24 July 2011

We've been down this road before.

© 2010 Associated Press
Antsy morning. Up with the sun, and nothing to do but watch the Sports Reporters and read Internal Affairs in the Merc. Nothing newsworthy this week. At least not newsworthy enough to bother you while you're visiting this space in search of baseball commentary. Little did you know, you've really wandered into a deep dark corner of my subconscious mind. At any moment, a crazed ex-girlfriend or a GIF of Jose Cruz Jr. dropping Jeff Conine's popup might jump out from behind a curtain and scare you shitless. Welcome to my world.

Now that we have all the caveats out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks: I hate the trade deadline. I abhor the rumor mill. I despise prognostication based on little more than idle conversation over the phone in traffic on the 405 — or Sepulveda, but who would be insane enough to sit in that mess? Team A interested in Player B but doesn't want to part with Prospect C. Oh, but wait, Team D now asking for Prospect E and a little cash to sweeten the deal long enough for Team F to jump in the mix and make things interesting... Btw, I heard this from Team G's clubhouse attendant. Yeah, it's fun to banter this shit about, but what's the point if you're not the guy who can pull the strings and make it happen?

Maybe I'm just getting old, and maybe I've been through too many Julys, and maybe I've seen Sabean make too many shrewd but wholly nondescript moves, a few of which helped us win a little thing called the World Series last year... and a few of which became Ryan Garko. My point is, it should be bluntly obvious to any Giants fan that Sabean has been reluctant to pull the trigger on the so-called "blockbuster" deal ever since he dealt Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and some guy named Boof to the Twins for a dude who played one season in SF, set a club record for GIDP, and went on to win a World Series with the White Sox the very next year. (It's not worth mentioning his name this early in the morning.) Prior to that much-maligned move, the man was a wheelin', dealin' machine...

The Jason Schmidt trade was sheer genius. Who can argue that it didn't work to within five outs of perfection? The 2001-03 Giants had what the 2009-11 teams lack: offense. Tons of it. What they needed was an ace. All they had to pay for it, thanks to Sabean's uncanny Jedi mind powers over the Pirates, was Armando Rios (who?) and a young prospect named Ryan Vogelsong who never went anywhere and I believe is now playing in Korea. And the Giants also got a couple months' rental on John Vander Wal out of the deal. Brilliant...

And who could forget Sabean's first big move as GM, when he fleeced the Indians of Jeff Kent, Julian Tavares, Jose Vizcaino — and Joe Roa, the PTBNL — in exchange for Matt Williams and Trent Hubbard? Yes, Williams went on to win a championship with an Arizona team didn't exist at the time of this trade in late 1996. But his best days were behind him when Sabean made the swap. Meanwhile, the Giants acquired a future Hall-of-Fame second baseman who would compliment — and frustrate — their (would-be) future Hall-of-Fame left fielder for the next six seasons, which included two division titles, one wild card berth, and a National League pennant.

A few other names from the Sabean historical trade wire: Robb Nen, who literally pitched his career away trying to help the Giants win it all in 2002; Kenny Lofton, without whom they never would have made the World Series that year (you can debate the relative pros and cons of that); and Ellis Burks, who combined with Bonds and Kent to form one of the most deadly 3-4-5 combos in baseball in the early aughts. Yes, there was that Sidney Ponson guy. And yes, there were also Mssrs. Garko, Hillenbrand, and Guillen.

Yet aside from Nathan, who had a six (plus?) monster seasons as the Twins closer, and Liriano, who aside from the two no-no's has been Jonathan Sanchez Lite, Brian Sabean has danced between the raindrops and avoided the Rick Vaughn stick-it-up-your-effing-ass boomerang of death. In other words: Can you find Jesse Foppert, Kurt Ainsworth, Tim Alderson, Jerome Williams, etc. on today's baseball map? Go ahead, take a minute and Google it... You can say what you want about the guy, but you can't call Sabean a poor judge of talent.

For years, the guy had to piece together a team around Bonds' gargantuan salary and persona because that was the directive from on high. Now, with Bill Neukom's finger on the button, he's been freed to develop the farm system into one of the best in baseball and hold onto the key pieces that make this team a defending World Series Champion. And he's also managed to make some key moves and acquisitions in the process. (Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, anybody?) We're finally getting to see what Sabean can do with a longer leash, and I for one am glad that he's our side.

As for what's going to happen over the next seven days, I couldn't care less. I'm trying very hard NOT to become a Boston fan in the wake of their all-sports championships. Anyone who went to the Sox-Giants series at AT&T last year knows that Red Sox Nation has turned into — always been? — one obnoxious bunch. And sadly, I've seen the signs of that overzealous ego cropping up on the shores of McCovey Cove this season. I'd hoped that us Bay Area folk would be a little more mellow and content ourselves with a long-awaited moment in the sun. But all it takes is a glance at the comments on Extra Baggs or five minutes listening to post-game callers on KNBR to see that everyone from the bandwagon to the geek squad is psyched up for another run at the title and willing to go all in to get that repeat.

And hey, more power to you. Maybe we should be a little greedy. Maybe we should go for broke and trade away the farm for a guy we should have acquired seven years ago when he was entering his prime. After all, we only live once, right? And who wouldn't want to say their team was the first back-to-back World Series champ from the National League in 35 years?

Hoping for the best is one thing. Feeling like the best is owed to us is another. We should never forget where we came from. We should never forget that it wasn't always this way, with the banners and the rings and the ticker tape and the parades. We should never forget the days when we used to cry out to the sky: "Just once! Please lord, just give me one ring, and I'll die happy!"

As Nyjer Morgan has so deftly pointed out to us over the past two nights, humility is a vastly underrated virtue, particularly in the world of professional sports. It's time we all start acting like our team won the goddamn World Series instead of clamoring for Sabean and Larry Baer to "make a move" like we're back in the Summer of 2004. Need I remind you that, despite losing their two best offensive players for the year — as well as one of the finest backstops in the game — this rag tag bunch of pranksters is still 4 games up and acquitting themselves very nicely against quality opponents?

If a deal is done, so be it, but the 25 guys we've got out there right now are playing good baseball. If we stop watching our Twitter feeds for trade rumors long enough we might actually take notice.


Okay, fine, if you want my half-assed and dis-interested opinion: The Giants will "kick the tires" but lose the Carlos Beltran Sweepstakes and end up with a solid platoon option somewhere up the middle (C, SS or CF) who will hit .300 in August and lock down a starting role heading into the September pennant race...


In researching this blog, I came across this lovely little nugget from the SF Gate archives. In the first two days after that epic Matt Williams trade in 1996, the Chron Sporting Green received a mountain of letters railing against the move. Here's one of my faves:
Editor -- Just when I became convinced that the Golden State Warriors had the dumbest front office in professional sports, Brian Sabean of the Giants proved me wrong. The trade of Matt Williams makes absolutely no sense at all.

Sabean has asked the fans to be patient because he is not finished wheeling and dealing and sometimes the trades that look bad on paper turn out great (see "Boy Trades Father's Cow for Magic Beans" story, keeping in mind that the beans had potential)

A truly bold move would be to sign Cleveland's star, Albert Belle, who, along with Barry Bonds, would give the Giants an outfield featuring the two biggest jerks in baseball.

San Francisco
Perhaps Mr. Ring would enjoy the sight of Nyjer Morgan in Orange and Black...


Happy birthday, Barry!


I'd leave you with more, but it's time to hit the road. Don't want to be late on #MadBumDay. You never know, he may be done after 25 pitches... A joke, a joke. See you at the Cove, kids...

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