So Much Awesome (or Some Thoughts on Leadership)

Many many great articles have already been written so please go and read these:

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I don’t have a whole lot to add to that. This was truly a team effort and there are so many great stories and characters, it can be difficult to know where to start. I spend a lot of time thinking, planning, and working to be a leader and to shape others to lead, so I want to talk about the leaders of this organization and team.

Brian Sabean. Sabean has taken loads of crap over the years, and some of it was very much deserved. I know I have been critical of him at times.

He still gets an anti-SABR rep in the press, and certainly many of us Giants fans would love to see more guys like Scutaro and Posey and Belt (meaning guys who can work counts, take walks, etc), but Sabean has mastered a very Moneyball-esque art form.

Moneyball, at its heart, is not about on-base-percentage, it is about finding value that other teams have overlooked. It just so happened that in the late 90’s/early 00’s OBP was the thing.

But in this day and age (an age where the Giants are paying 3 pitchers 20+ million dollars a year), the new OBP is the non-roster/minor league invitee. Remember, Juan Uribe was one of these guys. Pat Burrell was one of these guys. Andres Torres was one of these guys. Santiago Casilla was one of these guys. Last year it was Ryan Vogelsong. This year, add Ryan Theriot, Joaquin Arias, and Gregor Blanco to the list.

The other Moneyball principle that gets a lot of play is the importance of drafting and developing your own players. Free agency is costly and rich teams can afford to throw money around (and make and absorb bad signings). The “smarter” approach, and we’ve seen the A’s/Rays/Cardinals/etc do this to perfection, is to draft and develop guys.

Let me write some names down: Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Hector Sanchez.

And let’s not forget about the home-grown assets who have turned into Freddy Sanchez, Javier Lopez, Marco Scutaro, and Hunter Pence.

AND, we have yet to see what might happen next with Gary Brown, Francisco Peguero, Joe Panik, Heath Hembree, and several others who might be making an impact on this team in the near future.

So, does Sabean care about ERA+ and xFIP and WAR? Probably more than he cares to let on (although probably not as much as we like). But, he has been shrewd and wildly successful at several skills that are normally associated with the Moneyball crowd.

Most important of all, Sabean has led (and this is where my leadership radar goes off) a total organizational transformation. For the first decade of his tenure the Giants were planet Bonds and everyone not named Barry Lamar was just a moon in orbit. There were some great years and Sabean perfected the flawed art of building a team around one monstrous superstar.

But the better way is always pitching, pitching, pitching, and a total team philosophy. It’s easy to make fun of the “band of brothers” stuff, but this is exactly what the Yankees did in the late 90’s. Their payroll back then was nothing like it is today. They developed and drafted young stars, and they plugged the right guys in around them (seriously, who is going to take Scott Brosius over A-Rod in a fantasy draft. No one. But the Yankees won multiple championships with guys like him).

This is what the Cardinals have done for the past decade.

It’s what the A’s did a decade ago and are doing again right now.

And it’s what the Giants, under Brian Sabean’s leadership, have done for the past 4 years (more on this in a future post) better than anyone else in baseball.

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Bruce Bochy. I’ve written before about my reaction to the Bochy hiring. It was uninspiring. It lacked boldness and vision. It was typical Sabean.

It was pure genius.

I have come to love Bochy. He does some stuff in-season, especially with young players, that drives me crazy. Sabean had to trade Bengie Molina to force Boch to put Posey in the lineup. But that aside, Bochy is the perfect baseball manager.

I enjoyed Dusty Baker, but the rah-rah, emotionalism that he displayed (and continues to display) might endear him to some players, but it is not the strong, steady hand needed to navigate a long spring training, a long 162 game season, and a long post-season.

Sabean has said that Bochy has no doghouse and that is a whole leadership post waiting to be written right there.

He believes in his guys, he trusts his guys, and he is as steady as they come. Which makes him the perfect leader for a group of goofy characters who grow weird beards and throw crap on each other to get pumped up for the game.

AND, final thought, Bochy is a master of the bullpen and the best manager I have ever seen work with a lead.

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Which brings me to the last piece of the puzzle: Buster Posey. Buster was the only everyday player to be in the lineup for both clinching games (2010 and 2012). There are a number of remarkable things about that last sentence.

First, the dude is only 25 years old.

Second, that’s a lot of roster turnover (see my ode to Sabean above).

Third, he suffered an injury last year that could have ended his career. I don’t if people really get that. My wife is a physical therapist and she will tell  you that lower leg/ankle injuries are some of the hardest to come back from. Remember that Posey ran for the first time in February. We were all hoping for 100 games out of the guy. But he came back so well and so strong that I think a lot of us forgot that at this time last year he could barely walk.

And, it’s not like he’s a DH/1st basemen. He plays catcher, one of the most difficult positions to play in all of sports. I can’t quite summon the words to capture how unbelievable his year really was.

He played the whole season. He led MLB in batting. He will likely win the NL MVP. He carried the offense in the second half of the season. He led the pitching staff through some rough times back to dominance. He caught three intense, long, difficult post-season series.

Remember, it would have been awesome if he were simply able to play in these games, but then, to top it all off, he hits two of the biggest home runs in Giants’ history. A grand slam, of course, off Mat Latos and the Reds to end the NLDS, and then a huge 2-run job off Max Scherzer in the clinching game of the World Series.

You just knew there was no way the Giants win this without a big Buster hit and he delivered, tired as he was, with a towering, just fair home run into the misty night sky.

Because he’s Buster Posey.

He is a truly special, once in a generation player. And, he is a leader. Pence fired everyone up, Theriot and Wilson kept everyone loose, Marco Scutaro was inspirational, but Buster Posey led this team to a championship.

Barry Bonds was incredible to watch. I don’t know that I will ever see a better hitter in my life time. But Buster Posey is a baseball player and while it is still early in his career, he is one of the best players I have ever watched.

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So, there you go. 2 Championships in 3 years. I never, ever thought I would see something like this. So many years of Jose Cruz Jr., and rally monkeys, and JT Snow getting gunned down by a mile at home plate, and now we get a second parade. Unreal.

There will be posts coming comparing 2010 and 2012. There will be posts coming looking ahead to next year. There will be posts analyzing this team and making declarations about dynasties.

But, that is for another day. Enjoy this Giants’ fans!

(-SB)

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