We all knew it was coming. There were multiple reports within the past 24 hours that extensions for Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy would be made public within 24 hours, and that’s exactly what happened.
San Francisco Giants President and CEO Larry Baer today announced that the team has extended the contracts of Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Sabean and Field Manager Bruce Bochy through the 2016 season, with options for both in 2017. Terms of the agreements were not disclosed.
Sabean is in his 17th year as the Giants’ GM, the longest-tenured man in the sport holding that position. As the Giants’ press release states, “Bochy recently completed his 18th-consecutive year as a big league skipper, the longest stint by an active manager.” Always nice to get the word “skipper” in there whenever possible. Six of those 18 years have been in San Francisco. While Bochy has compiled a 503-469 (.517) regular season mark with the Giants, his teams have averaged 90 wins over the past four seasons and gone 22-9 in postseason play and 8-1 in the World Series.
We all know Sabean so well by now (phrases like “kick the tires” and “due dilligence” immediately come to mind, and then there’s the legendary RAZR flip phone), but he has changed his stripes slightly in the years A.B. (After Bonds). It took a while for Sabean to realize that after steroid testing went into effect players simply got old, not old and better at the same time. After relapsing a bit back into the veteran love in 2011, the Giants have given more rope to younger players like Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt — that may be why Nick Noonan has a good shot to make the roster as the last infielder, instead of a retread like Wilson Valdez.
The Giants are even utilizing modern forms of statistical analysis more than ever before, something Wendy Thurm detailed recently.
Hiring John Barr certainly helped get the Giants some youthful position players worth making room for. Bochy has had help as well in the form of a great coaching staff, particularly on the pitching side with Dave Righetti (who’d be “Sir Dave Righetti” by now if he was the pitching coach for the Yankees, he’s so good) and Mark Gardner, one of the underrated “good Giants” as Mike Krukow might say. Part of being a good manager is finding and keeping talent, and then listening to them.
“In my opinion Bruce is the best manager in the game today and is on his way to a Hall of Fame career,” said Sabean. “Bruce’s ability to communicate with his players, his outstanding coaching staff and the front office, as well as his ability to brilliantly manage a game sets him apart from the rest. It has been a pleasure to work with him for the past six years and I look forward to the coming years ahead.”
The word that’s instantly noticeable is “communicate,” which in my opinion is the reason why the Giants have been this successful and also why Sabean’s and Bochy’s extensions get announced at the same time.
Sabean has a gruff demeanor, but he will answer nearly every question he faces directly and honestly (just don’t ask about potential trades). The more I cover the team, the more in awe I am of what Bochy faces on a daily basis: pregame dugout media session, interview with Jon Miller, postgame media session, and then he also has a team to run and games to manage.
Because the season is so long, statistics tell a more complete story in baseball than perhaps any other sport. But inside that story is Bochy accumulating information from and conveying information to his players and coaches. All of that goes to Sabean, who makes decisions accordingly. I’ve told this story before, but when I first started getting access in August of 2011, the team was floundering. After a 7-0 loss to the Cubs, as we were making our way out of the clubhouse I smelled smoke. Sabean was sitting back in a chair in Bochy’s office with a giant cigar, and while neither man was happy there was a quiet calmness that I couldn’t help but notice, even though I only caught a glance of the scene as I was walking out the clubhouse door. Talk about an old school scene.
I wondered what they could’ve possibly been discussing (“Who to DFA? Who to call up?). Two days later, the Giants designated Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand for assignment, turning a necessary page for both men in how they adapted to a changing team and style of baseball in the (sort of) post-steroid era. Usually age and experience seems to go hand in hand with getting stuck in one’s ways, but the longer Sabean and Bochy have been together and the more they have communicated, they better they have become as a tandem. It’ll be interesting to see how much longer that remains the case.