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.
Alex Rios celebrating a record setting strike out!
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?