SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brian Sabean is the notorious hidebound ageist Luddite who will never change what he does, the way he does it, or explains in his own specific idiom how it is done to only a precious few. Thats the M.O. that has defined him to the outside world, to his convenience and his detriment.Thus, when he spent some time at the Giants Media Day in a question-and-answer session with a number of bloggers, the representatives of the constituency who tolerates his methods least willingly, an eyebrow or two went up. This is not the Sabean who leads with his face, P.R.-wise, the Sabean who doesnt matter who says what or why. This is a sea change in how he views the business of explaining his business.
Actually, it was a lot like talking to the beat guys, the Giants general manager said Saturday, the day that the pitchers and catchers reported. They asked pretty much the same questions, by and large. They seemed pretty knowledgeable for the most part.Now maybe he expected different. Maybe he expected more savagery-based-on-stereotype. Maybe he thought the questions would be dominated by decimal points and impenetrableacronyms. Maybe he thought...Well, I really didnt give a lot of thought about it one way or another, he said. It was just a Q-and-A with reporters, is the way I looked at it. Our P.R. department thought they were a part of the fan base that we could reach better. It was fine.And while the effort involved was not particularly onerous, or the gesture overly magnanimous, there is reason to think one or several of the old Sabeans would have dismissed the idea as preposterous, a spectacular waste of time.But this Sabean and there have been several over the years, be quite sure saw no harm and acknowledged that there might be some benefit to expanding his audience, and by extension the baseball operations department. Its an admission by someone who have never worried much about perception that no segment of the perception class can be taken for granted.Honestly, I wasnt really sure how much of the fan base these guys reach, because Id never given it that much thought, he said. I know they were talking to Boch (manager Bruce Bochy) earlier, and that seemed to go well. In the end, it wasnt a big deal at all, and if it helped some, fine.Sabean has been pigeonholed over time as the anti-youthanti-numbers guy; the first is palpably false simply by looking at the pitching staff, the catcher, two of three first base candidates, the shortstop, the third baseman and the right fielder. The second is not easily disproven, except for the fact that he has the same level of numbers-crunchers as any other front office.He does not speak numbers-crunching, though, and therein lies much of the misperception about him. He speaks as a scout would, because he was a scout. But he doesnt think solely as a scout would, and he doesnt ignore the metrics of the day. Others in baseball operations do the metrics, and bring their findings to him.And it all is part of the process of making decisions, along with the bottom line, and the clubhouse fit, and a lot of other things, he said. Most decisions get made by time and space, to be honest with you. Whats going on at the time a decision has to be made, and how much space (money, contract length, roster flexibility) there is to make it.Sabean, in fact, has been different operators at different times for different people. As the second-longest serving general manager in one place, he has survived 15 years of ebb and flood tides, with the best divisional record, third best league record and sixth best major league record interspersed with down years in the mid-90s and late 2000s.He has changed managers twice, had two ownerships changed above him, and for the most part kept the bulk of his baseball ops department together. And he has been, if not the most reluctant public speaker, then at least one who picks his spots more judiciously than most. Hes never viewed the audience as his I figured the players in the room and what they do on the field explains what we do better than anything else.But with an information glut that needs constant tending and feeding, he has been forced to consider other outlets for advancing the organizations methodologies. So he had a Q-and-A with bloggers, and though nothing is scheduled, he is willing to expand the conduits to the audience more in the future.Its what you have to do in this day and age, and like I said, it was like to talking to the beat guys, he said, squinting into the sun as players came and went in front his dugout perch.He did not say whether that comparison flatters, flat-lines or shames beat writers, bloggers, or the media en masse. Some views of the outside world he continues to keep to himself.