The brass behind two of the last three World Series titles plans to stick together for at least another four seasons.
The San Francisco Giants extended the contracts of general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy through the 2016 season Thursday night, bringing even more stability to a franchise that has counted on continuity during its recent run of success. Both had previous deals set to expire after this summer.
"The glory days of the franchise are now," Giants President and CEO Larry Baer said before the opener of the Bay Bridge Series against the Oakland Athletics began at AT&T Park. "I think it's important to acknowledge that and pay tribute to the people who have done it, from the general manager's office to the manager's office, to get us where we are now."
San Francisco has come a long way the past three years.
In 2010, the Giants made an improbable run to the franchise's first title since 1954 — and first since moving from New York in 1958 — when Sabean assembled a collection of self-described "misfits and castoffs." Bochy blended the talent together perfectly, beating the Texas Rangers in five games that fall.
Last season, San Francisco won the NL West well before the final day of the season but took a far more perilous path through the playoffs. The Giants overcame a 2-0 series deficit to beat the Reds three straight games in Cincinnati, rallied from a 3-1 hole against St. Louis to capture the NL pennant and swept the Detroit Tigers for seal another World Series crown.
The cohesion between Bochy and Sabean has been apparent all along. The two are remarkably different personalities — Bochy always "calm and cool," Sabean "fiery and emotional," as both men described the other — but have become friends on and off the field to form one of baseball's top front-office tandems.
"We've been collaborative, and I really believe that's the reason we've had success," Sabean said.
Friends off the field
Both men credited the close living quarters for furthering their relationship. They live in separate condos in a high-rise building across the street from AT&T Park during the season, and it's not uncommon to see them walking together with their families before and after games, or even just a random afternoon.
"It makes the task of managing a little less daunting when you have the support that I get," Bochy said. "We've been through a lot together, the ups and downs, he was always there."
Sabean hired Bochy, now 57, away from the rival San Diego Padres in 2007 to replace Felipe Alou. But there wasn't immediate success and both men received harsh criticism along the way for moves they made and those they didn't.
In October 2009, the futures of Sabean and Bochy were uncertain. At that time, both received two-year extensions from then-Giants managing partner Bill Neukom.
Neukom saw enough positive signs from a club that stayed in the wild-card chase until mid-September in '09 but missed the playoffs for a sixth straight year. Even after Bochy's first season — and home run king Barry Bonds' last — 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.
Together, Sabean and Bochy have done just that at last — Sabean making a handful of risky moves, and Bochy finding a way to bring it all together.
Three years ago, Pat Burrell got a second chance after Tampa Bay released him. The Giants picked up Cody Ross in August off waivers from the Marlins, and he became a post-season star, winning NL championship MVP honours in San Francisco's six-game victory over the favoured Philadelphia Phillies.
Sabean also promoted catcher Buster Posey that May and traded away Bengie Molina. All Posey has done since is win Rookie of the Year, the 2012 NL MVP and batting title and two World Series titles sandwiched around an injury-shattered 2011 season.
Last year, Sabean found a similar spark in second baseman Marco Scutaro, acquired from the Colorado Rockies before the trade deadline. Scutaro won the NL championship MVP and reached agreement on a three-year deal a day after centre field Angel Pagan earned a four-year deal in December.
Bochy's calming influence also helped players move past All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera's suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The Giants also decided to keep Cabrera off the post-season roster when his 50-game suspension expired.
And once again, Sabean has kept nearly the entire roster intact to make another run at a title.
"A lot of continuity," Sabean said. "I think that's what defines this organization."
Keeping the architects of the team intact for the long haul had been a top priority this off-season for Baer, who said the club first picked up options for next season on both deals during the winter meetings. Baer said he met with Bochy and Sabean again during spring training when time allowed them to hammer out longer extensions.
Sabean, 56, is the longest-tenured GM in the majors heading into his 17th season with San Francisco — the place he has said he'd like to stay for the rest of his career. 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.
All three front-office members said there was an incentive to get the deals done before opening day.
"Four more years, it sounds like a political campaign," Baer said. "But the good news is, as we all know, there are no term limits around here."