Brian Sabean’s return to the con in San Francisco, as first reported by noted troublemaker and barista A. Baggarly in The Athletic, is not a turn back to the past as much as it is a demand for a better future.
That is, unless the Giants sign Tim Lincecum, in which case you never read Paragraph One.
But Sabean’s return means that Giants ownership (presumably president Larry Baer and major stockholder Charlie Johnson) wants the team’s dominant baseball mind to be dominant again.
This of course generates rich speculation about current general manager Bobby Evans’ future, but that probably is beside the point . . . at least through the current calendar year. This isn’t really about Evans specifically anyway – it’s about ownewrship’s impatience, fear of a worrisome unknown and need for the comfort of the man who succeeded.
The Giants are at a similar fork in the highway as they were when Sabean first took the job in 1997. The 1996 Giants were 68-94, older chronologically against the league average, offensively substandard and horrific as a pitching staff. A year later, they won 90, got younger, improved in both areas, and then did it again in 1998. From that turnaround, they began what can fairly be described as the franchise’s renaissance, which finally ended last year with what in the eyes of most baseball experts and all meaningful metrics was the fourth worst year in the franchise’s 136-year history.
And because Sabean actually never left daily contact with the team and its decision-makers, this isn’t your standard chase for past glories fixation. It is, however, a measure of how little patience the Giants are willing to be with their present predicament.
But mostly, this is the team understanding that its ability to identify, develop and lure young talents is what saved it at the turn of the century and will have to do so again at the turn of the decade if they intend to make 2017 a blip rather than a harbinger.
The Giants could conceivably spend their way back into relevance, but their money wasn’t good enough for Giancarlo Stanton when every other suitor would be paying exactly the same number, and for that matter neither was their reliance on “We won three rings and we have a full stadium.” That they thought their past could work more than their present with a player who is looking for a future is a sign that they have over-relied on the lure of the good old days.
So they want that changed . . . with the guy who built those good old days. If that seems inconsistent, well, it is. But impatience and fear are going to do what they do, and Brian Sabean is as good an answer as they are likely to find. Which is why they found it.