How do you break up with a woman that you've been with for nearly a decade?
How can I tell her that the superficial things that attracted me to her in the beginning just aren't working for me any more? I think I've grown in the last ten years and my needs have changed. I don't see that sort of growth in her.
What if I can see, practically taste, another attractive woman from here? I recognize that loyalty is an important quality, but at what point do you throw in the towel and pursue a new and more compatible love?
Okok, what if it's technically not a woman I'm talking about here, but rather a baseball team? Does your answer change?
I've been a San Francisco Giants fan for nearly as long as I've lived in this city. I never paid attention to baseball before that, so they are my one and only baseball love. Although it's been a pretty good stretch of success in the last decade (post-season aside), there have been some difficult moments. I recall my confusion and dismay when the ownership traded away Matt Williams, the heart of the team, for a couple of seemingly mediocre journeymen. When one of those "journeymen" turned into probable future Hall of Famer, Jeff Kent, I recognized that the Giants management simply knew more about baseball players than I did.
I'm not so sure that's still the case. This offseason they've made some amazingly bizarre moves, all seemingly in the pursuit of stocking a roster with really old players. General Manager Brian Sabean is determined, in a fetish-like manner, to get rid of any young exciting position players, and replace them with mediocre old players. What's up Sabes? You got a thing for neck wattle (sp?)?
Keep the cheap and ever-improving fireplug, Dustan Mohr? Nosireee! Instead, let's spend millions more on Moises Alou, who is most famous for admitting that he pees on his hands to toughen them up. Moises, who is 38 years old, had a good season last year, but once you subtract away the hitting advantage one gets at Wrigley field, his previous home field, he's a mediocre player.
Ok, maybe it was time to get rid of A.J. Pierzynski. Rumor has it that he was hated by his teammates, and I was weary of watching him leisurely jog down to first base, hitting into double play after double play. His seemingly impressive batting average of about .300 was pretty empty, nearly devoid of walks and extra-base hits. If you get rid of him, however, you either pay a premium for a top catcher, or you let our 2nd string catcher, Yorvit Torrealba, get a chance. Yorvit actually puts up some decent numbers and he's cheap. Makes sense to use him and spend the money elsewhere, right? Well, not if you're Brian Sabean, and you spot aging Mike Matheny! Abysmal abilities with the bat, guaranteed to only get worse with age? No problem! Matheny, in his peak, was marginally better defensively than Yorvit, so Sabean used that as an excuse to sign his geriatric ass.
There have been a number of these moves this season, some of them totally indefensible. Meanwhile, across the San Francisco Bay in Oakland, Billy Beane, general manager of the A's, is totally remaking his team. Beane, who is both lauded and mocked for his willingness to throw out conventional wisdom, has taken the opposite approach from the Giants.
The A's, on a very small budget, have put together a very competitive ballclub for years. Although most folks credit Beane (subject of the excellent book Moneyball), some say that he's merely lucky, being in the right place when his Big 3 pitchers, Hudson, Mulder, and Zito, matured into aces. So now Billy Beane, either through genius or hubris, has traded away two of them, collecting instead a set of intriguing young players, some very highly touted.
Some analysts figured that Beane would dump one of the Big 3, all agreeing that it would be Barry Zito, who had a disappointing season in 2004. Beane, of course, defied all conventional wisdom and traded the other 2 instead. He also picked up Jason Kendall, a speedy lead-off hitting catcher, along the way. I can't wait to see how their season turns out!
The Giants season, however, will turn out predictably. If everyone stays healthy, they'll do just fine. However, given that the average age of their starting lineup is 36, many of those players are likely to spend time on the disabled list, or perhaps at the old folks' home. It's nuts to spend so much money on so many mediocre and old players.
So, I'm torn. Do I stay with the Giants because I've been with them this long and they're my home team? Or do I stray across the bay and start rooting for a team that excites me?
*UPDATE* - For those who can't get enough of this discussion, today Ray Ratto weighs in the Beane vs Sabean debate.