
Sabean's departure would be riveting. It's been close to ten years since another person's vision has been behind a Giants roster. Some days I'm convinced Sabean would have been bounced by the new ballpark without Bonds. Other days, I'm glad there is someone in the front office committed to improving the team, and who isn't afraid to take risks. My guess is that we'll have Sabean for another couple of years, at least, and that his legacy will be hard to evaluate until he starts shaping a non-Bonds team.
Comment starter: What do we know about Ned Colletti? Would he be Sabean II, or are there differences between the two? All I know is that the two arbitration cases Colletti has lost in his career were against Shawon Dunston and A.J. Pierzynski. That should not be included on his resume.