Brian Sabean

The Bay Area, where nobody ever gets fired

You have to think we’re in for at least another year or two of having Brian Sabean as the general manager of the San Francisco Giants, increasing to what is already the longest tenure of any active GM in Major League Baseball. Aubrey Huff was signed before this season for far below what his market price is today. Ditto for Andres Torres, who costs even less. I thought the Giants would be the team to sign Pat Burrell to a 2-year, $16 million contract before last season, and Sabean’s getting his production for the prorated veteran’s minimum (and after his grand slam this afternoon, which capped one of the best weeks a Giants hitter has had this season, signing Burrell could be Sabes’ best move in the last five years). Buster Posey is as popular with the fans as he is with the marketing department, and all they had to do to add him was trade Bengie Molina for a dependable relief pitcher.

When you improve the team without noticeably increasing the payroll, your bosses will continue to give you contract extensions. And you have to think Bruce Bochy’s job is safe for the next couple years as well, provided there isn’t a team-wide collapse — which means the Giants will go into 2011 with only their third manager in 19 seasons.

You know what else helps these guys stay on for so long? The region they work in, which refuses to cut bait with management personnel until it’s completely unavoidable. Just look around you:

— Unless something shocking happens, the Warriors are going to roll into next season with a new boss for Don Nelson, Larry Riley and Robert Rowell, who will all — against heavy odds — still have jobs.

– Also in Oakland, Tom Cable still has a job after punching one of his assistants in the face. Cable replaced Lane Kiffin, who Al Davis only got rid of after Kiffin told every reporter who’d listen that he wanted out.

— Bob Geren’s parlayed a friendship with Billy Beane (who’s been around a while, but is starting to hear the backlash after a few losing seasons, several poor trades and the perception that he’s a little too into his own celebrity status) into a managerial job he’s held for four years, despite winning either 75 or 76 games in each of his first three seasons.

— The 49ers were forced to fire Mike Nolan earlier than they wanted to (but probably a year and a half too late) because word that they planned to can Nolan during the midseason bye week leaked out to the press. Scot McCloughan wasn’t exactly fired, he lost his job by doing something weird and forcing the Paraag Marathe’s hand … or something.

— The Sharks have had three coaches in the last 13 seasons, and their current coach will probably last at least another five the way things are going — not that that’s a bad thing, just that the lack of turnover is unusual anywhere except here.

Sure, there are the occasional Dennis Erickson-type situations here and there, but for the most part if you’re part of a professional sports franchise’s “brass,” on average you’ll have as long a leash here as anywhere else in the country.

So what’s the deal? It’s not like the area teams are afraid to cut ties with players (with a few exceptions, like Alex Smith). And fans around here LOVE bitching about coaches, managers, general managers and, err, general coaches. Is it the fact that the Bay Area ranks among the most tolerant in the country, at least when it comes to ethnic background, sexual orientation and inflated prices? Is it the fact that this is the only top-5 media market that only has one mainstream journalist under 60 who consistently bashes teams and the people who run them?

Or is it because we’re one of the more intelligent areas in the country, a place where knee-jerk reactions to perceived problems are rarer than places where… Oh, who am I kidding. The Bay Area isn’t that much smarter than everywhere else. Well, not as much as people like to say, anyway.

It’s probably a combination of the region’s tolerance, the relative softness of the MSM and the frugality of most of the owners, who’d rather give a bobble head to every fan than pay a coach or front office exec for not working. And unless you really can’t stand the idea of mediocre (or apathetic, in Nelson’s case) coaches and GMs fulfilling their contracts, it doesn’t really matter. But in a professional sports era where if a coach and player battle, the player wins nine times out of ten, the relative safety of management jobs around here is very strange.

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