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Brian Sabean: To retain, or not to retain

The decision to retain or release Bruce Bochy is sort of nuanced. At least, you can make an argument that it's nuanced. For all of the grumbling about his lineup construction, it's possible that some sort of leadership je ne sais quoi is more important than anything he does on the field. Likely, no. Possible, I guess so.

If I were in charge of the decision to retain or release Brian Sabean, though, it would be an amazingly simple process. I'd ask a single question. There wouldn't be an in-depth interview to see if I'm letting him go. There wouldn't be a tallying up of the pros and cons over his 13-year Giants career. One question:

How much do you think Bengie Molina contributes to the Giants' offense? Don't think about his position, how he is in the clubhouse, or how he handles a pitching staff. Just focus on what you think he contributes to the team's efforts to score runs.

The litmus test plays for the team. How lucky we are. If Sabean responds with...

Well, Bengie is a guy who we can count on for the big hit when we need it, so...

Fired. The subject was meteorology, and you just gave an answer about rain dances. And, not incidentally, they actually keep track of the things you're talking about, and you're wrong. Fired.

Well, Bengie is really the only RBI man we have, and...

Fired. The subject is advanced computer science, and you just started talking about how your Apple II+ doesn't work when you shove punch cards in it. The world has moved on. Now we will too. This isn't a Moneyball scouts-vs.-stats thing; just about every organization knows to evaluate players beyond stats like batting average and RBI.

Well, Bengie had a lot asked of him, but he isn't really a cleanup hitter. But he's still the driving force behind our offense, and he's the reason we were able to score enough to even contend this late in the season.

Fired. Part of me thinks that if you asked Sabean why the Giants are at the bottom of the league in runs scored, he'd legitimately start with situational hitting. He'd be incapabale of saying, "That guy was a disappointment, that guy was a flop, that guy just stunk, that guy...." But another, much smaller, part of me thinks that the question might get an answer like this...

Look, I know the guy can't get on base. I know he kills a lot of rallies with his impatient hacking. I know he's slow. I know he's not a traditional cleanup hitter. But if we could get some guys around him -- get him down to the #7 spot -- he's not a bad guy to have in a lineup. But, man, I'm not going to go to Andrew Baggarly and say that sort of thing on the record. What kind of idiot do you think I am?

I'm listening. We'll get into his claim that Bengie's not a bad guy to have in a lineup later, as that's certainly debatable, but that answer would provide so much information. Sabean is aware that outs are bad, and there isn't any amount of clutch hitting that can overcome that basic truth. The answer would mean that Sabean has a good idea of why the offense was so bad this season.

The hypothetical answers were in order of likelihood, mind you. I don't have a lot of faith right now. But if I were Bill Neukom, I would start the interview with just one question. It would probably save a lot of time.