Brian Sabean - a man amongst bloggers

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Brian Sabean - a man amongst bloggers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brian Sabean is the notorious hidebound ageist Luddite who will never change what he does, the way he does it, or explains in his own specific idiom how it is done to only a precious few. Thats the M.O. that has defined him to the outside world, to his convenience and his detriment.Thus, when he spent some time at the Giants Media Day in a question-and-answer session with a number of bloggers, the representatives of the constituency who tolerates his methods least willingly, an eyebrow or two went up. This is not the Sabean who leads with his face, P.R.-wise, the Sabean who doesnt matter who says what or why. This is a sea change in how he views the business of explaining his business.

Actually, it was a lot like talking to the beat guys, the Giants general manager said Saturday, the day that the pitchers and catchers reported. They asked pretty much the same questions, by and large. They seemed pretty knowledgeable for the most part.Now maybe he expected different. Maybe he expected more savagery-based-on-stereotype. Maybe he thought the questions would be dominated by decimal points and impenetrableacronyms. Maybe he thought...Well, I really didnt give a lot of thought about it one way or another, he said. It was just a Q-and-A with reporters, is the way I looked at it. Our P.R. department thought they were a part of the fan base that we could reach better. It was fine.And while the effort involved was not particularly onerous, or the gesture overly magnanimous, there is reason to think one or several of the old Sabeans would have dismissed the idea as preposterous, a spectacular waste of time.But this Sabean and there have been several over the years, be quite sure saw no harm and acknowledged that there might be some benefit to expanding his audience, and by extension the baseball operations department. Its an admission by someone who have never worried much about perception that no segment of the perception class can be taken for granted.Honestly, I wasnt really sure how much of the fan base these guys reach, because Id never given it that much thought, he said. I know they were talking to Boch (manager Bruce Bochy) earlier, and that seemed to go well. In the end, it wasnt a big deal at all, and if it helped some, fine.Sabean has been pigeonholed over time as the anti-youthanti-numbers guy; the first is palpably false simply by looking at the pitching staff, the catcher, two of three first base candidates, the shortstop, the third baseman and the right fielder. The second is not easily disproven, except for the fact that he has the same level of numbers-crunchers as any other front office.He does not speak numbers-crunching, though, and therein lies much of the misperception about him. He speaks as a scout would, because he was a scout. But he doesnt think solely as a scout would, and he doesnt ignore the metrics of the day. Others in baseball operations do the metrics, and bring their findings to him.And it all is part of the process of making decisions, along with the bottom line, and the clubhouse fit, and a lot of other things, he said. Most decisions get made by time and space, to be honest with you. Whats going on at the time a decision has to be made, and how much space (money, contract length, roster flexibility) there is to make it.Sabean, in fact, has been different operators at different times for different people. As the second-longest serving general manager in one place, he has survived 15 years of ebb and flood tides, with the best divisional record, third best league record and sixth best major league record interspersed with down years in the mid-90s and late 2000s.He has changed managers twice, had two ownerships changed above him, and for the most part kept the bulk of his baseball ops department together. And he has been, if not the most reluctant public speaker, then at least one who picks his spots more judiciously than most. Hes never viewed the audience as his I figured the players in the room and what they do on the field explains what we do better than anything else.But with an information glut that needs constant tending and feeding, he has been forced to consider other outlets for advancing the organizations methodologies. So he had a Q-and-A with bloggers, and though nothing is scheduled, he is willing to expand the conduits to the audience more in the future.Its what you have to do in this day and age, and like I said, it was like to talking to the beat guys, he said, squinting into the sun as players came and went in front his dugout perch.He did not say whether that comparison flatters, flat-lines or shames beat writers, bloggers, or the media en masse. Some views of the outside world he continues to keep to himself.

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of days before he signed a four-year deal, Mark Melancon fired off a midnight text to Nick Hundley. 

“Call me,” Melancon wrote.

When Hundley called, he found out his college teammate had chosen the Giants, ending a free agency process the two spoke about often. Two months later, it was Hundley’s turn to reach out. 

“I asked him if he wanted to play together again,” Hundley said. “He said, ‘You better not be messing with me.’”

The Giants signed just two free agents who are guaranteed of being on the opening day roster. In an odd twist, the new closer and new backup catcher have known each other for over a decade. Hundley was a second-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona. A year later, his college teammate Melancon was a ninth-round pick. The two have stayed close throughout the pro ball journey. They were groomsmen in each other’s weddings and their wives and children hang out together. 

“We always talked about playing together,” Hundley said, adding that the odds were long in a 30-team sport.

The friends have crossed off a good chunk of them. Melancon has played for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals. Hundley has played for the Padres, Orioles and Rockies. Finally, the two have hooked on to the same team, and the Giants are excited to have them both. Hundley will be the veteran catcher the team has missed in recent years, and the Giants are hopeful that he’s a pinch-hit threat, too. Melancon, of course, was brought in to fix the glaring problem in the ninth. Hundley is confident he’ll do it.

“I’ve caught him since 2005,” he said smiling, “And he’s always been nasty.”

NEW FACE: It’s hard to take much away from drills, but Orlando Calixte certainly impressed. As the Giants worked out on the field for the first time in three days, I asked GM Bobby Evans what Calixte showed the team’s scouts. “Just his athleticism, his tools, they stand out,” Evans said. They certainly do. Calixte is smooth out there, and he showed quickness at short that might differentiate him from the pack of infield options. 

Calixte has also played second, third and the outfield in the minors, and while the Giants intend on keeping five outfielders, that versatility could come into play. The Giants plucked Calixte from Kansas City’s system and put him on the 40-man roster when it became apparent that other offers were out there. They thought he could provide more versatility than Ehire Adrianza, and it helps that he has an option remaining. Calixte has to beat out a bunch of guys to win a roster spot, but given his glove and his status on the 40-man, it would be a surprise if we don’t see him at some point this season. 

ICYMI: Bruce Bochy said he’ll call Johnny Cueto to talk about his preparation for the World Baseball Classic. 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain, the clear frontrunner for the No. 5 spot, faced hitters on the main field. Bochy liked what he saw. “He’s gotten more time away from that surgery and he’s throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Buster said the same thing. It’s coming out good.”

NOTEWORTHY: The Giants are serious about making Trevor Brown a more versatile option. He fielded grounders at short today and also spent plenty of time at second. 

QUOTABLE: “Just a good day. We (the coaches) were talking about how it’s changed a little bit. We’re not even in March yet and guys are letting it go.” — Bochy on the first day of live BP sessions. The pitchers were certainly well ahead of the hitters today. 

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija whirled and fired a strike to Eduardo Nuñez shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Monday. With that, the Giants took another step back toward actual baseball.

Monday was the first day of live batting practice sessions, but the most important one took place thousands of miles east of Scottsdale Stadium. Johnny Cueto faced teenage prospects at the club’s facility in Santo Domingo, and Bruce Bochy said he would call Cueto to check in on his progress. 

The Giants are not concerned that Cueto — who is tending to his ill father — is missing so much of spring training. They know him well enough by now to know that Cueto paces himself and takes care of his body. They are, however, starting to get a little concerned about Cueto missing so much camp and then going straight to the World Baseball Classic. 

“The spring started early so he’s got plenty of time to get ready for (opening day),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The question will be will he be ready for the WBC. That’s the question we have to answer.”

Bochy said he would like to see Cueto in the 50-60 pitch range before he goes off to compete for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team opens play March 9 at Marlins Park. 

“We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where he’s at, see where he’s at mentally, and see how his father is doing.”

Bochy noted that Nolan Ryan used to show up to camp on March 1 and throw 80 mph, working his way up from there. The Giants view Cueto the same way, but at some point there will be a breaking point where the WBC participation becomes a real concern. At the very least, Bochy said, Cueto might be asked to join the DR team later in the tournament.