San Francisco Wearing sunglasses and an open-collared black shirt, Brian Sabean exudes California cool in the afternoon sun at Pacific Bell Park.
Then somebody mentions the high stakes and small error margin in his San Francisco Giants' upcoming divisional playoff series, and Sabean's calm is blown out of the park and into McCovey Cove.
"The series scares the hell out of me," the San Francisco GM said. "I think the biggest reason is that (both) teams are very powerful. The 97 wins and the home-field advantage doesn't mean (anything) until we get out of the first round."
San Francisco takes on the New York Mets in the best-of-5 series beginning Wednesday at Pac Bell. The Giants' 97 victories gave them baseball's best record, the NL West title and the right to open the playoffs with the first postseason game at their beautiful new park.
San Francisco, which also had the game's best home record, would be terribly embarrassed by a first-round loss. Despite their lofty record, the Giants are in unfamiliar territory. They haven't won a postseason game in Dusty Baker's eight-year tenure.
The Mets, with consecutive postseason appearances for the first time in team history and baseball's fifth-biggest payroll at $89.8 million, might need to win the series in order for manager Bobby Valentine and GM Steve Phillips to keep their jobs.
"The Mets are a very experienced and deep ballclub," Sabean said. "Coming in here for the first two games won't bother them at all, and we know how tough they are at home. This is going to be hard-fought. It certainly to me is a coin flip."
Each team has five starters that won at least 11 games this season to go with quality bullpens. "I know going into the series that there aren't going to be a lot of runs scored," said Al Leiter, who will start Game 2 for the Mets. "I always have to assume that as a starter."
New York was swept in a four-game series in May in San Francisco.