Had a phone conversation with Giants GM Brian Sabean a little while ago—he was blunt, impassioned and acidly realistic as he sized up this team's current troubles.
It's early July, and the franchise that won two of the last three World Series is on the brink of falling out of contention even in a mediocre NL West, due to listless hitting and a scrambled up rotation.
Sabean isn't looking at any of this with champagne-colored glasses; he's frustrated, he's trying to figure out a way out of this; and he has long since realized that this "haywire" season might be one the Giants just have to accept... and start planning to move on from.
The worst thing the Giants can do now is borrow from 2014 and beyond by giving away prospects or taking on too much money in a desperate attempt to improve a potentially un-save-able 2013.
Here is the transcript of the BRIAN SABEAN interview:
QUESTION: With the situation you've got, without showing a lot lately, do you just have to ride it out with what you've got?
SABEAN: We have to ride it out. The team has to play better for us to move forward. If we don't start playing better -- the team at hand especially the lineup itself -- there's not enough help in the world that's going to turn us around from this.
It's that simple.
Q: How much time do you think you have to make a decision about the direction you can go at the trade deadline?
SABEAN: It's all a function of being in a negative leverage situation.
You can't remake the whole lineup; you can't remake the whole team.
We've been miserable in scoring runs obviously; we've been miserable on the road. So there's no possible way you can get as much help as you actually need from the outside world. It's just not going to happen.
We pretty much know who's available and what it's going to take. At this point, its not in best interests of our organization to move forward with anything from the outside.
The team has to be in a better position not just as far as its play but in the standings.
Q: You guys have won so much in the last few years. How much frustration is there on your part to live through what's happening now?
SABEAN: It is what is. We've had a lot of good fortune as of late. And it's just turning against us. And we've got to keep pushing on and hope it changes.
It's frustrating for all of us because of the expectations.
Q: You built this team to win a championship. And that's not happening.
SABEAN: It's the nature of the game.
Just as I said at the beginning of the year, we had to earn our way. There's no reason for us to be picked as the favorite in the division, there's no reason for us to think we're going to click our heels and win this.
Every year is different and has proven to be such.
In the past, particularly, last year, we've been good at overcoming time on DL and overcoming adversity. And to this point we haven't this year.
The division's better, the league's better, the schedule's getting tougher, and we've been too damn inconsistent.
We've earned our record.
Q: Could you be sellers at the deadline?
SABEAN: You know, who knows. I think you're going to have an open mind going forward to whatever's in best interests of the organization, the present and future.
Q: You've mentioned the lineup. But is there any disappointment in the staring rotation--which has been the backbone of this team through two titles?
SABEAN: I don't think the starters have been much of a problem of late. The last 14 or 15 games, it's about how hapless we have been offensively.
We're basically two different teams--one that's fairly competitive at home and one that's not competitive on the road and that includes the rotation. It's the whole team.
Do you go out and trade for a whole other team that goes on the road and keep the other one on the road? That's said tongue-in-cheek, but it's a reality.
There's not enough players out there to turn us around on a dime. It has to start in-house.
Q: Could you be taking a look at more guys currently in your system?
SABEAN: In time, maybe, not at the present time. I don't think we're there yet.
And sometimes what you go through at the major-league level is a blessing; sometimes you're forced to rush guys.
We didn't want to necessarily rush Perez, but we were in a box. Everybody needs development time--whether it's Gary Brown, Hembree, we're talking about guys who haven't played a full year of triple-A baseball.
But I guess because of the hype and everybody's more in tune with what's going on with a prospect, they don't understand it is a process. You can't force the process.
Not everybody's a Posey or Belt or Crawford... Different players need different levels of patience.
The timing would have to be right. We have to be very selective. And we don't want to spoil the development process.
Q: Are other teams asking about your prospects?
SABEAN: That's as usual. Nobody's really all that interested in doing a deal without getting at least something back from a prospect standpoint, no matter how much salary they can unload.
In a perfect world, we're wiling to take on salary if we don't have to give up much from a prospect standpoint.
But those deals aren't out there. Whatever your struggles are, believe me the other team knows that just as much.
Q: Are you disappointed in individual players?
SABEAN: Overall the team hasn't played to its potential and the team hasn't handled the loss of different guys at times.
Apparently what it shows how important Pagan was and how much we need Pagan and Sandoval at the same time.
The pitching was coming around, then we lost Pagan and lost Sandoval...
Q: How likely is it that you go the next few weeks, then past the deadline and pretty much have to say, 'This is our team for the season'?
SABEAN: I can't answer that. We've shown we can win five or six in a row and shown we can lose five or six in a row.
In a perfect world, you want to go to the break winning these next two series, grab some momentum, see if the break does everybody some good.
But when you're seven games below .500, no matter what division you're, no matter who you think may be in position to play well or even think is the team to beat, it's the most difficult spot to be in.
Because you're going in the wrong direction. And that's the way we're playing.
While it's frustrating, that's when you have to exercise even more patience. Because no one move, and we're not capable of making a series of moves--we can't take on that much money or give up that many prospects.
What we don't want to do is forsake the future for something that might be looking like a bad penny year at this point.
Q How much could you take on? Possible to take $10-15M?
SABEAN: No, to answer your question, no. We have an amount that could be enough to tweak some things, but it's not going to be anything drastic.
Q: You've got two free-agent starters this off-season. Are you already having to start factoring that into your strategy for right now?
SABEAN: You do some hurry up and wait exercises there. And we're ahead of schedule as we get ready for the trade deadline, with the models we've built, grading our minor-league system and everybody else's...
We start to see what the free agent market looks like versus what your free agent list may be, and gain a better understanding about that as you go forward.
It does change week to week, depending on the player, the team or what's going on with the outside world.
Q: Does this in any way remind you of where you were in June/July 2010--things not looking so great, then that year you flipped a switch and everything changed?
SABEAN: No, because we're seven games below 500.
It'd be different if we were seven or 10 over and you fell off the cliff and you were around .500.
When you're seven games below, you've got to go like hell to get to 500... Then you start doing the math on what you have to do the rest of the way.
Is it going to be 86, 88, 90 games to win the division? That's where you have to be realistic.
Q: Do things change for you--does it make it more stark--when you see the Dodgers winning, and beating you head-to-head?
SABEAN: We've had our place in the sun. If this is the year that's been dealt to us, we have to handle it.
We've had a lot of things go right. Apparently this is the year that things go haywire.
We have to do what we can without forsaking the future.
Q: In your mind, is Pagan likely not coming back this year?
SABEAN: I don't know that. I think it'll be a stretch to see how much he could play, by the time he would get back. Once somebody has surgery like that, I go beyond conservative.
It's possible but I don't know how probable it is.