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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Neukom, Optimism Out; Baer, Pessimism In


In a stunning development, the San Jose Mercury News is reporting that Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom is out, being replaced by Larry Baer.

What does this mean for the Giants? Bad news, man… bad, bad news.

Reports are that Neukom is being forced out by the Giants’ board because he dared to spend the extra money the team made from last year’s phenomenal championship run, rather than hoard the money away for a “rainy day” as the article put it. Let me get this straight: the Giants’ board doesn’t want to spend the money they’re earning from fielding a winning team, so they’re forcing out the one guy who does want to keep spending and keep putting winning teams on the field. That makes... well, that doesn't make any sense at all.

Baer is a holdover from the Peter Magowan era; an era defined by teams that were just good enough to contend but never spent enough money to get them over the hump. With Baer in charge, is that the kind of team we can expect the Giants to field from now on? In a word, yes. If Neukom is being forced out because he spent too much money, the ownership group obviously is going to replace him with someone who’ll spend more to their liking. Baer is that puppet, err, man.

I’m immediately worried about the Giants long and short term future. With the contracts of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum coming up soon, you have to wonder if the Giants will do what it takes to retain their homegrown World Championship core or let them walk to the highest bidder. To keep all of the key pieces, payroll will have to rise well above $120 million and something tells me this ownership group isn’t too keen on a number in that price range. I fear we’re heading backwards, back to the era of teams in the $90-$105 million payroll bracket with the explanation that they have a ballpark to pay for and have to keep costs low... basically, back to the era of Peter Magowan. And forget about signing a free agent like Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder; instead, get ready for more players like Ray Durham or Michael Tucker.

Neukom was also a key player in developing the Giants’ minor league system, installing what’s become known as the “Giants Way” and placing a greater emphasis on the draft. In the Magowan era, which Baer is a product of, the draft was secondary and the minor league system was used as a means to trade for veteran players. The Giants would routinely sign Type-A free agents (Tucker, Armando Benitez, etc.) and lose their first round picks in the process as a way of avoiding paying huge signing bonuses to amateur players. With Baer in charge, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the Giants revert back to that formula.

This is a shocking day in Giants history, and sadly I also think it’s a dark one. Bill Neukom was a true baseball fan and ran the team like one; he talked about wanting to win, and backed up his talk by spending the money necessary to do so. Larry Baer is a businessman first, and his main concern will be the ownership group’s bottom line. The days of putting the success of the baseball team ahead of the size of the ownership group’s bank accounts are sadly over.

It was 52 years before the Giants won a World Series in San Francisco; will it be 52 years before they win another one? If you’d have asked me that question a week ago, I would’ve laughed. Now? I’m not so sure.

At least we’ll always have 2010. Thank you for that, Mr. Neukom. You got a raw deal.

And I really, really hope Tim Lincecum thinks pinstripes make him look fat.

7 comments:

  1. He was let go because he made decisions without consulting his bosses (the executive board), not because he spent money. It's basic chain-of-command in large corporations.

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  2. It's what he was spending it on that disturbs me. Player payroll and team infrastructure... the board isn't behind that? That's scary. That tells me they're moving back to a frugal mindset, and I don't like it. At all.

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  3. No one knows if the board is or isn't behind spending on payroll or infrastructure. It doesn't matter if they are or aren't in regards to letting go a CEO when he allegedly didn't ask them how they want to spend their money.

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  4. Here you go: "According to sources close to the team, as well as the Mercury News report, the issue at hand was Neukom's communication with the Giants' executive committee."

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/giants/detail?entry_id=97570#ixzz1XywAIWAB

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  5. I don't buy that. Communication issues can be fixed without taking the drastic step of firing him. Purdy's article spelled it out for me: they wanted to pocket the money they made during their playoff run, and Neukom spent it. They can spin it as a communication issue, but that was the driving force.

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  6. You may be right! Maybe I'm being too optimistic... Only time will tell I guess.

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  7. With all due respect I don't believe that communication issues are the problem. Maybe the board didn't like hearing about things on the news first, but if you hire a guy to run the team you can't then expect him to run every relatively minor expenditure by the board. If he offers a FA $126 million then obviously they should be informed and consulted but Neukom didn't do anything like that. To me, it sounds like the board wants to run the team including every major or minor decision but wants to have a frontman so they stay mostly anonymous. I don't think they can have it both ways: either take a public role and run the team or hire someone else to do it and judge him based on the success or failure of his decisions and not how quickly he informs you of them.

    How often is the board all in one place and easily notified of an impending decision? If Sabean is negotiating with a FA or a trade partner and has to make a quick decision is he really supposed to notify the CEO who then notifies all 10 members of the executive board plus the other 20ish minority investors? That model will never work. By the time everyone has been notified of an impending decision it will be too late and the FA or trade target will end up elsewhere. Makes you wonder if there are players the Giants have lost because they spent time notifying 30+ owners before getting the deal done.

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