Running a baseball team demands a constant stream of choices. A team will make good and bad ones every week, both on the field and off. When the magnitude or the frequency of the bad choices pile up, teams hit sour times. For some franchises (See Pirates, Pittsburgh) those times last a decade or more. For our beloved Giants, it's three years and counting.
That's three years of losing baseball, but the bad decisions stretch back a bit more. After several years of being in the black, Brian Sabean's judgment really shifted to the red side of the ledger after the World Series loss. Since then, the A.J. Pierzynski trade and the Barry Zito deal have served as big ugly bookends to an arc of generally poor decision making. (In today’s column, ESPN's Rob Neyer has produced my favorite line so far about the Zito contract: "He's not Chan Ho Park. Not yet, anyway.")
But as I mentioned in my previous post, I'm encouraged by the organization's general decision-making of the past several months, starting with the Matt Morris trade. Could things be better? Sure. In an ideal world, Sabean would have traded every overpaid veteran for promising young talent. But I'm talking general trends here.
For your delectation, I present my list of recent good choices the Giants brass have made, with a little schizophrenic counterpoint to entertain and enlighten.
Traded Morris for Rajai Davis
Q: Yeah, but why wasn't Morris traded in May before he started tanking?
A: Probably because other GMs were waiting to see if Morris would start tanking.
Traded Mark Sweeney for Travis Denker
Q: Travis Whatsis?
A: Well, sure, but Mr. Whatsis did a bang-up job in Single A after the trade...
Q: Single A? Big deal. And it was a tiny sample size.
A: Don't interrupt me. The fact that the Giants got anything at all for Sweeney was a coup.
Made Kevin Correia a starter
Q: He began his career as a starter. How did he end up in the bullpen, anyway?
A: He didn't start out well as a starter. And for a long time he wasn't very good as a reliever, either. Sometimes it takes a while to learn the craft of pitching. Down the stretch in 2007, Correia seemed to apply lessons learned from his bullpen stint. I credit the Giants for sticking with him.
Q: Can we really give the Giants credit for this, or is it just dumb luck?
A: Why not both?
Gave Kevin Frandsen more playing time
Q: No. No no no. This was the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind. I give them no credit for this. It should have happened months earlier.
A: Hey, they could have continued to play Durham down the stretch. When the voices in your head tell you to cut off your own foot to keep the bugs from crawling out, and you not only refrain from doing so but you also remember to put on clean socks every day, that counts as a good decision, doesn't it?
Q: I can't believe I'm reading this.
Decided to part ways with Barry Bonds
Q: Hold on. This decision only looks good because Bonds just got indicted.
Q: You're a cynical bastard. The Giants squeezed all the marketing juice they could from Bonds's heroic, time-ravaged body then tossed him aside.
A: I never said good decisions had to gush from a fountain filled with candies and flower petals. Besides, Bonds wasn't exactly exploited against his will in 2007. It's obvious both sides used each other to maximum effect.
Q: Do you think the Giants cut ties with Bonds because they knew the indictment was coming?
A: Maybe. But they re-signed Barry last year with the same cloud over his head. If the risk/reward of bringing him back yet again landed on the reward side, they probably would have signed on for another year of The Freak Show.
Re-signed Omar Vizquel
Q: He's 40 frickin’ years old.
A: That's not a question.
Q: How is this good?
A: We've discussed this already. Do we have to go over it again? Read this, then get back to me.
Re-signed Tyler Walker
Q: Oh please. This barely qualifies as a "good decision." It's just stocking up on bullpen biomass.
A: First of all, Walker will make less than $1 million in 2008. So he's dirt-cheap by today's standards. Second, he showed in September that he's healthy. His stuff was very good and he pitched a couple times on back-to-back days. Third, he's not that old: 32 next July. He could be one of those guys who puts experience and health together and has a great run of success. Even if that run lasts just a few months, the Giants will have gotten their money's worth. This was a much better idea than....
Signing Scott Linebrink to a 4-year, $19 million contract
Q: The White Sox did that, not the Giants.
A: Right. It’s still a good decision. And while we're on that note...
Not signing Torii Hunter
Q: I'm with you on that one.
A: Thank you. I'll admit that last month I made some noise that signing Hunter wouldn't be the worst thing. But I never envisioned a contract that averaged $18 million a year. It's pure insanity. Almost as insane as paying a soft-tossing left-handed pitcher $126 million for seven years.