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Deal or No Deal 

Giants GM Brian Sabean spent big money on the free-agent market. What do you think of his wheeling and dealing?

Wednesday, Jan 17 2007
Brian Sabean has been the general manager of the San Francisco Giants since 1997, responsible for building teams that have had winning records in eight of his 10 seasons. Sabean was named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News in 2003 — the year the Giants came within six outs of winning the World Series — but he has since endured a fair share of criticism for failing to build a championship team around Barry Bonds, perhaps the greatest (and most controversial) player in Major League Baseball history. As allegations of Bonds' steroid use have swirled for the past several years, Sabean has fielded a team that has been increasingly reliant on aging veterans. As Bonds' career inches closer to its end, Sabean is in the midst of his most important off-season ever. Are you an apologist for Brian Sabean? Take our quiz and find out!

1) The Giants made headlines this winter by handing a seven-year, $126 million contract to former Oakland A's pitcher Barry Zito. It's the largest contract ever for a pitcher in baseball history, despite the fact that no other team interested in the 28-year-old lefty — the 2002 American League Cy Young winner — was believed to have offered him more than six years or $100 million. Do you think the Giants overpaid for Barry Zito?

A) No. I think they overpaid for three Barry Zitos.

B) Of course not. In Major League Baseball, you can't put a price on a No. 2 starter.

C) Hmm ... based on his numbers from last year, that works out to almost $5,000 per pitch. Until he gets hurt for the first time in his career, of course. Then that number will shoot up to, like, $125,000 per pitch.

2) Wooing Barry Zito wasn't the only move Sabean made this off-season. He also welcomed back two Giants of seasons past: the 35-year-old Rich Aurilia — the Giants' shortstop from 1995 to 2003 — and Russ Ortiz, who famously pitched six scoreless innings in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series against the Anaheim Angels before he and the team fell apart. What do you think of bringing back the two former Giants?

A) It's awesome! The Giants are building the team to beat in 2002!

B) Hey, man, Russ Ortiz went from ace of the staff to possible fifth starter in just two seasons ... see what happens when you leave the Giants?

C) Aurilia's a great guy. I think his best years as an amiable post-game interview subject after a particularly painful loss are still ahead of him.

3) Barry Bonds is once again a major focus of off-season attention, and not because he could break the all-time home run record this season. The Giants have offered him a one-year, $16 million contract, but as of last week he had yet to take a mandatory physical. Then came news that Bonds had tested positive for amphetamines last season, reportedly claiming he got the substance from teammate Mike Sweeney's locker. Given all of the allegations and legal activity surrounding Barry Bonds, do you think Sabean should sign the 42-year-old for $16 million?

A) No. I think he should go after David Beckham. Butts in the seats, you know?

B) That depends. Can you collect checks in jail?

C) Whatever Scott Boras says is fine with me. (Bonus point for guessing the message at the bottom of Sabean's business card.)

4) Sabean has struggled in recent years to assemble a quality pitching staff, one of the reasons he was so eager to secure Zito's services. Last season saw Giants fans endure the Armando Benitez debacle, when then-manager Felipe Alou stuck with Sabean's $21 million free agent despite the fact that the portly closer blew eight saves and blamed teammates for poor play. How do you feel about Sabean's ability to tweak the roster?

A) Umm ... given all this amphetamines stuff, let's use another word besides "tweak," OK?

B) Oh, come on. Everyone has a soft spot for fat pitchers.

C) Look, how was Brian Sabean supposed to guess that guys like Sidney Ponson (out-of-shape drunk), Benitez (out-of-shape headcase), and Shea Hillenbrand (locker-room poison) wouldn't work out? It's not like this job comes with a crystal meth ... er, ball.

5) No team has been as mired in the BALCO steroid scandal as the Giants, whose players have often admitted being distracted by the media attention surrounding Bonds. Do you think Sabean holds any accountability for the scandal?

A) What's a general manager supposed to do? Step forward in a courageous and informed manner to speak out against a scandal in his own locker room that's threatening to rid the game of what little integrity and soul it still possesses?

B) Cheating has been a part of baseball since its inception. I mean, what's the difference between rubbing some dirt on a ball and sticking a needle full of illegal drugs in your ass? (Bonus point for adding: "And of course it doesn't make me squeamish that I cheer for Bonds in front of my kids.)

C) No. I think the Giants organization has simply got its moral priorities straight. Steroids: see no evil, hear no evil. Obscure local radio personalities who make offensive comments: instruments of Satan.

6) Two seasons ago, Esquire ran a glowing profile of Sabean, hailing his forward-thinking in handing out multiyear contracts to light-hitting catcher Mike Matheny and the 38-year-old shortstop Omar Vizquel because of their defensive prowess. The story said: "Amid all this darkness, Brian Sabean, the general manager of the San Francisco Giants, of all teams, has become the first to strike a match, the first to see how the new baseball will be played." What do you think of the "new baseball" the Giants are playing?

A) I think it looks like a 75-87 record and a third-place finish in the division.

B) Here's the thing: It takes old players to play "new baseball."

C) Well, to be fair, the Giants have pretty much given up on the whole "defense wins championships" thing. And the "win championships" thing, for that matter.

7) Which of Sabean's recent acquisitions gives you the most hope for the Giants' future?

A) Sweeney. He's an excellent teammate.

B) Randy Winn. I know we're paying him $23 million and he only hit .262 with 11 home runs last year, but they don't call him "Winn" for nothing.

C) All these new deck chairs! It's gonna be the All-Star Break until we're finished rearranging them ...

How to score:

Score zero points for every "A" answer, one point for every "B," and two points for every "C."

0-6 points: Alas, it's the 49ers who are moving to the suburbs.

7-10 points: Not sure where the Giants stand? Probably behind the Dodgers and Padres. And Rockies.

11-14 points: Congratulations! You're a true apologist for Brian Sabean. It must be the sagacious salt-and-pepper beard.

About The Author

Matt Palmquist


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