Brian Sabean is toast. The Giants’ general manager will get the ax at the end of the season and his rant at fans and players last week shows why he should go.
Sabean has never taken criticism well. He proclaimed that "I’m not an idiot," when he was criticized for the Matt Williams trade, a deal I defended. Reacting to criticism for his moves before the 2005 season, he referred to "the lunatic fringe," a group that included fans, KNBR talk show host Larry Krueger and me.
But his latest rant is truly inexcusable. First, he took on the fans for making Armando Benitez the "scapegoat" for the team’s failures and forcing the Giants to virtually give him away. Then, he criticized players for not being ready to play in the opening game of the series against the New York Mets.
What did he expect? Benitez had worn out his welcome with the fans with his behavior the year before, when he reacted to boos after he blew a save with rude gestures to the crowd. He did nothing to win them back when he blamed his teammates for not scoring enough runs in one of his blown saves and then saying "I did my job" when he lost another game because of ground balls that got through the infield.
Sabean should have gotten rid of him before the season so manager Bruce Bochy could have worked on finding another closer in spring training, instead of having to do it a third of the way through the season.
And why was Sabean surprised that not all of the Giants’ players were ready to play last week? This is an old team. Older players need more rest and are more injury-prone. Bochy has given players periodic rests because he’s aware of the problem.
So, who’s really at fault? Look in the mirror, Brian.
In truth, it’s not surprising that the Giants are dead in the water. Preseason expectations were low. Sports Illustrated predicted a last-place finish in the National League West and nobody projected them as contenders.
After talking about going younger, Sabean went back to the losing formula of the last two seasons, bringing in veterans who were past their prime. Is it really any surprise that the contributions of players including Rich Aurilia and Ryan Klesko have been minimal?
Sabean completely misread the free-agent market and came up short in bidding for the slugger the Giants needed. Then, in typical Giants fashion, he competed against himself in signing Barry Zito to that seven-year, $126 million contract.
Now, the Giants are stuck. It has been suggested Sabean should start trading veterans for promising young players, but who would want these guys? Bengie Molina is the only attractive player, but he’s too valuable to be traded.
Meanwhile, the Giants’ farm system isn’t developing position players. Fred Lewis has had some big moments, but the pitchers have caught up to him. No surprise. He was a .270 hitter in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He’ll be a career backup at this level.
All this has happened on Sabean’s watch. No matter how he tries to spread the blame, it all comes back to him. He will have only himself to blame when he’s fired after this season.
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