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thank you, brian sabean

Some baseball analysts have begun reevaluating Giants general manager Brian Sabean in the wake of two World Series titles in three years. I suppose I should do the same.

Sabean has never seemed comfortable with modern analytics. This might be partly for show, but his disregard for on-base percentage was never a good sign. His signings often seemed reactive, as if he were competing with himself. The team wanted Barry Zito, and Sabean offered Zeets so much that they got their man, with the biggest problem being not the salary but the length of the contracts. Sabes at times acted like a ADD kid in a candy shop. A player would have his first good year in awhile, and Sabean would grab him up with a deal that extended well into the player’s 30s.

His supporters usually argued that there were always mitigating circumstances. Sabean didn’t want Zito, the owners did, so he went along. Sabean didn’t want to try and win with Barry Bonds and a cast of old-timers, but the owners did, so he put together the best teams he could given the albatross that was Bonds. (That anyone thought Bonds was an albatross is for another day … suffice to say, they’re looney.) Sabean went against current trends when he’d grab old players, and that’s “Moneyball” 101: go for undervalued talent. If everyone else was figuring out that guys in their 30s were overpriced, those guys would become underpriced, and Sabes would clean up. This often worked … Ellis Burks in particular comes to mind.

So, did Sabean see the light in the last few years? Has he come to love OBP? Has he quit chasing after geezers? Probably, not likely, no.

They had a decent OBP this season, but that was more batting average than walks. It was regularly noted that the Giants “put the ball in play”, and it’s true, among other things, the Giants’ hitters struck out fewer times than all but one NL team. As for the geezers, I suppose he broke even. Scutaro was terrific, of course, although it’s worth remembering that Sabean had to go get a 2B because he’d somehow decided in April that Ryan Theriot was the answer. Aubrey Huff made $10 million because of a sentimental contract he got after 2010.

What was more noteworthy was that a lot of younger hitters were given a chance. But, not to be crotchety, here, too, Sabean was hit-and-miss. Did it take much acumen to know that Buster Posey was good, or that Pablo Sandoval was capable of great things? He (and Bochy … it’s hard to know who does what) decided to go with Brandon Crawford at SS, and he never did hit, but his glove was good. Brandon Belt did hit, but I don’t know that Sabean/Bochy should be congratulated for “giving him a chance”, considering how much he was fucked with.

The pitching was fine. Sabean has always built good bullpens, and this was no exception. The starting pitching had some ups and down, but three of the starters were good, and while Lincecum was awful, I don’t blame that on Sabean.

It’s no longer enough to say Sabean is lucky. Two World Series in three years deserves respect. How did he do it? Figuring that out is a lot harder than it was identifying what he did wrong in previous years. Four of the main offensive and defensive contributors were homegrown: Posey, Belt, Crawford, and Sandoval. The same goes for much of the rotation, as well as Romo (and Brian Wilson, for that matter). This is a far cry from the days when Sabean would purposely give up draft picks, and may be the single most important reason why things are better now.

And once you finally build a base from your system (pitching AND hitting), then you can start filling spots with the likes of Melky and Pagan and Scutaro and most of the bullpen. Those were things Sabean always did well.

I’m not coming to any brilliant conclusion here. I know Sabean has had the last laugh, and to his credit, he never gloats, although inside he must love being right, in the midst of so much criticism from the lunatic fringe. Every general manager has good and bad points. In Sabean’s case, his bad points were so obvious, and so aggravating, that they overwhelmed my ability to see the bigger picture. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment has been to finally convince people like me to accept his good qualities, as well.

i guess the door will never close

When something happens for the first time, you don’t know what to do. When something happens for the second time, you can start traditions.

This is what I posted in 2010. I’m posting it again. Call it a tradition.

The Other Side of the Door

A little more than 8 years ago, the Giants were 8 outs away from winning the World Series, and had a five-run lead. A bit later, they were 6 outs away, and had a two-run lead. Four batters after that, they fell behind in Game Six, lost the game, lost Game Seven, and watched the Anaheim Angels celebrate their first World Series championship.

After watching Game Six, and seeing our hopes fade into dust, I wrote the following post on this blog, which wasn’t even a year old:

There was a woman I knew long ago named Debi. I met her when I lived with my brother in Capitola, and we got to be better friends later when I moved to Bloomington, Indiana for a year ... she lived there, too. After coming back to California to go to school, I returned to Bloomington for about a month in December of '72. A bunch of us stayed with friends Greg and Sandy, who had a pretty big house. Debi and I and another guy named David would sleep in the living room; my ex-girlfriend Pat had her own room; and, of course, Greg and Sandy had their own bedroom.

Debi was an interesting person, but she was also quite probably clinically insane. This meant that sometimes she was kinda off in another world, but it also meant sometimes she said just the thing that everyone was thinking, when the rest of us were silent out of some notion of social propriety.

I can still remember, some 30 years later, an evening when we'd all had a fine time getting fucked up and doing whatever it was we did back then. Greg and Sandy headed off to bed. As they closed the bedroom door, Debi looked after them with longing and said, "just once, I'd like to be on the other side of that door."

I thought of Debi tonight, as I watched the Giants blow the World Series.

Debi, if you’re out there tonight, the door is open.

who i side with

I went to the website and took their poll, the point of which is to tell you which candidate you side with. Here are the results … the first parenthesis tells the candidate’s party, the second tells the issues where the candidate most matches my own opinions:

  1. Jill Stein (Green): 94% (immigration, healthcare, foreign policy, economy, environment)
  2. Rocky Anderson (Justice): 77%
  3. Barack Obama (Democrat): 76% (social, science)
  4. Gary Johnson (Libertarian): 73% (domestic)
  5. Virgil Goode (Constitution): 7% (none)
  6. Mitt Romney (Republican): 3% (none)

Listed by party (not sure where Justice and Constitution went):

  1. Democratic: 93%
  2. Green: 91%
  3. Libertarian: 57%
  4. Republican: 0%

From this, I learn that I agree with the Democrats more than I agree with President Obama. I also learn the unsurprising fact that I don’t agree with Romney and the Republicans on anything. Jill Stein is the easy winner, and I think we can reduce this to the following: do I vote for the candidate with whom I most agree, or do I vote for Obama?

It’s interesting that I agree with Democrats and Greens pretty much equally. I’m not as much of an anti-Democrat as I pretend.

Here’s the thing, while noting that since I’m in California, my vote doesn’t really matter. Before I took this goofy poll, I assumed the basic question was to vote my opinion, or to vote for the “realistic” candidate. I also assumed that I’d agree with the Greens on most issues (I used to be a member of their party). But I thought that Obama and the Democrats would end up somewhere under 50% in terms of agreeing with me. That’s a real “my person or real person” question, and I might not see the point in voting for someone with whom I agree with less than half the time.

But I agree with Obama 3/4 of the time, and with the Democrats even more than I agree with the Greens. So the choice becomes, not between the best and the lesser-of-two-evils, but between the best and the pretty good. Since the dark side of this would be a Mitt Romney presidency, and since there is more difference in my mind (according to this extremely unscientific poll) between Obama and Romney than there is between Obama and Stein, it seems clear that President Obama should get my vote. Because such a vote wouldn’t be tied to the “lesser of two evils” strategy, but would instead be a vote for someone I like quite a bit.

I wouldn’t have expected this.

music friday: bonnie raitt, “angel from montgomery”

There are various places where I can get a list of the music I’m listening to. is as good as any, since it’s been keeping track of music I play on the computer, mobile devices, and Internet radio over the years and the changes in software. It’s far from perfect, but it’s all I’ve got, if I want to find out not just what I think I like, but what I actually listen to.

I decided to do a Bonnie Raitt song for today’s Music Friday. First, I thought to pick my favorite of her songs, “Sweet and Shiny Eyes”, from her mostly-forgotten mid-70s album, Home Plate. Would have been timely, too … the cover of the album shows Bonnie sliding into home. That has long been my favorite of her songs. I then thought to pick one of her standards, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, which was introduced on Luck of the Draw, the album that was as good as everyone thought Nick of Time was. Finally, I thought to check out, and find out which of those two songs was my Most Played Bonnie Raitt Track.

The answer, of course, is neither. “Something” is #2, and “Sweet and Shiny Eyes” is tied for 9th. The Bonnie Raitt song I play most often is John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery”.

One reason for this is that “Angel” can be found in multiple places. There’s her first version, from Streetlights, which is where the song really had an impact on a larger audience than Prine had (he had recorded it for his debut album in 1971). She sang it at “No Nukes”. It closes off her fine live album, Road Tested. And it’s on most/all of her greatest hits packages. In short, it is likely to show up on shuffle play, if nothing else.

A lot of people have covered, and continue to cover, “Angel from Montgomery”. Heck, John Denver had a version that came out a year before Raitt’s. (I learned something from Wikipedia that’s far weirder than John Denver singing “Angel from Montgomery”. Apparently, the funk group Cameo, famous for the classic “Word Up”, “frequently performs a version of the song as a tribute to Prine's influence on their songwriting.”

Enough trivia, let’s get to the song. We saw Bonnie Raitt a couple of times, once in 1982 (Rosanne Cash opened), and once in … well, I don’t remember, but Prine was the opening act, which delighted us. As I recall (memory being untrustworthy), Prine came onstage to duet with Raitt on “Angel”. (One thing I remember much more clearly is the moment when Bonnie said she wanted to play one for the long-time fans, and out came our beloved “Sweet and Shiny Eyes”.) Here is Raitt singing it in 1974 (holy shit, that’s almost 40 years ago):

Here’s the Road Tested version (I think), with Prine joining in:

And, for good measure, “Sweet and Shiny Eyes”:

a vote for eleanor is a vote for fun

I’m looking at an election mailing from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. It explains how to do “Ranked-Choice Voting”, which will apparently be in effect in Berkeley this year. With this system, you select three candidates, in order of your preference, and then … well, let the calculations begin.

The Registrar kindly included a sample ballot, so we can see how it’s done. There are three columns for six candidates for Mayor. (There are actually seven rows, for six candidates and any write-in candidate you’d like to include. I’ll ignore that for now.)

Here are the six candidates for Mayor of Berkeley on the sample ballot:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Booker T. Washington
  • Diego Rivera
  • Arthur Miller
  • Shirley Horn
  • Bruce Lee

My first impulse is to choose a write-in candidate, so I can vote for someone who is still alive.

It’s interesting how the makers of this ballot cover as many bases as possible, like a crunchy-liberal English professor trying to make their syllabi more diverse. Four men, two women. Two white people, two African-Americans, a Mexican, and a Chinese-American. Two people who worked on political matters, a painter, a playwright, a musician, and an actor/martial artist.

The question is, given those six choices, who would you vote for as your first, second, and third choices? I’d love to assign this to a writing class. Roosevelt would probably win simply because her name is at the top. She’d be my choice. I guess I’d go Roosevelt, Washington, Lee. Reading those names like that, I feel very patriotic.

remember, there are ways to avoid buck/mccarver

And so another World Series begins.

I don’t have much to add to the onslaught of opinion out there. Most analysts seem to think the Tigers will win it, and I agree (although Joe Sheehan’s pretty smart, and he’s got the Giants in six). I think the Giants have made a couple of puzzling roster moves for the Series. Or rather, they haven’t made any moves … the Series roster remains the same as the one in the NLCS.

Which means Mota returns, and I really don’t get that one. Mota has made three appearances in the post-season this year. In the first, he faced two batters, giving up a leadoff single before striking out a batter. In the second, he entered in a blowout and snuck a strikeout between giving up a single, a double, and a triple. In the third, he gave up two runs in 2/3 IP. But it’s not just his poor performance so far … that could just be an example of Small Sample Size. It’s that he isn’t necessary. He is a righty reliever on a roster that already has Romo, Casilla, Kontos, and even Lincecum, along with three good lefties, at least one of whom gets righties out, as well. That makes Mota either the #4 righty reliever, or the #7 reliever, or the #12 pitcher. Even given Bochy’s love of bringing in lots of relievers, there is no need for a 12th pitcher.

And we can ignore Melky Cabrera, since he never had a chance to make the team, but the Giants will need a DH for 2/3 games in the Series, and their choices mostly suck, but the best choice might be Hector Sanchez (gulp), which means Eli Whiteside would make a lot more sense than Guillermo Mota.

Well, whattya gonna do. In the end, the single most important decision yet made is giving Matt Cain only one start and Ryan Vogelsong two. Vogey’s been crucial, but he is not as good as Matt Cain, the team’s ace. The rotation could be finagled to get Cain into Game Seven, but as of this writing, that’s not gonna happen. Which is a mistake.

Still, if Joe Sheehan is right, the Giants will have won it before Game Seven happens. By my calculations, that means the Giants will win every game not started by Justin Verlander. Even if the Giants win it all, I don’t expect them to beat Verlander today. So if you wake up in the morning and the Giants are up, one game to none, go put some money on SF. Heck, given the odds, the Giants are already a good bet … yes, they should be an underdog, but the odds are too heavy in Detroit’s favor.

presented without comment

It’s incredible what a sports team can mean to people. I remember as a kid how excited I’d get when the Giants would win. And I remember how devastated I was when they lost Game 6 in 2002. Nothing else makes you feel the way a sports team makes you feel. It was cool in St. Louis to watch a video on the scoreboard of fans’ reactions to the Cardinals’ comeback against the Nationals. There was one guy by himself in his living room jumping up and down on his couch. You had to laugh, but I’ve felt like that myself!

-- Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, a Bay Area native who grew up a Giants fan