Barry Bonds

Magowan’s second Barry mistake — the final straw

On the morning after Matt Cain tried to take back the mantle of best pitcher (and sometimes, hitter) on the team from Tim Lincecum, it was reported by several this morning that Peter Magowan will step down as Managing General Partner of the San Francisco Giants.

If there was one thing that could be said for Peter, he didn’t stay idle. He was front and center (literally) from day one, sitting in the first row in his first year of owner at Candlestick Park.

He was a savior then, the man who represented the ownership group who rescued the Giants from an imminent move to Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg (which was how that place was almost always identified as back in 1992. What’s with that, anyway? Aren’t dual city names like Minneapolis/St. Paul or Dallas/Ft. Worth kind of like calling this area San Francisco/Oakland?) He was instrumental in getting the ownership group to agree to sign Barry Bonds, to what was a then stupefying seven-year, $49 million contract.

His group got Candlestick looking pretty good, which for years had cyclone fences in the outfield and was badly in need of some color anywhere. And he was always there at the games, in the front row. Sometimes even with a Giants cap on. That he shunned watching the game from a luxury suite showed that his professed love of baseball was no put-on.

Then the team moved to Pac Bell Park, a jewel he received a bulk of the credit for, even though he probably didn’t have as much of a hand in getting it built as people thought at the time. It was only after Pac Bell Park’s opening that Larry Baer started to take a much bigger role publicly. Magowan still sat in the front row at Pac Bell, SBC and AT&T, but Baer was doing all of the public relations work that Magowan used to do in the 1990’s. The reason was obvious. Baer is slick, eternally positive and has a plan of what he wants to communicate. Magowan is more emotional (like his tears following Bonds’ last home game) and can be easily tripped up by his own words (as we’ll look at later).

That led to his ultimate demise, ending when he formally steps down on Friday. If this ownership group was so upset about the Giants performance on the field over the past few years, Brian Sabean would have been fired the day after last season was over, not extended for two more years before last season even ended.

So this exit by Magowan (assuming it’s not for medical or personal reasons) has to be for reasons other than winning and losing, unless Magowan himself was responsible for the Giants having a lousy farm system, not Sabean and Dick Tidrow. For this change to occur now, there had to have been several members of the ownership group who were tired of being embarrassed.

Magowan did two things to embarrass the Giants in the past year and not surprisingly both embarrassments involved players named Barry. First was his two-part performance in the Mitchell Report, first telling George Mitchell Bonds admitted using steroids on a phone call to Magowan, followed by his lawyers calling back two days later to say Magowan misspoke. He also was conveniently traveling in Europe the week the Mitchell Report was made public.

And who knows, this could be a situation where Magowan and the Giants were going to be punished for their Mitchell Report follies and general BALCOness, and Magowan stepping down will relieve the franchise of any further penalties.

But the second Barry-related embarrassment — Zito becoming a historically colossal bust and the related aftermath — shows that not only can the Zito signing be completely attributed to Magowan, but that the ownership group is as upset about the number as the fans are. It wasn’t Sabean’s idea obviously; he is actually looked up with such good feeling in the group that it’s been rumored that he will step into Magowan’s post, not Baer.

What changes a Magowan-less Giants front office will bring are unknown, but there will be changes. The philosophy of surrounding one marketable star named Barry with middle-of-the-road veterans will be scrapped, surely. Maybe more money will be infused in the Minor League system, maybe less money. Regardless of who replaces Magowan as the face of the Giants vast and varied ownership group, it’s doubtful that person will be as front and center as Magowan was.

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