Q & A with Giants general manager Sabean
San Francisco two wins away from second championship in three years
DETROIT -- The Giants are competing in their second World Series in three seasons, and general manager Brian Sabean has been the architect of all that success.The team that is leading the Tigers 2-0 in a World Series that resumes with Game 3 at Comerica Park on Saturday night (4:30 p.m. PT air time on FOX, 5:07 p.m. first pitch) is so chocked with home-grown talent it should make the head of any scout spin. Pablo Sandoval, the third baseman who tied a record with three homers in Game 1, is a product of the system. Tim Lincecum, who came on in relief to retire seven consecutive batters in the same game, is a top Draft choice. Buster Posey, Matt Cain, Sergio Romo, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford and the injured Brian Wilson have all also been developed by the Giants.
Barry Zito -- the winner of critical Game 5 of the National League Championship Series over the Cardinals and Game 1 of the World Series -- is the only big-ticket free-agent acquisition. San Francisco inked him for seven years and $126 million just before the 2007 season.Asked in an extensive interview with MLB.com this week at AT&T Park whether he thought the Giants are given the recognition they deserve for all this, Sabean said: "Probably not, but that doesn't necessarily bother us. We keep a low profile as an organization. We know what we've done with our continuity. We've got a lot of people who have been in this organization for a long time, who have worked behind the scenes to put us in this position. We're just thankful for this window of opportunity and just trying to take advantage of it." Two more wins in the next five games and they will have taken full advantage of it. MLB.com: When you penciled this out back in Spring Training, I can't imagine this is where you figured it would wind up. Sabean: Yeah, not necessarily. It was the tale of two seasons. The first half wasn't necessarily what we planned on, and through the course of the year we were constantly making roster changes. To their credit, no matter what we had to do to make those roster changes, [Bruce] Bochy and his staff got those guys playing well in the second half. They were very determined and became a real beast on the road.
|2011||Rangers||Giants in 5|
|1954||Cardinals||Giants in 4|
|1933||Senators||Giants in 5|
|1922||Yankees||Giants in 4|
MLB.com: Actually, it might have been a tale of three seasons: The team adapting to Wilson going out for the season after Tommy John surgery, the team adapting to Melky Cabrera being suspended and the team overcoming the big Dodgers trade with Boston on Aug. 25. The Giants led Los Angeles in the NL West by only two games on that date.Sabean: You're right. I agree. People forget how we fought off the Dodgers, pushed them out of the way and won the division by eight games. I think what we had to go through made us ready to face the two tough teams we did in the first two rounds. We won out in the end in both and got us ready to play in this series, which, by the way, we weren't supposed to win anyway. The one common theme throughout the year, and it's a must in this division and our own ballpark, is that we've pitched pretty well or at least good enough to win a lot of series or most of them, especially on the road. And we've played good defense. That's taken the pressure off an offense that was a work in progress and has morphed into what it is now. MLB.com: The changes between now and the team you had in 2010 that defeated Texas are also pretty significant. Sabean: That goes to my point about preaching how good a job Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff have done. I personally think he's the best manager in baseball. He's proven that in the last three years. Last year was the year we lost Buster Posey to that leg injury and still won 86 games. If we had gotten to the playoffs, I think we could've gone deep into that postseason. Boch and the coaching staff have really been masterful about keeping those guys ready to play through the calm before the storm and all out storms. That's a big reason for our success. There's a tremendous amount of continuity about how he handles players and how our coaching staff does their jobs, getting our players in the right position to win. MLB.com: What do you think is the issue with Lincecum that he could come into Game 1 as a reliever and retire seven batters flawlessly, but can't do the same thing when he starts? Sabean: That's a good question and I'm not sure. His bugaboo this year -- home or road -- has been the first inning. He showed that in his last start in the NLCS, that he had a hard time negotiating the first inning. In his relief roles during the postseason he's been very relaxed. It was a tough situation in Game 1 and I give Boch a lot of credit, thinking Tim could get an out let alone strike out a hitter to get Zito out of the sixth inning without letting up any more runs. It is delivery-related. It is all about him adjusting from a guy who's used to missing a lot of bats and being a power pitcher to somebody who's going to have to learn to pitch to contact. He did that the other night and got five strikeouts in seven outs. MLB.com: He said he was just worrying about getting each out, rather than thinking about his mechanics or the totality of the situation. Sabean: Exactly, because when he relieves, he has no control over how long he's going to be in there. As a starter, you're pretty much asked to go six or seven innings, keep the score down and get a quality start. As a reliever, you're in there until the manager brings somebody else in. MLB.com: You and Bochy talked about this, regarding Lincecum and Bumgarner. When you have to make changes on the side, especially this time of the year, there isn't time to implement those changes in a game. You guys dropped Bumgarner out of the rotation in the NLCS so he could work on some things. Sabean: No there isn't any time. Once you get in a game, especially with this type of pressure, the level of hitters and the type of concentration needed, you can get out of sorts in a hurry because the game is moving fast. Sometimes you revert to old mistakes or old mechanics. We'll see. Look at Bumgarner. He had three side sessions that went very well. Boch felt comfortable enough to send him out there against a tough opponent, let alone in the second game of the World Series. MLB.com: Didn't you say that with Lincecum it's stubbornness to a certain degree? He knows what he has to do. Sabean: I mean that in a good way. The real good ones are stubborn, because they've stuck to a plan and they've stuck to a way of doing things. But once you need to make an adjustment because of things getting out of whack -- or moreso the opponent adjusts to you -- then you have to get resourceful. And maybe the way through this is the snapshot of him relieving at this point in time. MLB.com: And what about the evolution of Zito the way he's come on this postseason? Sabean: He stayed ready. The kid's a great person. He has a great work ethic. He loves the game. He respects the game. He's also tougher than he looks. We're really happy for him, because the performance that he's put out there the last two games is really why we brought him here. He has a lot to proud of to be able to accomplish that.
Most World Series wins
|New York Yankees||134|
|St. Louis Cardinals||56|
|New York/San Francisco Giants||51|
|Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers||45|
MLB.com: It seems that he's worth every bit of the $126 million you gave him because what he's doing now.Sabean: Let me tell you something: behind the scenes he's been worth every penny of it, too. Our young guys have learned from his work ethic, how he's gone about his business and stayed ready. He's been a professional. Wins and losses aside, the guy is really somebody our kids and this organization respects a lot. MLB.com: You have him for one more year and then an option for 2014. Is that anything you're even considering at this point? Sabean: We'll sit down at the end of this postseason and look at it. We know that he's going to be in our rotation next year, and we're thankful for that. MLB.com: And Lincecum? Sabean: He has one more year and we'll see how it goes. MLB.com: You guys are not built as a power hitting team. You hit 103 homers and only 31 in your home ballpark during the regular season. But in the postseason you've started hitting the ball at AT&T. Is it atmospheric? What's the reason for that? Sabean: It's tough to explain. I really don't know. Maybe it's as simple as we're playing good baseball. These guys do have a survivor's type of instinct. They've dealt with pressure. We will strike out, but we're not a team that's known to strike out. We basically try to hit the ball in the gaps and keep it out of the air. It's good to see that we're hitting some mistakes and Sandoval had an incredible night in Game 1 against Justin Verlander and some real good Detroit pitching.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.