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Larry Baer and the Thirty Percent Solution

sf-fanfest-150x150The Giants recently held their annual “FanFest”, the massive pre-season pep rally scheduled by most MLB teams a month prior to Spring Training. On the heels of a Championship season, the response to see Giants players and get back to the home field was overwhelming as some 40,000 fans jammed AT&T Park.

The event was broadcast on KNBR, the Giants’ flagship radio station and I caught Giants President and Chief Operating Officer Larry Baer being interviewed during the festivities. In a moment that must have sent every gene in his body spinning backwards, Baer had to announce over the air that any fans still en route to FanFest, or who were not actually in line outside the ballpark for the two hour wait to get inside, should turn around and go home. The joint was filled to overflowing.

Understand, Larry Baer has spent much of his waking hours the past nineteen years urging all Giants fans, and any other mammals capable of physically purchasing game tickets, to come to AT&T Park and immediately begin consuming garlic fries and $12.00 cups of imported beer.

As Baer made a gurgled attempt to get the words “stay away” out of his throat, I could have sworn he began choking uncontrollably. Then, I imagined him bravely waving off medical help as he started over again. “Please do not come to the ballpark for FanFest, we are full, we have too many of you wonderful fans… I’m sorry but the response has been just overwhelming…”. The effort was simply too much for the marketing-minded COO, who was led away to a “quiet area” where he was finally able to calm down by reviewing 2010 season game receipts and the cumulative revenue from local and national broadcasting rights.

FanFest sounded like it was a blast, but something else Larry Baer said during his radio interview provided insight into the analytical approach of the Giants’ front office. When asked for the eleventy millionth time whether he thought the Giants could repeat last year’s amazing success in  2011, Baer said he thought the team had a great chance to repeat even if serious adjustments had to be made during the season. Baer explained that a baseball season is unlike the season of any other professional sport because there is time to find out what you have and make adjustments.

As KNBR commentator Marty Lurie explained a number of times last year, the 162 game season allows for missteps, a couple of very nasty losing streaks, some bad luck, and player injuries. And a resilient team still has time to regroup and win.

Larry Baer said that the first 50 games of the season allow the manager and front office to assess what they have; the next 50 games allow management to adjust and problem-solve; and the final 62 games are all about winning. A simple formula, but one that illustrates how far the Giants have come in the post-Bonds era. This 30% solution to managing a baseball season is the perspective of a professional organization that is confident, reacts without panic, and knows it has the ability to intelligently improvise.

And they will be tested. Symbolically, game #50 on May 27, 2011 will be against the Milwaukee Brewers, the National League’s number one resurgent team. And game #100? Also against the improved Brewers. I like the challenging symbolism…     and I believe I have a solution. 

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