Twelve Thoughts: Giants Among Elite, Sandy Alderson, Big Fall for Prospects
Maybe the Giants already were there, but the recent World Series trophy completes a franchise that had a lot else going for it -- a snazzy ballpark privately financed and integrated into a vibrant city, an avid fan base, a decent winning tradition dating to the 19th century and New York, and legends such as Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda as part of both the franchise's past and present. Other nice touches are a West Coast address, ultracool road uniforms and bicycle valets at home games.
Further to the Giants' credit, there was far less woe-is-me droning from San Francisco over its World Series drought than what Big Media gave us, ad nauseum, from overly serious Boston and self-important "Red Sox Nation."
• West Coat Bias needs to create a P.O. box.
I'm anticipating a flood of handwritten apologies from Giants fans. You're still celebrating, I know, so there's no rush. Over the last year, whenever I wrote anything nice about your manager Bruce Bochy, you let me know how misguided I was. Bochy was overly devoted to veterans, you said (stiffs like Edgar Renteria, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell). He failed to comprehend that John Bowker was better than Andres Torres. He and his boss, Brian Sabean, were dinosaurs.
Please include a return address. Thank you, WCB.
• If Pat Dobson were alive, he'd raise a beer in honor of the Giants and friends "Sabes" and "Boch."
Dobson, a former Giants scout, died of leukemia in 2006 shortly after recommending that Sabean hire Bochy. Best known as one of four pitchers to win 20 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 1971, Dobson long scouted the National League West, came to admire Bochy's managerial skills and especially liked how Bochy ran his Padres pitching staffs. When the Padres' front office of Sandy Alderson and Kevin Towers blamed San Diego's playoff ouster in 2006 on Bochy, "Dobber" and the rival Giants were thrilled to hire him.
• Sabean is likely the least surprised exec in baseball regarding Bochy's success.
"He's the same guy; he's just getting more credit," Sabean told FanHouse before Game 5 of the World Series. "Bobby Cox says he's one of the more formidable guys he managed against. We all know how he is at handling pitching. He had that reputation in San Diego. And now he's getting the credit he deserves for handling the whole ballclub."
• When Tony La Russa's Cardinals failed to qualify for the playoffs, Bochy's primary nemesis was out of the way.
The La Russas won Division Series against Bochy's Padres in 1996, 2005 and 2006 and lost only one of the 10 games. Bochy otherwise is 5-1 in the postseason, including four upset victories.
Towers, who remains a friend, said Bochy's tactics were LaRussa-like in the NL playoffs.
• The Giants should spray champagne on the mound at their ballpark.
The move in 2000 from cold, windy Candlestick Park to a comfortable downtown home sparked a surge in fan support and revenues that has held fairly firm, even post-honeymoon and during the Great Recession. Giants president Larry Baer said the new ballpark revealed a "latent, underlying affinity for baseball, for the Giants,.a latent bubbling of support."
Sometimes the money-rich Giants acted like rubes at a Vegas casino, like when they gave $120 million to Barry Zito and $60 million to Aaron Rowand, but when other clubs deemed Buster Posey a tad expensive, Giants scouting chief John Barr drafted him and signed him for $6.1 million, an investment that now looks like a pittance.
* San Francisco voters were vindicated for refusing to subsidize a new ballpark.
When Bob Lurie's ownership group threatened to move the Giants to Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg in the early 1990s, Peter Magowan's group bought the club, kept it in San Francisco and, largely through private money, built the bayside ballpark.
"Getting it done privately was critical," Baer said. "Our research showed that, in the city and county of San Francisco, 75 percent of people (polled) said Giants should get a new ballpark and equally 75 percent said they didn't want to pay for it."
Now, the team that's in St. Petersburg -- the Tampa Bay Rays-- wants a new stadium for itself, but (surprise) doesn't appear willing to foot the bill to the extent Magowan's group did. Meanwhile over in South Florida, the Marlins are building a ballpark heavily financed with public money, debt from which could pose big problems in years ahead for local government.
• Now that Alderson is in charge of the Mets, there's more reason to listen to Mets radio shows.
His weekly appearance on the Padres' flagship radio station were bizarrely captivating. The brainy Alderson, who was CEO of Padres from early 2005 to early 2009, came off as Star Trek's Mr. Spock. Confounded by his dispassionate point of view, angry fans came off as "Bones" McCoy, Star Trek's emotional chief medical officer. When Alderson drifted out of his area of expertise, like when he detailed what approach Padres hitters should have with two strikes, the show drifted into the theater of the absurd. Nonetheless his dry humor and candor were a plus, such as when he noted the Cubs last won the World Series during the Revolutionary War.
• Mets corporate culture soon could undergo a sea change.
Under the Wilpons, the Mets created a culture of "collegiality," which blurred the lines of accountability and often frustrated those who believed in a chain of command. Alderson is a former Marine who will establish a chain of command, although his decision with the Padres to have top aide Paul DePodesta report to him rather than Towers created dysfunction in San Diego's front office.
"No. 1 with Sandy is, it's leadership, leadership, leadership," said A's scouting and development man Grady Fuson, who worked for Alderson in both Oakland and San Diego. "I see Sandy as the perfect person to go in there and make a difference."
• Expect Alderson to shake up the Mets' scouting departments.
Industry insiders doubt that New York's "Old School" scouting leaders will mesh with Alderson, who wants scouts to have an awareness of analytics. The Mets also have an unusually large farm system that Alderson may attempt to streamline.
• This fall is a time of renewal for two former first-round draft picks who are on the comeback trail.
"Jarrod Parker looks awesome -- throwing 95 (mph) and looks like he could be up with us next year," Towers, the Diamondbacks' GM, said of Arizona's top prospect who had Tommy John surgery last October. Drafted by the Padres third overall in 2009 but sidelined several times by injuries, center fielder Donavan Tate was MVP of San Diego's instructional league. Tate, who signed for $5.5 million, is now in the club's instructional league in the Dominican Republic. The Padres place American-born prospects there to give them an appreciation for players from poor countries and their hunger to succeed.
• San Francisco was home to not only Woodstock Generation but a good baseball team in the 1960s.
Did you know the Giants won more games in the 1960s than any other National League club, averaging more than 90 wins per year? When Cincinnati's Big Red Machine got going in 1970, the Giants actually had the better offense, one that led the NL in runs (5.13). Today's Giants are loaded in homegrown pitching thanks largely to superscout Dick Tidrow, who did it the pure way in drafting and signing pitchers such as Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez and Brian Wilson without bonuses that distorted the market for their drafting slots. How's this for a collection of homegrown hitters -- Hall of Famers Mays, McCovey and Cepeda; the Alous, Jim Ray Hart, Dick Dietz and Ken Henderson; and young slugger George Foster, dealt to the Reds in May 1971.