"The problem's upstairs. The Mariners will never win with Bill Bavasi."
"The problem's upstairs. The Mariners will never win with Jack Zduriencik."
"The problem's upstairs. The Mariners will never win with Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong."
So often we've heard those things. Maybe not the second one very much, but definitely the first, and definitely the last. So many people seem to believe with all their hearts that thestand no chance of winning a World Series for as long as they keep their current CEO and COO. Those two people don't understand how to build a championship team, they say, and until they disappear, the M's are doomed to an existence of wasteful inadequacy.
Thewon with Brian Sabean. Your argument is invalid.
It's not that Brian Sabean's a complete idiot. A complete idiot might be able to manage a championship team, but he won't be able to build one. But Brian Sabean is very clearly flawed. Brian Sabean has very clearly screwed up. And here we are, with Brian Sabean holding more World Series trophies as a general manager than Jack Zduriencik or Billy Beane or Paul DePodesta or Mark Shapiro have ever held.
Brian Sabean, who gave $126m to Barry Zito.
Brian Sabean, who gave $60m to Aaron Rowand.
Brian Sabean, who rode Barry Bonds to respectability, and who became the butt of snarky jokes once Bonds faded away. Brian Sabean, who would seemingly stop at nothing to build a team full of baseball players as old as he was.
Brian Sabean - that Brian Sabean - is a championship-winning general manager. It was Brian Sabean who hit all the right notes and played by far the biggest part in constructing the roster that just took down thein four games, the in six, and the in five. It's Brian Sabean who gets to fly home and think "fuck the critics, I'm awesome" while chuckling to himself the whole time, and while many of the critics were right when they spoke and made compelling, factual arguments, it doesn't matter, not now, because Brian Sabean won a World Series by doing things the Brian Sabean way. He's earned the right to chuckle.
So often, when we talk about the moves a front office does and doesn't make, we talk about them like they're absolutely critical. Like there's so little room for error, and one slip-up might mean the difference between making the playoffs and missing out. One slip-up can mean the difference between making the playoffs and missing out. But you don't know, and because you don't know, there's no sense in acting like a front office needs to be perfect. A front office doesn't need to be perfect. A front office can win a World Series with one hundred and eighty-six million dollars committed to Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand.
If everything were the same, and everyone acted optimally and players always played to their projections, mistakes would be devastating. Mistakes would set you back, relative to the mean. This is why we make such a big deal out of moves we don't like. But what this leaves out is that everything doesn't go according to plan. There's a big, flashing variable in there. A big, flashing, lucky variable. Luck. Or, if you don't like the word 'luck', unpredictability. Sometimes things will happen that you don't see coming, and while that doesn't serve as the great equalizer, it does help to balance some things out.
The Mariners, for example, will never have the best combination of resources and intelligence in baseball. They won't. Not as long as teams like the Javier Vazquez turns into a giant pile of crap. Sometimes Edgar Renteria hits really big home runs. What! That's all it is. Baseball is two parts I-saw-that-coming, and three parts What!and are around. The Mariners will forever be operating at a disadvantage. But that eternal disadvantage isn't damning because of that very unpredictability that's always coming into play. Sometimes
Brian Sabean is a flawed general manager with a long track record of questionable moves. And what he and his team showed in 2010 is that all you really need is a core. With guys like Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, and Matt Cain hanging around, the core was in place. The rest was simply a matter of filling out the roster with young guys, vets, and cast-offs. That's what Sabean did, and we just saw the result. Some of the young guys stepped up. Some of the vets stepped up. Some of the cast-offs stepped up. The Giants won the Series.
On the one hand, it's frustrating, because you could argue that a number of other teams were in a better position coming into the year than the Giants were. Why should they be the ones who get to celebrate? But on the other hand, there's just so much hope in what they were able to do. If you're a decent team with a solid core, who knows? You might find an Aubrey Huff. You might find an Edgar Renteria. You might find a Cody Ross by accident.
Despite all of the numbers and all of the calculations that go into formulating some really good, really advanced projection systems, the fact of the matter is that, in any given season, pretty much any team could win the World Series. The Mariners could've rallied around Felix, Cliff Lee, and Ichiro. The could've rallied around Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, and David DeJesus. The could've rallied around Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam Dunn. They didn't, of course, but they could have. It was within their range of possible outcomes. Just as this was within the range of the Giants'. Any team. It's *possible*.
A lot of weird moves led the Giants into and through this season - a season in which they were projected by most to be something like a .500 team. At no point did the Giants look like a potential top contender until they became one. In the end, they delivered to so many fans the happiest night of their lives.
Keep that in mind as we head into the winter. None of us think the Mariners are going to fly through this offseason and emerge as playoff darlings. We all figure there'll be a long climb back up, and the team won't really come into its own until 2012 or 2014, if it can get there at all with the people in charge. And the probability says that that's true. But then, 2011 comes next. And, who knows?