Giants' Sabean a Hall of Famer?

— -- Shortly after the San Francisco Giants beat Kansas City 3-2 in Game 7 of the World Series, general manager Brian Sabean hung out in a side office with a few coworkers while the players cavorted and sprayed each other silly in the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium. Sabean held a small paper Gatorade cup with a clear beverage, but he revealed no details beyond the fact that it was not ice water.

"I'll hydrate on the flight home,'' he said with his characteristic dry edge.

On Friday, Sabean was scheduled to ride in a victory parade that's become as much of a fall tradition in San Francisco as Halloween or the Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival. The Giants have won titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 and they might already have a fourth crown this century if only Dusty Baker hadn't tempted fate by letting Russ Ortiz hang onto that ball as a keepsake when he left the mound with a lead over the Angels in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series.

As the Giants reap the rewards of their success, much of the credit justifiably flows to manager Bruce Bochy, whose bullpen management skills, preternatural sense of calm and ability to adapt to changing circumstances have elevated him among the crowd. With three titles and 1,618 career wins -- 18th most on the career list -- Bochy is in position to join Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox in Cooperstown as a manager. The only question is whether guys like Jim Leyland and Lou Piniella will get there before he does.

So what about the man who built the rosters that Bochy parlayed into all those trophies? Doesn't he deserve to be in the conversation as a Cooperstown candidate, as well?

When the topic was broached during Wednesday's celebration, Sabean responded with his typical understated thoughtfulness.

"It's a tall statement,'' Sabean said, "just like the word 'dynasty' is a ridiculously tall order and a tall statement. In this end of the business, you're not in it for that type of recognition. You're in it with too many other people and you're supported by too many other people.''

But it's a legitimate question. Some skeptics might contend that Cooperstown is strictly for players, and that roster-builders and franchise architects have no place in the Hall. But if they're eligible for induction, shouldn't there be room for someone with the type of excellent, far-reaching portfolio that Sabean has constructed?

Fact: The Hall of Fame includes 34 executives, but the vast majority are commissioners, owners or men who did their best work in the first half of the 20th century. One notable exception is Pat Gillick, who was inducted in 2011 for his role in bringing winning teams to Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia. Barring a surprise, former Kansas City and Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz will join Gillick in Cooperstown at some point.

Sabean, 58, has a long-term legacy in baseball that transcends his time in San Francisco. As scouting director and farm director with the New York Yankees in the late 1980s and early '90s, he helped lay the foundation for the team's run of titles and hasten the development of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and others through the minors.

Nevertheless, Sabean flies under the radar even among his front-office peers. He collected his only Sporting News Executive of the Year award in 2003, when the Giants won the NL West title and led the majors with 100 victories. During Sabean's 17-year run as San Francisco GM, Walt Jocketty has won three executive of the year awards and Billy Beane, Doug Melvin, Terry Ryan and Mark Shapiro have collected two each.

But Sabean's achievements still resonate with executives who are responsible for navigating the challenges of baseball economics, fan expectations, media pressure and keeping ownership in the loop at a time when there aren't enough talented players to fill out all 30 MLB rosters. No one understands that balancing act better than the man whose team just lost to San Francisco in the World Series.

"Growing up in the game the way I did in Atlanta, I realize how difficult it is,'' said Kansas City GM Dayton Moore. "You've got to massage your roster every year if you're going to keep winning, and Brian and his staff deserve a lot of credit. It's hard to win, and getting to the World Series is special. And Brian and his staff have done it better than everybody else.''

Sabean isn't just engaging in false modesty when he plays up the team element and its place in the Giants' success. The word "loyalty'' is overused in sports, but the Giants display it year after year, and the biographies in the team media guide attest to the continuity the organization holds dear.

Bobby Evans, San Francisco's assistant GM, was three years out of the University of North Carolina when he joined the Giants as an administrative assistant in 1994. Jeremy Shelley, the team's vice president of pro scouting, broke in as a baseball operations intern in 1994. Not too many people beyond San Francisco are familiar with Matt Nerland, but the Giants' senior scouting advisor just completed his 26th season with the organization.

Sabean has a tight group of people around him whose opinions he values and judgments he trusts implicitly. Dick Tidrow. John Barr. Steve Balboni. Joe Lefebvre. Paul Turco. Lee Elder. And the other folks whose names aren't mentioned here know who they are.

"Brian has a cadre of people who work for him who would throw themselves in front of a bus for him, and he would do the same thing for us,'' said Tony Siegle, San Francisco's senior adviser for baseball operations. "He lets them do their jobs. He doesn't micromanage at all. We all know who the boss is and we keep him informed on what we're doing. And then he makes the decisions. What you've seen over the years is the result of those decisions.''

The Giants' focus on continuity is particularly telling given the rampant upheaval in the National League West these days. New general managers are setting up shop in San Diego (A.J. Preller), Arizona (Dave Stewart) and Colorado (Jeff Bridich), and the Los Angeles Dodgers just hired a new president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, who is in the process of hiring a GM to work under him at Chavez Ravine.

Make no mistake, the Giants have significant resources at their disposal because of AT&T Park and their devoted fan base. They ranked 10th, seventh and seventh in the majors in team payroll during their three World Series runs. But Sabean's eye for bargains and faith in his scouts has allowed the Giants to add the Cody Rosses, Pat Burrells, Marco Scutaros and Michael Morses who've provided value far and beyond the money the team has invested in their contracts.

Sabean isn't much for staff meetings, and he believes the concept of scouting and player development applies in the majors as well as the amateur and minor league ends of the operations. The other philosophical underpinnings to his approach are relatively simple:

• Value substance over hype, and let the record speak for itself.

Larry Baer, San Francisco's president and CEO, thinks there's a bit of a "Yankees ethos'' at play in the way the Giants run their organization. But Sabean cites another eminently successful professional franchise as a more comparable model.

"There's a reason we're close to the vest,'' Sabean said. "I think the closest other model is the Patriots. We're going to do our thing and block out the noise, and we have our way of doing business.''

• Use every tool at your disposal.

If one misperception gnaws at the Giants, it's the notion that they're a horse-and-buggy scouting operation that regards advanced baseball metrics as an afterthought. The Giants have four analytics people in baseball operations and four IT people on staff, and they take full advantage of their proximity to Silicon Valley and the opportunities that presents. They're just careful not to be slaves to the next big sabermetric "thing.''

"What Brian does is balance it,'' Evans said. "New information is added, and it becomes part of the conversation. But he's never allowed new information to suddenly dominate the conversation. It's an add-on. I think that part of the dynamic has been a strength for him.''

• Be willing to put in the long hours necessary, because nothing less will suffice.

"Brian and Bruce are grinders, like our players, in the way they sweat the small stuff,'' Baer said. Sabean is a lot more tightly wound than his manager, but he's been able to weather the hard times and 24/7 nature of the job through the front-office camaraderie he's helped foster. The championships in San Francisco mean so much more to him because of the people who've shared the experience with him.

"We have a hell of a lot of fun in this organization,'' Sabean said. "We work our ass off, and we laugh and cry together.''

And come October, the Giants ride in a lot of parades. One day Bochy will describe his experience in a speech at the Hall of Fame. It will be only fitting if his general manager joins him on the podium.