Monitoring the Progress of the Process

With the Jays fresh of a sweep of the Giants I felt compelled to look at the actions of both teams front offices and see what it is that separates a perennial also-ran from a team that has won the World Series two of the last three years. In this Money Ball era we live in now so driven by advance metrics and market inefficiencies, we are starting to learn how to measure the process a team follows to success. Obviously the results are the key thing but wouldn’t studying the process of a winning team help your own team recognize those keys to success and implement them in your own organization.

Giants GM Brian Sabean, with a phone as sharp as his wit, and an uncanny resemblance to George Lucas

So let’s dive in to see what Brian Sabean has up his sleeve besides talented young starting pitching, all-world catcher Buster Posey, and the finest in Motorola technology.

One of the most glaring differences between Sabean and the Jay’s front office is conviction! When the Blue Jays locked up Vernon Wells to his massive seven year deal they stopped believing in their decision half way through the deal, they foolishly traded away their highest paid player in the name of “payroll flexibility.” The Giant’s on the other hand gave Barry Zito a record setting contract and they stood by that commitment. Even when he was arguably their worst starting pitcher they started him in playoff games showing the rest of the league that they weren’t afraid to put their money where there mouth is.

Even when the Giants did decide to eat a little crow realizing a player may be a lost cause they handled thing’s differently than the Blue Jays. When $60 million dollar outfielder Aaron Rowand hadn’t lived up to expectations the Giants didn’t try and peddle him off in hopes of a meager return and let someone else pay the man the money he had agreed to receive from San Franciso, oh no! The Giants signed him to that contract and they were going to pay him even if he didn’t play as they designated him for assignment and released him in 2011. They Jay’s however had no problem letting another team flex their financial muscles ONCE AGAIN! As they let their own $60 million dollar man go to the White Sox for absolutely nothing AND let them pay all the money on his contract, is this how you treat a player that set a club record for strikeouts in a single game with 5 (twice)??

Another obvious difference between a winning club and the forever fourth place Blue Jays is in their approach to the draft. While Alex Anthopoulos was focused on “acquiring” extra draft picks by doing silly things like trading for arbitration eligible players and signing short term deals to game the compensation system the Giants had different ideas. Overpay for Type-A free agents coming off outlier years so that they can give their draft picks to other teams. Unfortunately there were a few years where the Giants finished in the bottom 15 so they were forced to keep their first round draft picks, so in 2007 they had to shell out big first round bonus money to Madison Bumgarner, and then in 2008 Buster Posey. The Blue Jays on the other hand not only had the bonuses of their first rounders to pay for but all of those other sandwich round and second round picks they had acquired, talk about pricy!

Although when it comes to losing  Type-A players and receiving picks the Jays did manage to avoid big bonus payouts. Take the 2009 draft for example, AJ Burnett signed with the Yankees so the Jays had too make two extra picks, but luckily the Yankees signed two other higher rated Type A’s so the Angels took Mike Trout with the  first round pick they received from the Yankees for losing Mark Teixera. They Jays meanwhile got a nice moderately priced third round pick off the Yanks so wouldn’t have to worry about the expensive Mike Trout. Can you imagine having to pay his signing bonus, or what his arbitration awards will be like?? Plus he would have been taking a way a valuable roster spot from a veteran player, talk about dodging a bullet!!

Another clear competitive edge the Giants’ front office has over the Jays, Brian Sabean looks alot like George Lucas, whereas Alex Anthopoulos looks more like the guy that danced around on camera pretending a stick was a light saber.

So I guess in conclusion Antopoulos and company need to take a long hard look in the mirror and rethink how they do things if they want to have success . Unless there is some way a team can fall ass backwards into young controllable Cy Young winning pitching, overpay for free agents and still keep their first round picks, and then have one of those picks be a generational talent behind the plate that is Major league ready in less than two years… but really what are the odds of that happening?


Tags: Alex Anthopoulos Brian Sabean Buster Posey San Francisco Giants Toronto Blue Jays

  • Guest

    So…you didn’t enjoy your stay in Canada I take it. Ah well.

  • Joel Marples

    What an odd article! Scolding the Jays for trading Vernon Wells and his worst contract in sports. That was a miracle, for a guy to pocket $25million a year and be that horrible and complacent was unacceptable. The Giants released Rowand cause he was broken and nobody in the world would take him, it had nothing to do with class. We got rid of Rios cause he had the maturity of a 12 year old and used to fly model helicopters in the clubhouse. And to say that signing aging veterans instead of drafting tonnes of young talent in the post PED era is better is asinine. First of all the big thing you missed in your article is that no free agents want to come to Canada unless you vastly overpay them or they have a friend on the team. I’m sure it’s easier to lure them to San Fran, i know of countless free agents who turned down more money to go elsewhere than come to Toronto. The Giants have had success for one reason and one reason only, they play in the NL West. By far the easiest division in baseball. Imagine playing the Rockies, Dodgers and Dbacks and Padres instead of the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Orioles? What a cake walk. I think these last two games made a statement about the quaulity of San Fran’s competition. The worst team in the AL East just walked all over them. Bad pitching, bad defense, poor hitting (except off AAA pitchers). I guess this is good enough for an NL West title! Long live the San Fran juggernaut! lol

    • Alex Dineley

      Yeah was meant to be sarcastic and a nod to the fact that having a forward thinking General Manager isn’t some instant recipe for success, Sabean’s moves are generally very questionable whereas Anthopoulos get his “ninja” reputation for the shrewd moves he makes yet two rings in three years for Sabean…. basically you don’t get extra wins for running your team the “right way”

  • RyanMueller

    I like the article…I got your sarcasm regarding Wells. One major difference between the SF and TO seems to be patience. Bochy had 3 losing season before winning in 2010. SF saw they had a good coach and stuck with him. I have always thought that TO lacks patience with players and coaches. It always seems to be a knee jerk reaction. Sometimes it works and sometime it backfires. I would love to see AA last longer than any other TO GM and Gibby last long enough for a playoff run.

  • Justin Jay

    I was trying to figure out if there was sarcasm in this. Good thing I read the comments below.

    Riccardi did a lot of the moves prior to 2010, so the “bad” Wells and Hinske contracts were on him. I guess the major difference is Sabean had greater success in the draft than Riccardi or AA has. Other than Zito for that first World Series, all their pitching and some of their key hitters were all draft picks. It’s because of these picks that the Giants were able to swing and miss on some free agents, but they hit unexpectedly hit on a few too. Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff come to mind.

    I’m a big believer of building through the right farm system. There’s a cohesiveness and a continuity you don’t get from mashing a bunch of highly talented, big egos together. What AA tried this year is the opposite of what he and Riccardi were trying to build. Riccardi took a chance on Wells in 2006, and Wells battled injuries in 2008 and had a very good 2010. The big difference between the Giants and Jays… and to this day I believe this too… the Giants, Rays, Red Sox, Athletics, Cardinals, Marlins, and Braves all know how to draft and develop pitching better than the Jays.

    If you look at the Royals, they’ve had a similar problem to Toronto. They’ve developed some good hitters, but developing pitchers never seemed to work out for them. There has only been 1 starting pitcher drafted by Toronto in the last 10 years that has shown SOME level of success in the majors: Ricky Romero. That’s it. Cecil, Marcum, McGowan, Chacin… all high profile names that didn’t quite pan out due to either injuries or early success that couldn’t be sustained.

    • Alex Dineley

      yeah Jay’s cant develop pitchers to save their life… although when you look at it they haven’t been that great with position players either, I’m sure part of the issue is even when they finish third or fourth in their division they’re only picking like 14-17th usually.

      Vernon was their last big success I’d say Rios and Hill burned bright for a couple years but then faded into the sunset like Chappelle Show :(

      • Justin Jay

        It’s not over on Lind yet either. Gose they sort of developed though I know they acquired him for Brett Wallace. Riccardi did a lot of wheeling and dealing with his picks, bringing in what was suppose to be talented players (what a list we could probably figure out combined.) The only players I can think of are Rios, Lind, Hill, JPA, Wells, Reed Johnson, O-Dog… but most of the guys mentioned here are Gord Ash drafted players. Riccardi gets credit for Hill, Lind, and JPA.

        But you’re right… our biggest problem has been developing our talent and THAT’S why SFG has 2 rings and we got jack squat