Some thoughts on Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean

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Given that we’re only 11 hours out from the Giants winning the World Series, it’s probably no surprise that there’s euphoria in the Giants’ front office. And there’s no surprise that the front office is telling the Merc’s Andrew Baggarly that they’re planning on extending the contracts of manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean. Each of them are under contract for 2011 with options for 2012, but you figure those deals will be torn up and replaced with new ones, befitting their new status as bosses of the champs.

Certainly a no-brainer on Bochy. Even without the title, there’s a reason he stayed on so long in San Diego: he’s a steady manager whose players respect him who has the confidence of his superiors. His performance in the playoffs was pretty damn good too, and there’s little question that he’s one of the better managers in baseball.

I’ve certainly taken my shots at Brian Sabean over the years. So many that I got no less than ten emails from people after last night’s game asking me if I was going to write a mea culpa regarding my criticism of the guy.  Thankfully Matthew put a lot of my thoughts into words overnight. Short version: much of this Giants’ team’s success was built on Sabean’s previous failures. This is not a sharp criticism in my mind, and should even be seen as praise of a sort. How many people refuse to learn from their mistakes, or to even fail to acknowledge them in the first place? Sabean believed that Barry Bonds would play forever and was responsible for the team failing to rebuild for years. But he was also responsible for drafting very, very well in recent years to make up for it and for making a number of shrewd moves during the season that kept a team that a lot of people were writing off in the middle of the summer — myself first and foremost — in the hunt. As reader APBA Guy wrote in a comment thread overnight, this is a results oriented business, and Brian Sabean brought home the title. You can’t argue with that.

But at the same time, you can’t get too carried away. While it’s hard for some to resist calling good luck genius after the fact, I won’t be doing that with Brian Sabean. Most of the time depending on the waiver wire to patch holes midseason is going to backfire on you. Most of the time going into a season counting on aging sluggers like Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff isn’t going to pan out. Most of the time if your two most expensive players — Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand — are non-factors in your playoff push and postseason, you’ve failed as a general manager.  Thanks to the pitching staff and some lightning in a bottle these things didn’t mortally wound the Giants, and while Sabean gets credit for the staff he shouldn’t get credit for the lightning.

Does Brian Sabean deserve a contract extension? Sure he does, because he got the job done that most general managers — including those who are constantly praised by people like me — don’t get done.

But let’s not hand him a book deal for “Success 101: Winning the Brian Sabean Way” either. Because while he made a lot of good moves, a lot of this happened in spite of his biggest decisions.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.