Peter Magowan did a lot of good things while he was head of the Giants’ ownership group: he spearheaded the effort to keep the Giants in San Francisco, he signed Barry Bonds, he found a way to get voters to approve a new ballpark, etc. But to me, Magowan will be most remembered as an owner who was content to contend; that is, he was happy with building a team that would contend for the division, but never went above and beyond to add more expensive players to the roster. He liked spending just enough to be competitive, and if the Giants made the playoffs it was an added bonus.
Magowan was the first person I thought of when I heard Larry Baer would be taking over for the departing Bill Neukom as the man in charge of the Giants. Whereas Neukom seemed happy to spend money on improving the team (and that’s what ultimately forced him out), Baer comes from the Magowan school of doing things: spend just enough to keep people filling the seats and buying panda hats, but don’t go crazy with payroll. Sell the line of, “all we need to do is get to the playoffs, and anything can happen!” while keeping payroll costs capped.
Any hopes I had of being wrong about Baer were wiped out after hearing his recent comments about the state of the Giants. If you haven’t heard them, check them out here. And check out CrazyCrabbers.com's thoughts about Baer here.
Here’s a few of Baer’s choice quotes, and my thoughts about each:
“(T)he big thing for us is to further secure our pitching.”
Excellent plan! Signing Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum to long-term deals should be the highest priority for the Giants, since the team is built around starting pitching. And one of the strategies to keep the pitching in tact is to surround them with a dynamic offense, right? Well….
“Certainly we want to add some bats. We want to be careful we do it the right way.”
What does that even mean? What’s the right way, exactly? Not overspending on marginal bats? Ok, I’m with him there. Smart plan! Wait, didn’t the Giants recently offer $4.8 million to Willie Bloomquist? They did, right? Ok, so... that whole doing it the right way thing, that's out the window already? Alright then.
“We’re just looking at other things, some utility players.”
Oh, you’re just looking at other things? Some utility players? That makes sense, considering the lineup is so formidable as is. Because if there’s one thing that cost the Giants the playoffs last season, it was a lack of utility players. They simply didn't have enough utility players.
“We’re not necessarily shopping, per se.”
Oh, good. That's nice to hear.
“In a way we have two new free agents, Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez.”
I just threw up. No, Larry, you’re not adding two new free agents. You’re adding two guys coming off of catastrophic, season-ending, surgery-requiring injuries with no guarantees that either of them will be the players they were before they went down. Saying that Posey and Sanchez are free agent additions is a cop out of epic proportions, a slight-of-hand move to trick people into believing the Giants only need to make marginal improvements to the lineup and not go after more expensive options. Wrong on both accounts: the Giants need a lot of help offensively, and since they've decided not to "rush" their best hitting prospects the only way to get it is to spend money on players who can provide it. Trading for Melky Cabrera, signing a utility player or two, pointing at Sanchez and Posey and calling it a day isn't going to get it done.
This reminds me of the winter after the ’03 season, when Vlad Guerrero was on the market and seemed to be the perfect piece to add to a 103-win team and provide the lineup protection Bonds had lacked. Instead, we got Michael Tucker, AJ Pierzynski and a bunch of lame excuses about Vlad’s bad back. There may not be a Vlad Guerrero on the market this year, but the excuses still remain. Only now, it’s “doing things the right way” and “our injured guys are just like adding new free agents! Really!”
It’s going to be a long winter.