Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hatin’ the Saints... Hate Hate Hate

Well, I don’t really hate the Saints, but I’m pretty annoyed that yet another major sports team has won its first championship before the San Francisco Giants have won theirs. If you know me at all, you know that this is one of my little pet peeves about being a Giants fan, and I go a little bananas when I hear about things like Brian Sabean saying the kind of stuff quoted by Steven Rubio in his blog:

“With this lineup, I think we can springboard off the 88 wins from last year and get into playoff contention.“ Here’s Sabes’ rationale: “Number One, we'll have more experience on the field. Number Two, guys will be able to hit in the order where they have traditionally hit.”

I don’t want to use too much of Steven’s article, but what he says here, I think, points to just a small part of what I perceive as the toxicity of the San Francisco Giants:

“What is he telling us about his approach to player evaluation? His first ‘reason’ addresses defense, his second talks about offense. What he is saying in the first case is that the defense will be better in part because there will be ‘more experience on the field.’ He says nothing about the actual defensive abilities of the players on the field; he does not say ‘our defense will be improved because we’ve added some solid glove men.’ He merely says they have added experience to last year’s model. As for hitting, he is saying that the offense will be better because of how the lineup will be constructed. He says nothing about the actual hitting abilities of the players; he does not say ’our offense will be improved because we’ve added some better hitters.’ He merely says that the hitters he does have will fit better into the lineup than they used to.”

I responded on Steven’s blog, and you can always go there to read it, but this is more or less what I said: Sometimes I wonder if Sabean says things just to fill up dead air. When he says the kind of thing quoted above, does he actually believe it? Perhaps more to the point, does he really give Giants fan so little credit as to think we believe it, if only because he, the Baseball Insider, said it? Know what? Yes and yes. At least that’s what I think.

It’s still difficult to believe, but I know there are optimistic Giants fans out there, happily pushing that boulder up the 90-degree slope, only to have it roll right back over them the instant the Giants eat the big one, every season. And these folks are able to dust themselves off and say “Wait till next year!” And to an extent, I envy them, because I’m just not wired with that kind of optimism. I think I suffer from, if not realism, then the wisdom of experience—namely that the Giants have shown no particular willingness to win me a damn ring after all these years.

I honestly love and adore this team—or, at least, “The San Francisco Giants,” regardless of who’s out on the field—but (as with parents and their children) that doesn’t mean that I don’t wanna smack ’em once in a while. Now, I’m not saying that there’s no way the Giants can win a World Series, either this year or next year or ever. Sure they could. I just don’t believe it, because I don’t buy into the Brain Trust.

Meanwhile, hard as you may find this to believe, I do not think Brian Sabean is an idiot. I do think he’s made some bad decisions, possibly based on bad advice. I do think he really doesn’t understand how to evaluate talent, or at least major league talent. Is he the man who realized what Tim Lincecum and even Matt Cain would become? Maybe. Maybe he really was the visionary there. But in Sabean, what I think we’re looking at here is a man who so firmly believes that the old ways are best—whatever those old ways might be, up to and including divination via tea leaves and psephology—that he really has no room for any o’ them newfangled notions such as on-base percentage. Now, to be fair, he has actually used the expression “on-base percentage” at least twice during his tenure with the Giants, but that doesn’t mean he believes in it.

The thing is... well, look, if you really want to get a sense of the various ways baseball is analyzed, just do some Google searches. People—not necessarily Baseball Insiders, either—knock themselves out compiling raw data, then presenting it in various (and often understandable!) ways. I am not one of these people, but often they, their methods, and their results fascinate me. What they’re up against, though, is baseball people whose mindset hasn’t moved much past the 1960’s, the kinds of folks who, when you get hit on the elbow by a 100-mile-an-hour fastball, would advise you to spit on the welt and rub dirt on it.

Baseball is merely one of those realms in which decision-makers just do stuff the way it’s always been done, because it’s always been done that way. There are, however, some baseball organizations that actually embrace new ways of looking at data—and I really wish my team were one of them.

Instead, the San Francisco Giants remain the one team that’s waited longer than anybody else—not only in Major League Baseball, but also in the NFL, NBA, and NHL—to win its first championship in its current general metropolitan area. Even the farkakte Saints, whom we always used to be able to count on to stink, have gone and made the Giants look like fools.

So who’s the next team to win its first championship? Some of you might say “The San Francisco Giants,” and I sure wish you’d be right, but you’ll be wrong. I would, and will, never, but ever, switch my allegiance to another baseball team, but it sure is hard to ignore that boulder flattening me year after year after year. It hurts. Please, boulder, stop doing that for a year, just to be different. Is that too much to ask?


  1. Great fans think alike. At one point during yesterday's game, my daughter randomly shouted out, "Let's Go Giants!" I thanked her for expressing such a crucial thought. My brother wondered why it mattered, and I told him I didn't like it when some other team won their first championship, before the Giants did :-).

  2. You know, a co-worker was telling me today about some major power forward—I can’t even remember who—who was going to come to the Warriors in a trade, as long as he could be convinced to sign with them after the season. Not only did he say he wouldn’t sign, he said he’d sign with the New Jersey Nets before signing with the Warriors.

    Why is it that the Warriors front-office people hear this and, apparently, don’t say, “We should be ashamed of ourselves”?

    Why don’t the Raiders think they should be ashamed of themselves?

    Why don’t the Giants?

  3. What can I say, but this very earnest ragging finally paid off. Congratulations!