Since the New York Yankees won 3 straight World Series from 1998-2000 no team has been able to repeat even once.
I’ve written about my theory as to why this is true here, here, and here. Basically, it goes something like this: a team adds more pitching to a good team and is able to win the World Series, only to see a drop off the following year. That drop is usually due to not adding MORE pitching to help sustain the level of success seen in the championship year.
Of course, this is a simplified theory. There are probably a lot of reasons team’s struggle to repeat including the new CBA, complacency, injuries, the marked improvement of some other team, and the signficant fact that WINNING A WORLD SERIES IS REALLY HARD TO DO.
The Giants are outliers to my theory for a couple of reasons. The 2010 team pitched as dominantly as the 2009 and 2011 versions. The biggest difference there was Buster Posey. Again, a simplified explanation, but also true. When Buster played they won, when he wasn’t in the lineup they struggled.
The Giants saw a drop off occur in their pitching after the 2011 season. Simplified theory, part 2: Tim Lincecum started to suck. 2014 saw the team improve relative to the 2012-2013 versions, but it still is a ways off from where they were before.
I write all of this as a backdrop to the conflict I feel in my soul about Pablo Sandoval. Here are two links (one and two) that will tell you about the Pablo rumors swirling, just in case you’re still in World Series mode.
Now, somewhere in the bowels of Giants’ headquarters there is a white board with three columns on it. One column is labeled Left Field, another Third Base, and the final Starting Pitcher(s).
Underneath each header is a list of names of baseball players. Based on the Giants’ history and preferences I am almost certain that there are the following names at the top of each column: Alex Rios in LF (followed by Michael Morse, and internal options), Pablo Sandoval in 3B (followed by Chase Headley, Alberto Callaspo, and internal options), and Ervin Santana, Jake Peavy, Francisco Liriano, Ryan Vogelsong, and a long list of other names under SP(s).
There are some years and dollar figures next to each name and there’s a scrolling feature for each column that allows Brian Sabean and the brain trust to mix and match, like a lock tumbler.
Of course there are a myriad options for the crew to consider: Peavy at 2 year, $15 million allows us to do x, y, and z, and so on it goes.
But, at the end of the day, there are two plans: Life With Pablo and Life Without Pablo.
And if I’m sitting in those meetings I can go either way.
Life With Pablo
Life with Pablo is going to take at least 5 years and it is going to cost at least $85 million. I’d be happy with that, but it’s probably going to take more than that and each dollar/year higher than this makes me incredibly uncomfortable.
But there are so many reasons to go there. People love Pablo. He puts butts in seats, and this is no small thing, especially for this group of owners. He is the most marketable/recognizable Hispanic player in a market that needs to be relevant to Hispanic fans.
Then there’s the reality that Pablo represents who the Giants are in many ways. You look at him and wonder “how does this work?” And yet it does. And that’s how A LOT of people look at this team and the run of the last 6 years.
He also is the embodiment (ha ha) of the kind of hitting approach that the Giants have used so successfully the last two championships: see pitches, make the pitchers work, foul stuff off, put the bat on the ball, put the ball in play, makes something happen.
The stat heads freak out about this kind of stuff, but if Posey is the steady hand at the wheel, and if Pence is the spiritual leader, Pablo is the heart and soul of this team. It is difficult to quantify that. His contract might detract from other future moves or prove to be a bummer at the end of the deal, but if there really is a three-year window of opportunity, Pablo helps you win in that window.
Life with Pablo probably means bringing back Ryan Vogelsong. Not that he’s a bad guy, but that’s the extent of the pitching reinforcements that Giants fans will see.
Life with Pablo means essentially running out the same team that you saw this year and hoping for some rebounds from Cain, Lincecum, etc, and while it’s possible it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
This is where my non-sentimental, logical baseball guy comes out.
The best way for the Giants to repeat next year is to reinforce the starting rotation. Most championship teams add pitching, or have pitching emerge over the course of the season that leads to an improved run production. This phenomenon is more predictive of success than offense, and correlates more to the actual results than how well the team’s offense produces year to year.
All that to say, the Giants are in a great position to repeat because most of their core lineup is in tact, which means they can invest their limited resources in pitching.
If they were to add even one quality starting pitcher, in addition to a fully restored Matt Cain, they would be well on their way to seeing a significant uptick in their pitching production.
So, logic would dictate that the best plan is:
Life Without Pablo
Life without Pablo would mean enough resources to go after several quality pitching options. The Giants could do a larger deal with Ervin Santana (who I think would flourish at AT&T). The Giants could do multiple deals with Francisco Liriano and Ryan Vogelsong. Or Liriano and a high risk/high reward type like Brett Anderson.
Life without Pablo would mean Gregor Blanco, starting left fielder. It would mean going cheap at third base. Alberto Callaspo? Adam Duvall? Matt Duffy? I’m not sure, but something along those lines. (Although the teams says there are no internal options).
Life without Pablo could also mean the return of Sergio Romo, who they would be able to pay, and who would be very important for relevance in the Hispanic market.
A part of me will die if Pablo goes to Boston or to the Dodgers (especially the Dodgers, who could also steal Romo, by the way).
The Giants have a lot of interesting options coming up through the system for the outfield, but there doesn’t appear to be anything compelling happening at third base. It’s such a rare thing in baseball these days to have a core guy play third base as well as Pablo does while hitting clean up. Even if he’s fat, it seems worth it.
But, those pitching numbers are hard to deny. And if the Giants could add two good options to the rotation for the price of a Panda how do they not do it? (For the record, whatever the Giants do I really, really want them to gamble on Brett Anderson. And I get very excited by the potential upside of Liriano and Anderson).
Life with Pablo is about stability and praying that someone (Lincecum, Petit, someone) steps up and boosts the staff from within. Life without Pablo is about adding the pitching reinforcements a team needs to make a strong run at repeating.
I can be convinced either way.
What should the Giants do?