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Kevin Gray's On Baseball: Concord's Sabean does it again
San Francisco Giants' Marco Scutaro celebrates the MVP award on the field after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Monday. (Gary Reyes/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)
How long has Brian Sabean been San Francisco’s general manager? So long he can remember a pre-Hulking Barry Bonds on his payroll.
The Concord native, who took over as GM in 1996, has guided the Giants to six postseason berths and three World Series appearances. San Francisco overcame significant setbacks this season — reliever Brian Wilson of Londonderry and hitting machine Melky Cabrera, for instance — and still won 94 games to capture the National League West.
No wonder Sabean is the longest-serving GM in baseball today. The Giants win with home-grown youngsters such as Madison Bumgarner (age 23) and Buster Posey (25), and they win with mid-season acquisitions such as Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence. The 56-year-old “Sabes,” who broke into pro baseball as a scout with the Yankees, always finds a way.
Scutaro, named the National League Championship Series MVP after collecting 14 hits, is the San Francisco version of Cody Ross from 2010. Sabean acquired Ross on a waiver claim in August 2010, and the outfielder’s power swing led the Giants past the Phillies and into the 2010 Fall Classic. Now the architect of the Giants can win his second World Series title in three years. Game 1 between the Giants and Tigers is tonight (8) at San Francisco’s AT&T Park.
“It’s been a unique second half, kind of a tale of two seasons. We’ve been through a lot,” Sabean said at mlb.com. “I don’t know if these guys want to win as much as they hate to lose. That’s a powerful thing.”
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, looking to rebuild around his core players, could look to a fellow Granite Stater for a winning blueprint. The Giants’ winning formula? Build from within, establish quality starting pitching and fill the gaps with quality, high-character free agents.
Entering the season, with San Francisco’s rotation mostly set for 2012, Sabean stocked the bullpen by re-signing lefties Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez and trading for outfielder Angel Pagan. Pence and Scutaro were the final major pieces. Posey and third baseman Pablo Sandoval are the only significant position players from the 2010 World Series champs.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who works closely with Sabean during the off-season, played a big part in revamping the roster.
“Brian and I talk about the club all the time, whether it’s offseason, during the season, on ways we can improve it, and Brian does ask me my thoughts,” Bochy said. “Ultimately, it’s going to be his call on acquiring players or making trades, but he certainly includes me and the staff at times. He’s done a tremendous job of helping us get to this point with our new faces like Scutaro and Pence. Brian’s always done that ... He’ll do all he can to help us win. We know it. We appreciate it, and it’s nice to have that every year when you’re in a situation to get to the postseason.”
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Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @graymatter11.