Results tagged ‘ Juan Uribe ’

Sabean’s Strategy

Giants general manager Brian Sabean is honing a skill not innate to a baseball man who cut his teeth at the New York Yankees.

Patience.

“The market right now is as slow or slower than last year in developing,” he said during a break today from internal strategy meetings in preparation for next week’s winter meetings in Indianapolis.

“Whether teams are still getting their budgets together or what, the free agent market has yet to develop. Players and agents are slow to do anything. It’s a sign of the times.”

Sabean said the Giants last week offered a one-year deal to pitcher Brad Penny, and yesterday offered one year and an option to infielder Juan Uribe. Both offers were declined. “At this time I’m not sure there will be further discussion,” Sabean said. (He said veteran catcher Bengie Molina probably has been offered a multi-year deal by another team, essentially guaranteeing he would not return to the Giants.)

Sabean’s strategy in building the 2010 team boils down to three basic – but difficult — questions:

How can the Giants maximize the talent they already have?

What can be accomplished on the free-agent market?

Are there smart trades to be made – and what homegrown talent is the team willing to give up in order to secure valuable immediate help (such as a bigger bat in the lineup)?

“What we’re doing right now – to get a bat, to figure out the catching situation, everything – is due diligence,” Sabean said.

In other words, there is no magic formula. No shortcuts. No blockbuster, bold-headline quick fixes. Just hours and days and weeks of poring over scouting reports and statistics, working the phones and updating the huge erasable boards with lists of free agents and players likely the trading block, plus evaluating in every possible way the Giants’ own prospects. (Who among them will blossom into big-impact major-leaguers, and when?)

“In a perfect world, you’d love to have (Madison) Bumgarner and (Buster) Posey burst on the scene,” Sabean said. “But you don’t want to rush them. So you keep at it, at the grindstone, and be ready when the best opportunities pop.”

There might be interesting “secondary free agents,” Sabean said, “but maybe that doesn’t make as much sense as giving our own kids a chance. We have to continue to identify what we really have internally and not count on the outside world.”

Sabean mentioned two “burning questions” for the Giants:

If the Giants don’t get Penny and instead bring up Bumgarner, their top pitching prospect, they will have a particularly young starting rotation. So what do you do about the bullpen? Do you counterbalance that with a more veteran bullpen and, say, bring Bob Howry back?

What position does Pablo Sandoval play? If he stays at third, what options are available to upgrade the situation at first base outside the organization?

“In the past, we’ve been more aggressive,” Sabean said. “But we’re willing to go at the pace of the marketplace and show more patience. Trades don’t have to be made at the winter meetings. So people shouldn’t read anything into it if nothing happens in Indianapolis. It’s just not a very sexy market at this time.

“But we’ll come home with more information. It’s a fact-finding mission to figure out who matches up with us in terms of free-agent interest. We’ll have a clearer picture of trade scenarios. We’ll find who our partners might be and how we can do business.”

Chat with Giants’ GM Sabean:

Brian Sabean will participate in a live Web chat from the Major League Baseball winter meetings in Indianapolis on Wednesday, December 9 at 1 p.m. PT. Fans are invited to chat with the GM about his goals for the club during the week’s Winter Meetings. To participate in the chat, please register at: 

http://mlb.mlb.com/fan_forum/chat.jsp

Off-Season – But Not Time Off

Giants batting coach Hensley “Bam-Bam” Meulens is wasting no time diving into his new job. He has gathered John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa, Nate Schierholtz and minor-league first baseman Brett Pill for a six-day hitting clinic at AT&T starting on Monday. Then he’ll fly down to Venezuela with Bowker, who will play winter ball in that country’s extremely competitive league. Schierholtz is going to Puerto Rico. (I’m not sure yet what the other two are doing.)

I’ll try to grab some time with Meulens during a break in the action on Monday and share what I learn.

I’m going down to Arizona on Tuesday with some of the video guys from the Giants. We’ll be checking in with Pablo Sandoval, who is in the midst of his own personal conditioning camp with team trainers.

Pablo ended his spectacular season with the second-best batting average in the National League (.330), 3rd in doubles (44), 4th in hits (189), 6th in total bases (318) and slugging percentage (.556), 7th in extra base hits (74). But he wants to get better, so he has committed himself not only to developing a new regimen of physical exercise but also to learning how to eat healthy. He also wants to work on improving his English pronunciations and educate himself about Facebook and blogging – all for the purpose of communicating and connecting more with the fans.

Got a text-message from Tim Lincecum earlier this week. He’s in Seattle right now visiting family but will be back in SF next week and will stay through the winter. He, too, is developing a workout regimen to get even stronger. He seems to be all-muscle already – his percentage of body fat has got to be almost zero. So I’m not sure what exactly he wants to improve. I hope to chat with him when he’s back in town and will let you know.

The Giants held a three-hour meeting Wednesday of the entire staff. They went over highlights of the 2009 season and laid out plans and goals for 2010. (Orange Fridays are coming back!) There was particular focus, as you might imagine, on improving offensive production, including a better on-base percentage and a more consistent one-through-five batting lineup. Brian Sabean’s staff talked of identifying possible trades or free-agent signings. Any trade, managing general partner Bill Neukom explained, would have to meeting the following criteria:

· Does this player significantly improve the team’s win-loss record?

· How much money will he cost?

· How much talent do the Giants give up for him?

· Does this player’s arrival thwart the progress of a top homegrown prospect?

· Does this player fit in with the team chemistry?

What struck me most, though, in the meeting was how much was accomplished in 2009 – and what a great foundation it provides for next season and beyond.

Some 2009 facts that stand out:

· Best home record in the NL and improved overall record by 16 wins over 2008.

· Best starting rotation in baseball (fewest runs allowed, most shutouts and most strikeouts). Lincecum led the league in strikeouts for the second consecutive year, was the 2009 All-Star Game starting pitcher and again was named NL Sporting News Pitcher of the Year.

· Bullpen strength: Jeremy Affeldt led the NL in holds (33) and Brian Wilson tied for third in the NL in saves (38).

· Great team chemistry: This team – in particular, the relatively unknown group of young players — won the hearts of the fans. And they did so by working hard day in and day out and playing with excitement and energy. As a result, Giants’ attendance stayed nearly the same this year from last year – even in a down economy — and the team set record television ratings (up 37 percent on Comcast over 2008). The veterans were fantastic with the young guys – everyone from Randy Johnson to Edgar Renteria to Juan Uribe stepped up as unofficial mentors and teachers.

· The deepening pool of emergent talent: Five of the Giants’ seven minor-league teams reached the championship game in their respective leagues (three teams won championships). The Giants’ affiliates combined for the best record among all major-league organizations. Catcher Buster Posey was named Topps/Minor League Player of the Year. Others, such as Madison Bumgarner, Roger Kieschnick and Brandon Crawford, established themselves as exceptional prospects. This is a great sign that the Giants’ investment in the farm system is paying off.

· Valuable late-season experience: Playing meaningful baseball in September gave younger players a foundation on which they can build in the seasons to come.

Here’s something else from the meeting that I loved, though it has nothing to do with baseball. The Giants made a real commitment to making AT&T the greenest ballpark in the country. In 2008, it managed to recycle 40 percent of all the garbage and other waste. In 2009, it recycled 67 percent. Pretty amazing.

More next week.

The Art of Chemisty

Before the All-Star break, I was talking to Aaron Rowand about Juan Uribe. Uribe is such a popular guy in the clubhouse, and I knew almost nothing about him. Rowand and Uribe had played together in Chicago.

“He’s always laughing,” Rowand said. “He likes messing with everybody.”

Rowand was standing in the dugout before batting practice. Pablo Sandoval bounded up the steps past us and onto the field. Then Jeremy Affeldt. And Tim Lincecum. 

“When you look at this team, we have guys who like to have fun,” Rowand said. “They’re there to play baseball, but they know how to fun, too.”

I asked him how important that is. Some people dismiss chemistry as a factor in a team’s success. If you have talent, you win, no matter how well or poorly the players got along. Did Rowand think chemistry matters?

“Absolutely,” he said.

And on this Giants team, he said, the chemistry has been evolving since the start of spring training.

“When you’re putting a team together, it’s not just about quality players. It’s about quality people, too,” he said. “There’s the personality factor. If you don’t get along, it’s tough to play together on the field. I think unless you’ve played sports at a high level it might be hard to understand how much (good chemistry) means to playing well on the field. If everyone’s going their separate ways, that can’t help you play together as a team on the field.

“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Brian Sabean for putting the rights guys together. We have guys here who are just coming into their own – Matty, Timmy, Brian Wilson. Then you add in guys who bring intensity, like Randy Johnson.

“He’s been wonderful for the guys in here. He’s intense but he’ll laugh, joke around. He’s not what we expected. We’re very pleasantly surprised how personable he is with his teammates. We all feel really lucky to part of one of the biggest games of his career.

“There’s no measurement for chemistry,” Rowand said, “but it’s big. It’s bigger than I think people realize.”

(If you haven’t already seen it, look at the story on the front page of USA Today today (July 16) by Jorge Ortiz. It’s all about chemistry, in particular how much fun the Giants are having this season.)

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