Whispers of A Giant Change
By Ray Ratto
(05-10) 18:52 PDT -- The rumors that Peter Magowan may be looking to end his tenure as managing general big shot of the Giants have been swirling for a few weeks now, but it wasn't until the organization confirmed that the rumors have legs that they started to run.
Neither Magowan nor his manager/cut man Larry Baer has chosen to respond for the record (a possible first in the history of this ownership). Neither was on hand to watch Tim Lincecum dismiss the Phillies 8-2 on Saturday, which is not that unusual. On the other hand, vice president for communications Staci Slaughter, referring to Magowan, told Our Team's John Shea the other day, "He's 66, and has thought about it from time to time, but no decision has been made at all. At this point, he has no decision on that."
In other words, an era in Giants baseball may be coming to an end. We think.
If you don't mind a bit of statement-parsing, 66 has nothing to do with it, he is considering the hell out of retirement, the buyout numbers and other details haven't been agreed to yet and the future for this team is about to become very interesting.
But before we get to the future, let's consider Slaughter's statement, clearly approved by Magowan and Baer, in chronological order:
-- Yes, Magowan is indeed 66, which places him 17th on the Major League Baseball owners' birthday list, 26 years younger than Carl Pohlad (Minnesota), and 18 years older than Stuart Sternberg (Tampa Bay) and Good Time Charlie Monfort (Colorado). Point is, you can be really old and run a ball team.
-- Yes, we're sure he has thought about it from time to time as the era of good feeling has faded and he has become a ready target on so many fronts. Rehashing his legacy isn't all that useful now, so we'll save that for a slower news day. Besides, we don't know if he is thinking of retiring or his partners are thinking of it for him, either, because nobody is talking for the record beyond Slaughter's statement.
All will be revealed in time, along with the amount of money it will cost to buy him out (based on his percentage of shares and the current Forbes franchise valuation of $494 million, we're thinking north of $70 million, although it could be more if the seawall development across from the ballpark gets done).
Anyway, it is less important in the longer view to establish a price tag for his piece or to determine whether he is heading for the pool furniture under his own impetus than it is to figure out what the Giants will look like and operate under in a post-Petey world.
Sue Burns, the widow of Harmon Burns, who owned the largest single share of the team, could take control simply by virtue of holding the most stock. A new investor or investors could surface (the Giants already have 30, so what's a dozen or so more?). A new managing general partner could be named regardless of the size of that partnership. A single big-money operator could try to buy controlling interest. General manager Brian Sabean could take on more responsibility in a new regime. Magowan also simply could step down and hold his shares. The possibilities are as considerable as they are nebulous.
And so are the potential differences. A new owner might be better equipped and philosophically committed to spending more money on the development end. A new owner also might be less of a public a figure (in fact, that's pretty likely, if based only on the recent trend among owners in baseball and other sports). A new owner might leave the baseball department to run the baseball department without obsessing so detrimentally on star power and marketability. After all, good teams market themselves, and make more money than any other type.
On the other hand, a new owner also could be a grand smoking disaster - a profit-taking, publicity-seizing, visionless schmo. Say, like Jeffrey Loria in Florida, just to name one.
But now we're getting ahead of ourselves. Magowan isn't a past-tense owner yet, but he will be, perhaps as soon as season's end. And then the real fun starts, as it always does when an era ends.