Sarah's Take: Giants' success and stability are linked
Buster Posey signed a contract extension on Friday that will keep him with the San Francisco Giants until 2021, at least. The extension came the day after the Giants extended the contracts for both general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy through '16.
Stability of a baseball organization is necessary for success. The Giants have established stability, and since 2010 the Giants have won two World Series championships. They have had the same nucleus -- mostly young players. During this period, no one has questioned the desire of the Giants.
Sabean should be considered one of the best general managers in the game. With his scouting background, he understands what the Giants need to win at AT&T Park. While home runs are exciting and an easy way to score, the Giants won't hit many at AT&T. Since Barry Bonds retired, the Giants have ranked near the bottom of baseball in home runs.
Instead of trying to have the Giants hit more home runs when they play half their games in a spacious stadium with cool, damp air that kills the flight of the ball, Sabean adapted his team to its home stadium. He acquired speedy outfielders who defend against bloop singles and prevent extra-base hits. These speedy outfielders also help the Giants manufacture runs. However, Sabean doesn't ignore power hitters entirely. Last year, the Giants scored the most runs on the road in the National League.
In addition to a great outfield defense, Sabean understands the importance of having a versatile pitching staff. The Giants have one of the best starting rotations in the league. Matt Cain, a year removed from receiving a lucrative long-term contract extension and pitching a perfect game, anchors a starting rotation consisting of aces. When a starter doesn't perform the way that the Giants expect or there is an injury, the Giants aren't ruined. Having Tim Lincecum, a two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, as their third starter is a luxury that the other teams don't have.
Sabean doesn't have the highest payroll in baseball, but he analyzes what the Giants need and tries to obtain it via trade or free agency. Over his tenure, he has acquired some fantastic players at the Trade Deadline. Obtaining Marco Scutaro from the Colorado Rockies at the 2012 Deadline enabled the Giants to win a World Series championship, because Scutaro stabilized the infield defense and strengthened the offense.
Unlike many general managers in the NL West, Sabean believes in rewarding Minor Leaguers who had fantastic performances with a promotion to the Majors. Last year, the Giants had four players with less than three years of big league experience.
While Sabean is responsible for assembling the roster, Bochy decides how to use the players on the field. Bochy arguably is the most underrated manager in the big leagues. The former catcher has the perfect temperament for a manager. While Bochy is the unquestioned leader of the team, he allows his players to express their individuality.
Bochy doesn't panic when the Giants suffer an injury to a key player. He seeks a solution to the problem. Last year, he found a closer during the season when Brian Wilson needed Tommy John elbow surgery in April. Bochy kept his team focused on a common goal, and its chemistry worked no matter what kind of adversity it went through.
With his background as a catcher, Bochy also knows how to handle a pitching staff and star backstop Buster Posey. The Giants have rarely suffered a debilitating injury to a starting pitcher. Their relievers usually have specific roles and don't get overused before the end of the season.
Since Posey is the Giants' best offensive player, it's hard to give him periodic rests. However, Bochy understands Posey must have a break from the grueling catching position, so Posey has seen time at first base. To minimize the chance of serious injury -- possibly career-threatening -- Bochy has ordered Posey not to block the plate against a runner trying to score on a close play. Although it's controversial around baseball, protecting Posey, who missed most of 2011 after being run over at the plate -- must be done for the health of the Giants organization.
Giving a young catcher a lucrative long-term contract extension is risky, but few in the history of the game has accomplished what Posey has in his first three years in the Majors. The Giants have won two World Series championships in his first three years. He has won a batting title. He also won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2010, and the NL MVP Award last season.
Battling back from a fractured ankle in 2011, Posey also earned the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award last season. Even though it is doubtful that Posey will win a Gold Glove, the Giants' pitching staff loves throwing to him. Many other pundits think San Francisco will find another position for Posey soon to lessen the physical stress on him, but the Giants don't have a catcher who is the same caliber as Posey.
The Giants have established stability in their management and at catcher going into the 2013 season. They hope this will mean much success for the organization in the future.