Front office enjoying fruits of its labor

Front office enjoying fruits of its labor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bill Neukom didn't have a timetable for reviving the Giants' fortunes when he became the principal owner following the 2008 season. But he did have what he called a "trajectory."

Ideally, that trajectory would proceed upward, given the four consecutive losing seasons San Francisco had endured when Neukom succeeded Peter Magowan as managing general partner.

"My notion was, we had to get the Giants back to winning baseball," Neukom said Tuesday.

As it turned out, the club followed a trajectory that would make NASA envious.

San Francisco improved from 72-90 in 2008 to 88-74 last year. The Giants won only four more regular-season games this year, but that was enough for them to secure the National League West title.

Now, after winning the NL Division Series against Atlanta and the NL Championship Series over Philadelphia, San Francisco is four victories away from winning the World Series for the first time since 1954, which would end the Major Leagues' third-longest dry spell.

It's easy to stereotype the Giants as a collection of castoffs, misfit toys or mercenaries, since their top performers include well-traveled veterans or in-season pickups such as Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, Cody Ross, Juan Uribe and Jeremy Affeldt.

But outsiders don't see the diligence that such acquisitions require. Neukom lavished praise upon general manager Brian Sabean and his staff, including vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow, vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans and analysts Jeremy Shelley and Yeshayah Goldfarb.

"They deserve a lot of credit for burning the midnight oil all the way through the midseason," Neukom said. "They looked at hundreds of possibilities of ways to reinforce this team. And they obviously found some good ones."

Longest-tenured GMs
Name Team Hire date
Brian Sabean Giants 9/30/1996
Billy Beane Athletics 11/17/1996
Brian Cashman Yankees 2/3/1998
Dan O'Dowd Rockies 9/20/1999
Kenny Williams White Sox 10/24/2000
Larry Beinfest Marlins 2/12/2002
Dave Dombrowski Tigers 4/8/2002
Jim Hendry Cubs 7/5/2002
Doug Melvin Brewers 9/26/2002
Theo Epstein Red Sox 11/25/2002 *
Jon Daniels Rangers 10/4/2005
* -- took leave of absence from 10/21/05 until 1/19/06
As closer Brian Wilson said, "Sabean nailed it. He really did. He went out and got the guys that we needed."

San Francisco's renaissance also can be attributed to its homegrown talent. The club's quartet of postseason starters -- Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner -- all rose through the organization. So did catcher Buster Posey, a leading NL Rookie of the Year Award candidate.

This wouldn't have happened without the Giants' renewed dedication to scouting and player development, which preceded Neukom's arrival. Sabean hired John Barr to direct the First-Year Player Draft beginning in 2008, when Posey was selected.

Before that, Tidrow, a former Major League pitcher who's renowned for being able to spot talent on the mound, played a key role in drafting the hurlers who now sustain the Giants.

Sabean pointed out that the club's homegrown rotation accelerated the organization's transition following the decision not to re-sign slugger Barry Bonds following the 2007 season. Sabean added that any mention of the Giants' drafted-and-developed pitching haul should include Wilson, setup specialist Sergio Romo and promising left-hander Dan Runzler.

"We've been very lucky. Dick Tidrow and the scouting staff should take a lot of credit for that, too," Sabean said. "We're above the norm as far as drafting, signing and developing these guys, including getting them to be big league-ready and produce at a young age."

Sabean surmised that it was essential for the Giants to mint their own pitching talent.

"We knew you couldn't replace Barry," Sabean said.

The Giants also realized that luring big-name free agents would be difficult, given AT&T Park's unfavorable reputation for hitters.

Neukom and Sabean echoed each other in lauding manager Bruce Bochy, who brought San Francisco to the World Series without a regular lineup.

"The way he had to juggle the lineups and put people in situations where they can be successful, I think he's been masterful," Neukom said.

"The one thing that has set us apart, than in the past since he's been here, is we have more depth and he's been able to be more resourceful with what he does," Sabean said.

No matter how the World Series unfolds, the offseason soon will be here, which will provide fresh challenges for the Giants' front office.

"I'll be nervous to make sure we build on this," Neukom said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.