Sabean's Savvy Lifts Giants to Brink of a Title

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Sabean's Savvy Lifts Giants to Brink of a Title

Nov. 1, 2010GIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEOMLB POSTSEASON

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Forget everything that might have seemed wrong with how Brian Sabean ran the Giants at times.

An NL championship powered by a homegrown pitching rotation and a shot at the franchise's first World Series title out West may make people realize Sabean had a solid plan all along -- even if it took awhile, seemed chaotic along the way and needed a few misfits as a finishing touch.

"The bigger pride is the place in time. We're in a unique place in time," Sabean said before his team took a 3-1 World Series lead over the Texas Rangers on Sunday. "The opportunity presented itself and this group seized it. Our angst now is we really hope that these guys can pull it out because they deserve it. This group has been all in, in some form or another, starting back in spring training. We've been playing full out since the All-Star break. That's one of the reasons we've gotten this far."

Sabean endured the craziness of the Barry Bonds era and the home run king's 2007 pursuit to break Hank Aaron's record. He resisted the constant temptation to trade top pitching talents Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. He provided second chances to castoffs like Pat Burrell and Cody Ross, and it has paid off in a big way.

And Sabean will never take any credit for it, always quick to praise the players, manager Bruce Bochy and his coaches, then Sabean's own staff and scouts.

"Brian's a great credit deflector," Giants President Larry Baer said. "I think anybody would be hard-pressed to find a better performance by a general manager from beginning to end than what Brian's done."

San Francisco's postseason rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and rookie Madison Bumgarner is the first homegrown foursome in the World Series since the runner-up 1986 Boston Red Sox. There's also rookie catcher Buster Posey, the Giants' fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, and this season's majors saves leader, closer Brian Wilson. Both have come through San Francisco's system.

"The timing's good. The organization needed it and the fan base needed it. I don't worry about myself," Sabean said. "It's rewarding because of the process. Every sector of the organization chipped in."

Across San Francisco Bay, Oakland general manager Billy Beane gained national acclaim for his statistics and numbers-oriented sabermetrics analysis, inspiring the best-seller "Moneyball" but not winning the A's a title.

Sabean, however, has found success doing things his way -- relying on his eyes, and the expertise around him. He is a regular in the stands during postseason workouts and batting practice, just watching and observing his players at work. He rarely takes his eyes off the field, even with his front-office mates sitting around him.

"You go back to his Yankee days, he's got the eyes," Baer said. "He's got the scout's eyes."

After most games, Sabean stops by Bochy's office and they discuss everything from the roster to who might play the next day. Bochy appreciates Sabean's hands-on approach and daily interaction.

The 54-year-old Sabean is the longest-tenured GM in baseball, about to complete his 14th season with San Francisco. He became the Giants' GM in 1996 after three years in player personnel. He was in the Yankees' organization from 1985-92 as a scout, scouting director and player development director.

"I've had a pretty good career and I think I'm balanced without this happening," Sabean said. "I'm pleased that the fans are excited, everybody's family is excited, including my own. I'm happy for our ownership group. I'm very fortunate and honored to be as long tenured as I have been. It's a blessing."

Yet a year ago in October, Sabean's future with the Giants wasn't certain. Then, he and Bochy each received two-year contract extensions with a club option for 2012 from managing partner Bill Neukom.

Neukom saw enough positive signs from a club that stayed in the wild-card chase until mid-September in 2009 but missed the playoffs for a sixth straight year. Even after Bochy's first season -- and Bonds' last -- in 2007 ended with a 71-91 record, some fan message boards called for his firing. Others figured Sabean deserved a shot to turn things around with Bonds finally out of the picture.

He has done that at last.

Sabean, who has long said he'd like to stay in San Francisco forever, isn't ready to proclaim the Giants a perennial contender after one breakthrough season.

"I don't want to put us in that category yet," he said.

Sabean guided the Giants to the 2002 World Series as the wild card and NL West crowns in 1997, 2000 and '03, their last year in the playoffs before this remarkable run.

"I think he really wants the attention to go to the players," said John Barr, a special assistant to Sabean who is with his seventh big league team. "He's been phenomenal. He's been relentless in bringing us to where we are. He's been relentless in doing whatever he can to make this team better, and that's 24 hours a day. We're all happy that he allows us to be part of it. I feel fortunate to be able to work for him. He's one of the best general managers I've worked for."

Sabean has taken heat at times for signing players to big contracts like pitcher Barry Zito's 126 million, seven-year deal through 2013 with a club option for 2014, and a 60 million, five-year contract for center fielder Aaron Rowand done in December 2007. The acquisition of Freddy Sanchez from Pittsburgh at the 2009 trade deadline seemed to be a disappointment last year when Sanchez couldn't stay on the field because of injuries. But he has been a reliable, healthy option most of this season after beginning the year on the disabled list following December shoulder surgery.

Sanchez has come through with his bat and glove this World Series.

"No. 1, he has operated on a budget that is not a slam dunk, killer budget," Baer said. "The key thing is, you get temptations. In '08, especially, we weren't winning, '07 was a rough year. The temptations for a quick fix ... those temptations are real and between the eyes. Brian sucked it up and had the thinking we could come out on the other end. And here we are on the other end."

Instant Replay: Second quarter kills Kings in loss to T'Wolves

Instant Replay: Second quarter kills Kings in loss to T'Wolves

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- Adjusting to life without DeMarcus Cousins is proving more difficult than the Kings thought. For the second straight game, Sacramento struggled to score the ball, falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves by a final of 102-88 Monday night at Golden 1 Center.

Karl-Anthony Towns continued his strong play. The second-year big is quickly becoming one of the best bigs in the game and at age 21, the sky's the limit. Towns dropped in 29 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked three shots as the Timberwolves improved to 24-36 on the season.

Andrew Wiggins had a big night as well. He got off to a slow start, but once he started playing the passing lanes it opened up everything for Minnesota. The talented 22-year-old finished the night with 27 points on 10-for-22 shooting and added four steals.

Ricky Rubio chipped in nine points and dished out 11 assists. Nemanja Bjelica added 10 points and 12 rebounds in the win.

Kosta Koufos overpowered the Timberwolves in the post. The Kings starting center scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.

Ben McLemore drew the tough assignment of guarding Wiggins and held his own early. But once the high-flying wing got going, McLemore had no answer. On the offensive end, he finished the night with 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting.

Willie Cauley-Stein scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists. Ty Lawson went for 11 points and nine assists, while Tyreke Evans picked it up late, scoring 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Wiggins and Towns put on a show. Give these two a couple of seasons and they might be the best duo in the game.

TURNING POINT:
The Kings looked completely lost in the second quarter and the Timberwolves ran them off the floor. After a competitive first 12 minutes of action, Minnesota outscored Sacramento 40-19 in the quarter to take a 60-44 lead into the intermission. Game over.

INJURY UPDATE:
Arron Afflalo missed his third straight game with a sore hamstring. Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson sat again with varying degrees of hamstring issues. Temple is out for another few games with a left hamstring tear and rookie Richardson is out 4-6 weeks with a right hamstring thickness tear, but hopes to return before the season is finished. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings continue their homestand Wednesday when the Brooklyn Nets swing by Golden 1 Center.

 

Instant Replay: Warriors overcome poor shooting, hold off 76ers

Instant Replay: Warriors overcome poor shooting, hold off 76ers

BOX SCORE

Despite struggling from 3-point distance for most of game, the Warriors managed to grind out a 119-108 victory over the 76ers Monday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

All five starters scored in double figures, with Kevin Durant putting in a game-high 27 points to lead the way. Klay Thompson had 21 points, Stephen Curry 19, Zaza Pachulia 16 and Draymond Green 14.

Curry had the toughest night of all, shooting 7-of-23 from the field -- and 0-of-11 from deep, the worst such performance of his career. The Warriors as a team were 6-of-29 from deep.

The Warriors (50-9) shot 44.9 percent overall, only the third time this season they’ve been below 45 percent in back-to-back games. They shot 42.0 percent in beating Brooklyn last Saturday night.

Six players scored in double figures for the 76ers (22-37), with forward Dario Saric totaling a team-high 21 points.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Green and Pachulia share the honors, with Pachulia becoming an offensive force and Green being such a dynamo that even his turnovers couldn’t negate his positive impact.

Green’s line: 14 points (5-of-10 from the field, 1-of-3 from deep, 3-of-6 from the line), 11 assists, six rebounds and five steals. He played 37 minutes and finished plus-22.

Pachulia’s line: 16 points (5-of-5 from the field, 6-of-7 from the line), five rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. He played 19 minutes and finished plus-1.

TURNING POINT:
After a Robert Covington 3-point pulled Philadelphia within three, 59-56, with 11:19 left in the third quarter, the Warriors came back with a 10-0 run -- requiring only 79 seconds -- to go up 69-59 with 10:00 remaining.

The 76ers got no closer than seven over the remainder of the game.

INJURY UPDATE:
Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L hand contusion) was listed as probable and upgraded to available 90 minutes before tipoff. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.

76ers: G Jerryd Bayless (L wrist surgery), C Andrew Bogut (personal), C Joel Embiid (L knee contusion), F Ben Simmons (R foot fracture) and C/F Tiago Splitter (R calf strain) were listed as out.

WHAT’S NEXT:
The Warriors return to action Tuesday, when they visit Verizon Center to face the Washington Wizards. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Pacific.