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Revisiting Neukom's Downfall, and Where in SF Photo #2

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I noted on Twitter Monday this tidbit buried in one of Andy Baggarly's many daily posts:

Considering that eating Aaron Rowand's $12 million contract last August was a decision that contributed to the ouster of former managing partner Bill Neukom, it's hard to envision the Giants seriously entertaining the notion of cutting Zito anytime soon.
It was the first time I'd heard the Rowand decision was a definite factor in Neukom's ouster. Several people reminded me there was plenty of chatter about the possibility at the time, but beyond speculation? The Mark Purdy story in the Mercury News that uncovered the bad blood underlined disputes with the executive committee over Neukom's lack of communication and use of cash that the committee wanted to commit in part to a rainy day fund. There was no mention of fall-out because of Rowand (as far as I can tell; the story is now hidden in the Merc archives, so I'm going by memory and all the commentary that erupted around the story last September).

After Purdy's story, we were left wondering if it was Neukom's style or substance that got him 86'ed. We still don't know, exactly. But Baggs' line quoted above makes it sound like it was the decision -- ie, the substance -- not Neuk's communication -- the style -- that contributed to the rift.

Until Larry Baer or new Giants' chief Charles Johnson comes right out and says it -- "Dammit, there was no need to cut Aaron Rowand in August!" -- or until Baggs, Hank Schulman or another veteran reporter tells us, yes indeed, other execs disagreed with the move, I won't feel like I have a grasp on it.

Why is this important? Neukom's gone. The face of the Giants' renaissance was forced out the door. Why should we care if it was style or substance? Because if it was substance, and big shareholders such as Charles Johnson or the Burns sisters actually thought getting rid of Rowand was a bad idea, Lord have mercy. The dismissal of Rowand (not to mention Miguel Tejada) was one of the best personnel moves of the year; anyone who thought or thinks otherwise should be kept away from a baseball stadium with stun guns and straitjackets.

If it's more about style, well, bad on them for chafing over Neukom's people skills, but at least there's wiggle room to hope the new chieftains agreed with the substance of the maneuver. They might still have decent baseball minds.

A quick side note for those who were part of the Twitter thread earlier today. I made reference to a Sporting News article from last September, dug up by Anna Salinger, in which Neukom and the Giants denied there was any conflict behind his moving on. It's actually the only direct reference to the Rowand issue I could find. Here's what the writer writes:

Neukom also denied there was an issue with regard to financial reserves, cited in Bay Area press reports as a key wedge issue between himself and the board. "We have significant reserves. The Giants have a rainy-day fund and it is substantial," he said.

Neukom, however, did acknowledge that the recent decision to cut center fielder Aaron Rowand and eat roughly $12 million remaining on his contract for next season arrived "with a lot of agony and a lot of analysis."

That ...however, did acknowledge... is a cheap rhetorical trick, just a few shades subtler than "He denies that he still beats his wife." Might've been the writer, might've been the editor of the piece, so I'm not going to point fingers too precisely. But the turn of phrase takes Neukom's admission that cutting Rowand was a difficult decision and adds an overtone of implication that it was a divisive decision.

I'm prattling on about this because there's a lot of fear that the post-Neukom leadership, unwilling to spring for decent wiper blades and new shocks, is going to drive the franchise into a ditch. Exhibit A was the "rainy day fund" whispers in Purdy's column; Exhibit B was what seemed to be a hello-you-must-be-going attempt to re-sign Carlos Beltran; Exhibit C is the dragged-out negotiation for a Matt Cain contract extension. There are probably other exhibits out there to be had.

So what do we need to see? If we had a more tangible sense that the new folks were willing to spend lots of money in the right places based on sound baseball decisions, perhaps the panic wouldn't be rising like bile. Hey, it's possible they've said amongst themselves, "Based on all available evidence, four years is the longest contract we'll offer a pitcher; anything more has a great chance of hamstringing the team down the road. If Cain wants more years, he'll have to agree to creative structures like options and triggers." I wouldn't necessarily agree (though I kinda do), but at least I'd know Chas Johnson & Co. were doing their best for the team's record, and not just for their pocketbooks.


For those of you not following me on Twitter, here's Photo 002 for the Where In SF? contest. A rehash of the rules, plus a bit more: Every photo I post will be shot within San Francisco city limits. You tell me as specifically as possible what is in the photo and where it is, and (if relevant) where I was standing with the camera. (For example, if I post a shot of Ocean Beach, answering "Ocean Beach at the end of Noriega Street" will win you more points than simply answering "Ocean Beach.")

Thanks to everyone who guessed the location of Photo 001, which you can find here. I'll unveil the answers after every five photos to give stragglers the chance to go back and fill in answers. I'm keeping tabs of everyone who answers and assigning points on this scale: 1 point for being generally correct and 2 points for being exquisitely precisely correct. Remember, answers via email (leftymalo - at - gmail) or Twitter DM only, please.


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Header photo courtesy of Flickr user eviltomthai under a Creative Commons license.