By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Baseball Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy are set to lead the San Francisco Giants through 2012.
The World Series champions exercised their contract options for the general manager and manager Friday less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Giants made an improbable run to the franchise’s first title since 1954 and first since moving West in 1958, beating the Texas Rangers in five games last fall.
That’s after they clinched their first NL West crown since 2003 on the season’s final day.
Sabean, 54, is the longest-tenured GM in the majors heading into his 15th 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.
Sabean hired the 55-year-old Bochy 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.
Neither is ready to say the 2010 run brings them redemption, both quick to credit the players for the World Series championship that most figured was headed to the favored Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, the Giants eliminated the defending NL champions in the NLCS.
Bochy’s spot-on moves throughout the postseason with a roster minus a superstar finally earned him the respect of a fan base that had become impatient to have a winner again.
“This year we got it right largely because he was at the helm,” said Giants managing partner Bill Neukom, who said there were no discussions yet about an extension beyond 2012.
In October 2009, the futures of Sabean and Bochy were uncertain. Then, both men received two-year contract extensions from 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 Bonds’ last – in 2007 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.
He has done that at last, making a handful of risky moves midseason last year that paid off when it mattered most.
Pat Burrell got a second chance after the Rays released him. The Giants picked up Cody Ross in August off waivers from the Marlins, and he became a postseason start receiving NLCS MVP honors in San Francisco’s six-game victory over the Phillies. He drove in 10 runs during the playoffs, two in the World Series win over the Texas Rangers.
Sabean also promoted catcher Rookie of the Year catcher Buster Posey in May and traded away Bengie Molina.
The GM has kept nearly the entire roster intact to make another go at this. The Giants lost World Series MVP Edgar Renteria and utility infielder Juan Uribe, departed to the rival Dodgers.
“I feel a lot more anxiety. What’s next? Have we kept enough of the group together?” Sabean said. “Have we had enough change? … There’s enough to be excited about, but we also know that we had to go like (mad) to win this thing the last day of the season.”
Bochy made the tough call to leave struggling $126 million starting pitcher Barry Zito off the roster for the entire postseason. He also decided midseason to bench center fielder Aaron Rowand, who behind Zito is the team’s second-highest paid player.
Bochy was swept in the 1998 World Series while with San Diego and eliminated in the minimum three games in the 2005 division series by St. Louis, then lost in four games to the Cardinals in the first round the very next year. That ’98 team was Bochy’s lone pennant in 12 seasons as Padres skipper.
He got a fresh start in Northern California with the Giants. Bochy’s first Giants team went 71-91 and the one after that finished with just one more victory at 72-90.
“This has been an incredible ride. What a year. “I’m very honored to continue to be a Giant. This is a special place to be. I’m very lucky you have the confidence in me to lead this group of castoffs and misfits.”