Monday, May 19, 2008

To the Toppermost of the Poppermost: Neukom

I was going to include this with the Magowan piece, but thought that Magowan deserved to have the post all to himself, mostly. This post will cover what is known about Neukom and what's been said, by him and others. This info came from a great research piece on Neukom from the Chron and a great interview that Andy Baggarly did with Neukom for the Merc, which was posted on his blog for the Merc.

Neukom's Background

He actually has a Bay Area connection and, in fact, a San Francisco Giants connection: he grew up in San Mateo (attended San Mateo High) and his father gave him 10 shares in the company that owned the Giants during the Stoneham era, plus he got his law degree at Stanford (all this info is from the Chron and Merc). He will purchase more control of the team with a group and will buy a home in the SF area when he becomes managing partner, and he should have no problem gettig approved by the MLB, Selig has already said as much.

He joined the ownership group in 1995 by cold-calling Magowan and buying a stake then. He continued to add to his stake as other investors didn't have the nerves to handle all the capital calls in the lean years after the strike with Candlestick. Eventually he got enough of a stake to join the executive committee, then became a general partner in 2003, along with Harmon Burns.

General partners have more responsibilities than the other owners. And the managing general partner has final say on matters instead of having to go through votes to make decisions. Apparently he already had a big enough stake that he could become managing partner without having to purchase more shares, though it was reported that Magowan will probably sell some of his stake, and Neukom has a group of investors buying a portion of those shares.

As noted, Baer is getting a promotion, partly because Neukom is taking on some of the duties Baer used to do, while Baer will take on duties that Magowan used to do, in that Baer will be more involved in the baseball side than before. That is what fuels my thought that Baer is being groomed to take over when Neukom is ready to pass on the title. At 66, he probably won't do more than 5-10 years as managing partner.

It was also noted that Brian Sabean will have expanded authority, though I did not see how much he will get. He did not give Sabean his full backing, but that's understandable, he's a lawyer and just wants to do his due diligence to make sure Sabean is the right person for the job. However, clearly, he respects and likes Sabean, based on what was said in the interview, he gave a great gift of a Willie Mays picture to Sabean when he came in for the announcement.

Neukom: The Man We Need Now

Neukom is reportedly "charming, thoughtful, charsimatic" and is "extremely competitive." "He is passionate about baseball and his hometown Giants. This will be good for the Giants and the Bay Area. He's outgoing, friendly guy, a quick study and a good listener." "He doesn't like to lose." That is a good trait for our new managing owner to have, because he is going to do things that will better the team and if money is the problem, he will find the investors who can come in and not make it a problem. I've been advocating for years that the Giants sell more shares to bring in more money and maybe now Neukom can do that.

Here's another good quote (also from Chron): "He as the audacity to really set ambitious goals, and then he does it by sheer force of personality." Sounds like exactly what we need in the managing owner after Magowan. To be competitive in the next few years, we need an influx of cash so that we can acquire a good hitter or two, whether by free agency or the draft should a Boras client fall to us.

The good news (most of the rest is from Merc blog by Baggarly, interview with Neukom)is that Neukom believes that the best way to build up the team is to invest and reinvest in player development and the draft, so that should mean more funds will be made available to not only sign more talent in the draft, but sign more talent from the international market. That should mean both in the Carribean as well as the Asia-Pacific region, where the Giants have not done much but take on other people's rejects, Shinjo and Yabu.

He states that you "have to have a medium view and long term view of how you develop and replenish your talent."

Most importantly, though he doesn't quite say it, but apparently money will not be the limiting factor for the budget but rather "what does it take to get a team on the field that is competitive? You start with that. Don't approach it from, 'How much is our budget?' Or, 'This is what we can allocate for baseball players.'"

That to me means if we need another big hitter and there's one on the market, he's going to get the other owners to either pony up or he would arrange to buy them out with his group (ownership share is unknown but it is probably at least 10% since they made him managing partner, and perhaps in the 15-20% range after Magowan sells some of his shares). Because he hates to lose and now he's in charge.

He believes that the goal of the team is to make the playoffs because (essentially the Billy Beane theorem) once you get in there, anyobdy can win since so many wild card teams have won the World Series.

World Series Victory or Bust

So if you put all that together, that means that the first goal of the team is to be competitive, budget not a limiting factor. And they will invest more in the farm system and in player development. Because he doesn't like to lose and like to set ambitious goals, I assume he wants to win the World Series while he is the managing owner, particularly since he has only been a San Francisco Giants fan, not a NY Giants like Magowan who experienced a World Series victory. That extra amount of hunger hopefully will fuel him.

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