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.