On March 11, Chuck Greenberg was ousted as Texas Rangers’ managing partner and CEO. Nolan Ryan was named CEO immediately thereafter, with the plan to become the managing partner down the road. Two months later on May 12, Ryan was approved as the Rangers’ managing partner by a 30-0 vote.
Just over six months after Greenberg’s ouster, the Giants were forced to announce managing partner Bill Neukom’s “retirement”. Mark Purdy reported that Larry Baer would be named CEO of the team, with someone else becoming managing partner. Purdy included three names as the possible next managing partner, including Franklin Templeton Chairman Charles Johnson, who appears to be the frontrunner among internal candidates (I’m not aware of any outside money coming in at this point, though Neukom said he will divest his share in the future). The Giants will need to address that hole at the top of the organization, since it’s the managing partner who represents the team on all relevant league matters, and a fairly important league matter is coming up in CBA negotiations. (The CEO title is entirely internal to the team organization.) Based on the lead time for the slam dunk approval for Ryan and the drawn out process for Jim Crane’s purchase of the Astros, approval of the Giants’ new managing partner candidate should take at least two months.
Now we all know how much Bud Selig, who gives the ultimate thumbs up or down on all ownership matters, likes consensus (or at least the appearance of it). He had no trouble rustling up the 30-0 yea for Ryan, since the fireballer has been a known quantity in baseball for over four decades and is not the type to rock the boat. He wants the same thing for the Astros, and he should get it for the Giants. Reservations about Crane’s previous business doings have tripped him up at least in some owners’ eyes. Just as reservations stand in the way for Crane, there could be at least one owner who stands in the way of 30-0 for the Giants: Lew Wolff.
Wolff has signaled on this site that he’s going to go along with whatever the Commissioner decides, so we can’t expect Grandpa Lew to pace outside Bud’s office wearing a sandwich board. Yet he doesn’t even need to formally verbalize his dissatisfaction regarding the Giants’ territorial rights stance in an owner’s meeting – everyone knows what he thinks and the threat he represents. This provides an opportunity – or rather, an excuse – to bring the two teams to the table to work things out. The Giants have the big holdout vote on the A’s moving to San Jose, and the A’s could be the dissenter in approving a new Giants managing partner. Obviously, the two decisions are not even in the same spectrum in terms of impact, but when you have a commissioner who strives for unanimity, even the smallest tensions can upset it. What’s a commissioner who normally sits on his hands to do? The last thing he needs is the appearance of disunity among his ranks, and a stalemate between the two Bay Area teams couldn’t come at a worse time, even if CBA negotiations are not expected to be particularly rancorous. Both the Dodgers and the Mets are on Lady Justice’s clock, which means no quick resolutions for either.
It’s unfortunate that the Giants chose to make this change now, before the season is officially over. They know that the CBA is coming up, they know that Wolff is looking for a crack in the door. They were probably looking to wait until after the big decisions were complete in November-December before they announced Neukom’s departure. Purdy foiled their plan with his reportage, and if it wasn’t for the very professional Giants media relations staff, he’d be persona non grata at AT&T Park. Nevertheless, that’s where we are now, and while it’s a leap to think that Wolff will aggressively pursue a course of action or lobby owners, that crack is there.
I’ll characterize Wolff’s chances at this point at 25-30% of getting what he wants, 50% of at least getting to the table. Considering where we’ve been for the last few years, I think he’ll take the odds every time.