A Giants Christmas Carol

by Richard Booroojian, EEEEEE! Contributing Editor

The timing's a bit off, but that's okay. Richard provides a chilling look at Giants Seasons Future.-- GP

"Prospects! Hah! Give me Proven Major Leaguers any day."

Ebenezer Sabean threw down the newspaper and stared around his office in disgust. "Bah humbug," he snarled. "The Dodgers and the Diamondbacks are throwing money around like crazy. Payrolls are up around $80 million. Even The Boss is tossing money around freely. That's no way to run a baseball franchise."

He stood up and strode to the door, then yanked it open. Perched uncomfortably on his frail wooden desk was his director of scouting, Bob Cratchit. "Uh, merry Christmas, Mr. Sabean," Cratchit stammered.

"Bah humbug. What's so merry about it?" Ebenezer barked. Cratchit cowered.

"Well, sir, I have some new scouting reports here. Look how our prospects have been doing in winter ball."

"Prospects! Hah!" Sabean growled. "Give me Proven Major Leaguers any day. I have no time for those youngsters, running around all enthusiastic but never coming through in the clutch. All they do is screw up, and then, just when they might finally do something halfway useful, they go and hire Scott Boras and try to break the bank. My former partner, Jacob Quinn, knew how to set up a franchise. Bring in the guys that have been around but never really done anything. They play for next to nothing. Don't waste money on the big guns and don't put all your faith in the young guys. They're just a waste of time and effort."

"But Mr. Sabean," Cratchit protested. "We have some great young arms in the system. I'm thinking Grilli and Bump will help us real soon. And Armando Rios could be the real deal...."

"Bah humbug!" snapped Sabean. "Don't talk to me about Grilli. I had an offer to trade him to the Cubs for Manny Alexander. I'll do it first thing tomorrow. Got to have someone to cover for that choker Aurilia."

"Oh no!" gasped Cratchit. "Jason Grilli is going to win 20 games for us before you know it. Please...."

"ENOUGH!!!" roared Sabean. "I still don't know why I let you talk me into cutting Sanchez. Then I could have traded Grilli for Kent Mercker. Get out of here and don't come back for the rest of the week. Without pay!" he added, seeing Cratchit's grateful look. The Scouting Director's face fell, but he gathered his papers and left without a backward glance.

Sabean pulled on his coat and stomped out into the cold swirling wind outside his 3Com Park office. As always, he gazed fondly on his office door with the sign that said "Ebenezer Sabean, General Manager." Just under it, he could still make out the outline of the name of his beloved predecessor, Jacob Quinn. "Ah, Jacob," Ebenezer soothed, "I still remember everything you taught me. You won't see me spending any huge amounts of money, just to try to win. Better to do it on a shoestring. Say, I wonder if Terry Mulholland is available...."

That night, Sabean settled down with his favorite book, The 1992 New York Yankee Front Office Directory, alternately reading and sipping from a glass of warm milk. Suddenly, the night was shattered by a knocking at the front door.

"What?! Who?!" Ebenezer spluttered, lurching to his feet. He opened the door and recoiled in horror. Standing in front of him was a man wearing on his face a grimace so terrifying, so extreme, that Sabean started to reach back behind him, trying to grab an umbrella to allow for some small measure of protection. The man leaned forward.

"Mr. Sabean? Please sir, I'm looking for a job," said Trevor Wilson. "I'm a lefty and I can still pitch. I'll work cheap...?"

"BAH!" Sabean cursed and slammed the door in Wilson's startled face.

Sabean settled back into his chair, but he had a hard time getting back into his reading. His eyes drifted shut...

Suddenly, his eyes flew back open. He heard chains, chains rattling in the night, and a mournful moaning from all around. Suddenly, someone stepped right out of his wall. Ebenezer gasped as the visitor took the form of his beloved former partner, Jacob Quinn.

"Jacob! I haven't seen you since you retired to Arizona. What are you doing here?"

"I am in baaaseballlll purrrrgatorrrrry," wailed the flickering image of Quinn. "I am shut ooouuut of the game because my methods don't wooorrrk anymooooore...."

"Nonsense!" snapped Ebenezer. "You have taught me everything I ever knew. Everything works just fine. I still have a payroll under $45 million. The owners only lose $10 million a year. What more could you ask for? Winning? You know how that goes, Jacob. Win, and then they expect you to do it again. Bah humbug! Who needs it?" He glanced hopefully at his ghostly guest.

The ghost seemed to gather itself. "Ebenezer Sabean," it said more clearly. "You will have three more visitors tonight. Listen well and learn, Ebenezer. Do not end up like me, banished from the game I love like a relic from a different tiiiiiime...." With that, the vision that was Jacob Quinn flickered out.

"Well, I think this milk must be a little sour," muttered Sabean. "Otherwise, how could I possible imagine such claptrap? 'Relic from a different time' indeed. Why, the way I run the franchise is time worn and true and nothing could ever convince me otherwise. I think it must be time for bed."

Sabean was snoring gently when he was awaken suddenly by someone calling his name. "Jacob?" he called, but then his eyes cleared and he saw instead the flickering visage of a bespectacled man in a Giants' uniform with the number 34 and the name Herbel on the back. "I am the Ghost of Giants Seasons' Past," he said lightly. "Come with me, Ebenezer. We have a journey to make."

"Huh? What? I can't go anywhere. I need to be up early tomorrow so I can call Chicago."

"You will be back in plenty of time. Come along, Ebenezer. We have far to go." The Ghost extended his hand and Sabean, almost unwillingly, took it. He drifted out of his bed and floated out of the window, trailing his guide.

Soon, they were standing unnoticed in Candlestick Park, watching the Giants play. Something looked different... and then Ebenezer realized that the right field stands were missing. "That's right," said the Ghost to Sabean's questioning glance. "This is a vision of the Giants from many years ago. A happy time, when the team was great and always in the pennant race."

Sabean watched as a Giant wearing the number 24 hit a soaring home run. He was congratulated at the plate by a tall, dignified man, who then proceeded to hit a towering home run of his own. Sabean was impressed, and even more so when the teams switched places and a righthanded pitcher with a high leg kick mowed down the opposition to close out the game for a Giants' win.

"Wow, that's a good looking team," he exclaimed.

"Indeed," said the Ghost. "Those three players all ended up as Hall of Fame players, and all were beloved by the fans...."

"Three Hall of Famers?!" exclaimed Ebenezer. "Do you know how much that would cost? That GM should be fired for even trying to put that much talent on the field. Why, you can win the occasional division title with just one Hall of Famer, and if my owners would let me, I would try to do it with none. Hell, I could get my payroll under $35 million and still have J.T. Snow at first...."

"The General Manager for the Giants was the owner at this time," interrupted the Ghost, "and this group of players was one of the most beloved teams in Giants' history. People still remember them fondly many years later. And each one came up through the team's farm system: Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Cepeda...."

"Bah, humbug," scoffed Sabean. "It never pays to wait around for a bunch of rookies to turn into great players. Plus, if they do turn out to be good, then they just want more money. I can get serviceable players for millions a year less and do pretty much the same thing. Why, look at Danny Darwin...."

But the Ghost was pulling Ebenezer back now, and he soon deposited him in his bed. "Remember this vision, Ebenezer," the Ghost said, and then he was gone. Shaking his head, Sabean settled back down and was soon asleep once again.

But before long, he heard his name called once again. There floating above him, was a Ghost of a round-faced man who Sabean vaguely recognized as a former play-by-play announcer for the team. "I am the Ghost of Giants Seasons' Present," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "Or rather, the Coming Season. Come along, Ebenezer." And with that, Sabean was floating off once again.

Soon they were back at 3Com Park, once more in its familiar configuration. A number counting down the days hung in the right field stands, but things did not look so good on the field, where the team was getting pounded, the pitchers could not get anyone out and such fans as were there were booing lustily. As Sabean watched grimacing, the final out was recorded and the Giants filed off the field sadly.

The Ghost pulled him once more, and soon they were hovering in the corner of the team's locker room. The players were sitting around dispiritedly, pondering the defeat. Ebenezer realized that many of the players sitting here had not been with the team last season, and many players from last year's roster were missing.

"Looks like a lot of experienced players in this room," he said approvingly. "Proven Major Leaguers. None of those kids that kept falling apart last year. I like the look of this team. They should be able to easily overcome a loss like that."

"They have had a lot of practice," said the Ghost. "You have traded all the talented young players in the system for older players, and now they are all breaking down. This team is 20 games under.500, and it's only July."

"Well, that's what the manager is for," grumped Ebenezer. "Maybe I should fire him."

"You did," replied the Ghost sadly. "He didn't put up much of a fuss. He was a broken man, especially after you traded Grilli and Aurilia for Manny Alexander."

"Hmmm, Aurilia too?" mused Sabean. "So that's what I need to do to get that deal done! Thanks, Ghost!"

Just then the Giants' star player limped into the room and sat gingerly onto his stool. Several reporters rushed at him, only to be waved away. "What's wrong with him?" Sabean asked the Ghost.

"Ah, that is Tiny Barry," said the Ghost. "He is afflicted with a sad condition that can only be cured by getting some decent players. It's called Getting Old Without Having Won a Championship. Only putting together a good mix of stars and talented young players can possible save him from his fate."

"And what fate is that?" asked Ebenezer.

"Retiring without a ring," replied the Ghost.

"Bah, rings. That's all I ever hear about," grumbled Sabean. "There is no room in the budget for any rings. In fact, my former partner, Jacob Quinn didn't even think there was room in the budget for Barry."

"And look where your former partner is now," said the Ghost. He floated Ebenezer back to the bedroom and, with a last admonishment of "Remember this vision, Ebenezer," disappeared.

"I'll remember it, all right," snapped Sabean. "I'll have Aurilia out of town first thing tomorrow morning." And with that thought, he smiled and was soon asleep once again.

When he woke again, it was no sound that disturbed him, but rather a chill wind across his face. "Did I leave the window open?" he muttered, but then he saw yet another Ghost floating above him. This one was wearing the black warm up uniform of the Giants, and the bill of its hat was pulled so far down over its face that Ebenezer could not make out any features at all. "William?" Sabean asked faltering, but the Ghost shook its head. "Then I suppose you are the Ghost of Giants Seasons' Future?" The Ghost nodded and extended a bony hand; Sabean took it and the pair floated off.

This time they arrived in an office that Sabean did not recognize at all. A glance around offered an explanation; this was to be his new office at Pac Bell Park. Ebenezer was thrilled at the comfortable accommodations of the office, and he noted with approval that Bob Cratchit's frail wooden desk was still sitting outside his office. "This is a wonderful vision, Ghost," he enthused, but the Ghost held up a finger for silence.

Ebenezer soon understood why; two men entered the room and began to pack up all of the mementos and personal items and toss them carelessly in a cardboard box. "Careful with that stuff," admonished the one, whom Sabean realized with a start was his Scouting Director. "It's his personal stuff."

"Who cares?" said the other. "There is nothing he can do to either of us any more. If they had just fired him years ago, we would still have all of those great young players. We would be set now. Instead, you have to start all over."

"True," sighed Cratchit. "I told him Grilli was going to win 20 games, and now he's done it four years in a row. I even knew Rios would be a star. How could he have traded him and Bill Mueller for Dante Bichette? That bum didn't even last out the year before his stomach exploded. But," Cratchit said, straightening up "we did it once and we can do it again. Give us five or six years and we can restock the system. And this time, we'll let them play."

"Yes sir, Mr. General Manager!" said the other man with enthusiasm. "It will be an honor to be your Scouting Director!" He tossed a picture of a beaming Ebenezer and George Steinbrenner into the box.

"What?!" exclaimed Ebenezer. "What are they doing taking over my office? Cratchit can't be a General Manager. He wouldn't recognize a Proven Major Leaguer if it bit him in the nose. Always prattling on about those damned prospects...." But the Ghost was moving once more, and with him went Ebenezer. Through the dusty bowels of the stadium they floated, and Ebenezer felt as though many years were passing as they went. Suddenly, they were in an abandoned library, hovering over a bookstand on which a dust-covered book sat. Sabean blew off the dust and read the title: A History of the San Francisco Giants' First 100 Years. As if by itself, the tome opened and leaves flipped, finally settling on one page.

"Uh, Ghost," said Ebenezer worriedly. "Perhaps I don't want to actually read this book. Must I?"

The Ghost pointed at the book firmly and impassively. Sabean read the open page, which listed the Worst General Managers in franchise history. And there, at the top of the list, just ahead of Jacob Quinn and Spec Richardson and even (gasp) Tom Haller, was the name Ebenezer Sabean, printed in bold, grim indelible ink. And the notation read "Having depleted of the franchise's minor league talent pool to obtain a roster of experienced but aging players of dubious health and declining skills, Ebenezer Sabean doomed the team to a decade of last place finishes before his successors could repair the damage. And all he had to show for his efforts was one division title and no playoff victories."

"Ghost?" asked Ebenezer with a trembling voice. "Is this a Future That Must Be, or a Future That Might Be? Because if it just Might Be, can I perhaps change things and so change this terrible future?"

The Ghost was floating back now, and Ebenezer with him. "Because if I can change things," continued Ebenezer, "perhaps I will. Maybe times have changed. Maybe the old way isn't the best way anymore."

The Ghost brought Ebenezer back to his room and deposited him on his bed. "Please Ghost? I can change, I swear it!" pleaded Ebenezer. "Can I have just one more chance? Please Ghost? Please?"

Suddenly, the alarm went off and Sabean sprang up. "It was all a dream," he exclaimed. "Or was it?" He jumped out of bed and hurriedly dressed. "It doesn't matter. I'm still General Manager. There is still time to change!" Joyfully, he rushed down the stairs and flung open his door. "I can still change!" he cried out to the morning world.

Trevor Wilson was huddling in the doorway, shivering against the early morning chill. "Are you still looking for work?" cried Ebenezer?

"Oh yes, sir!" Wilson exclaimed through clenched teeth. "Yes, sir!"

"Here's a contract," Sabean said. "$350,000 for a year. See you in February. Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas to you, sir" called Trevor Wilson, tears in his eyes as he clutched the contract to his chest.

Sabean rushed to his office. Bob Cratchit was just leaving. "Sorry, sir," he cringed. "I know you told me not to come in, but I forgot my coat and it's so very cold and...."

"Never mind that!" cried Ebenezer expansively. "Come in, come in. I need you now. We must change our whole approach to everything. We have so much work to do! I've had a vision!"

"Oh sir," cried Cratchit joyfully. "Does this mean you aren't going to trade away Jason Grilli for Manny Alexander after all?!"

"It means nothing of the sort," said Sabean in irritation. "I said I had a vision, not an epiphany." And with that, he closed his office door and placed a phone call to Chicago.

As he's done with other pieces, Richard Booroojian wrote this without knowing he was doing so expressly for EEEEEE! You'd think that would teach him, but no. Not yet.

Copyright ©1999 by Richard Booroojian

Last updated 1/25/99
Gregg Pearlman, gregg@EEEEEEgp.com

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