Giants 2011 Freefall: Team Ownership Group Ousts Bill Neukom

Make no mistake about it. The the decision by the 32 principal partners who comprise the ownership group of the San Francisco Giants to dump managing general partner Bill Neukom registered pretty close to the 1906 earthquake on the City’s Richter scale. Not only is Neukom out as the lead guy in the ownership group, he is also expected to sell his shares of the team to a number of current investors.

We’ll have to wait and see if the Giants’ principal partners also make Neukom change his name and relocate to a run down trailor park in rural Nevada. 

bill neukom-2Bill Neukom’s removal was supposed to be made public at the conclusion of the 2011 season sometime before December, the baseball equivalent of making the move in the middle of the night when no one is watching. But when word of Neukom’s purge was leaked to Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury the Giants’ front office went into scramble mode, trying to pass this off as an orderly, planned transition under the silly cover story that Bill Neukom had intended to “retire” this year all along.

Right. And Osama bin Laden passed away after accidently tripping on a rug in his secure compound.   

Simply put, this is an unprecedented palace purge within a Major League franchise that won the World Series a mere 10 and a half months ago. And these type of topplings do not happen unless another guy at the top is making his move; in this case team President and COO Larry Baer now becomes San Francisco’s Chief Executive Officer. Think “Godfather III” only with a much better script and no George Hamilton.

During a 47 minute live press conference on CSN Bay Area this morning, Bill Neukom and Larry Baer spent a great deal of time hailing Neukom’s achievements leading the Giants. In fact the gathered media was repeatedly reminded of Nukom’s wide-ranging accomplishments on behalf of the organization, making one wonder how they could possibly let him slip away.

The chilling reality? Absolutely no denials of reporter Mark Purdy’s two key contentions that, 1) Neukom did not effectively communicate with the ownership’s Executive Committee in terms of the trades and other payroll decisions made this year (think the Carlos Beltran and Orlando Cabrera trades and eating the remaining $12.5 million of Aaron Rowand’s contract); and, 2) that Bill Neukom is being forced out by the ownership’s Executive Committee.

What does it all mean? That’s up to Larry Baer, who has been part of the Giants’ original ownership group since 1993. Either Baer is going to boldly put his mark on this franchise or he is going to slink under the radar and be more of an empowering steward who hopes to simply keep his job longer than three years. Think about it: the Giants will have had three CEO’s in one four year period. 

The ”Larry Baer era” would have to begin with the graceful removal of General Manager Brian Sabean and his outdated management approach. At a time when many younger GMs freely communicate with each other, with player agents, and with the media, Sabean still runs the baseball operations side of the franchise like the Soviet Union during the cold war.

And Sabean’s slow acceptance of the advanced, cutting edge information sabermetrics can provide kept the Giants front office perpetually stuck in a 1990 baseball operations mindset for years. Which may explain why the team ends up with so many high-priced veterans who were productive at some point in the past– unable to properly assess upcoming talent, Sabean relies on the previously talented.

Brian Sabean has a one year extension through 2012; what happens with that contract will be a big clue about the team’s future direction. Another test will be what the Giants do this off-season about their anemic offense. At the end of this season free agents like Albert Pujols will be up for grabs, and somewhere out there are teams who would be willing to trade a quality offensive player for pitcher Matt Cain and his 68-72 record.

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