The San Francisco Giants have always toed the line between striving for a World Series title and running a profitable business. Such is usually the case when a team is run by a large group instead of by one extremely rich person or family. Surely all the non-Magowan/Neukom owners would like the team to do well, but owners who put in money and receive none of the credit or publicity at least want to make sure they aren’t losing any money on their investment.
That brings us to the Manny Ramirez situation. According to Henry Schulman, “The Giants and Scott Boras have talked, and it has not been a one-way conversation. In other words, the Giants have some interest in bringing Ramirez to San Francisco. This is not a case of Boras just trying to drum up another suitor to get the Dodgers re-engaged.”
Nowadays it seems like every single subject gets linked to the ongoing economic recession, and the possibility of adding ManRam is no exception. Clearly fans across the country are going to be looking for ways to cut unnecessary expenses, and baseball certainly applies. Check that — bad baseball is an unnecessary expense, paying to watch good or great baseball is much easier to rationalize.
There aren’t many areas of the country that aren’t full of front-runners, bandwagon-jumping fans who fill stadiums only during times of success, but the Bay Area is notorious for this. However, Giants fans have been trained to expect either 90 wins or the chance to root for a world-class slugger or two in the lineup. The team skated through its first post-Bonds campaign, a season where the team possessed neither the ability to win nor even a mediocre slugger, let alone a future Hall of Famer. The team still averaged over 35,000 tickets sold per game, but that was before the foreclosure-fest and during a season where the team was essentially given a free pass by its fanbase, who were actually quite understanding as long as the team made good on its promise to go young.
In 2009, things will be different. $30 for parking, $30 (at least) for a seat, $9,300 per beer, blah, blah, blah. We all know going to games is expensive, but when people are losing their jobs, cars and houses it becomes a bit more difficult to convince them to spend grocery money on a team that is liable to hit about 12 homers per month.
Just as it seemed for years that the Giants calculated the exact amount (and not a penny more!) they would need to spend in order to stay competitive enough in the NL West to assure they played no “meaningless games,” the Giants are right now calculating how much money they would lose by not signing Manny. On one hand, signing the oldest available outfielder after paying $8 million to the oldest available starting pitcher (Randy Johnson) would push the payroll over $100 million. On the other, it’s conceivable Manny would raise average attendance by up to 5,000 fans a night, and significantly increase their chances at reaching the playoffs (as they used to say on In Living Color’s Homeboy Shopping Network: mo money, mo money, mo money!).
It’s also logical to assume that a 38-year-old Manny Ramirez might not make enough of a difference to put the otherwise powerless Giants on top of their division, or that Ramirez could break down or suffer a sharp downslide in production. It’s also a guarantee that with Manny in left and Aaron Rowand in center, Mays Field would acquire its second “Triples Alley.”
Say the Giants did sign Manny to a contract averaging $22 million a year, and the signing did lead to an extra 5,000 fans a game. That would mean 400,000 extra tickets sold for the season. If each extra seat filled meant $50 for the Giants and their ownership group, that would be exactly $20 million. With just one home playoff game, the Giants would recoup their investment.
Here’s the Giants lineup if they decide to re-live the Bonds years and invest in another aging and mercurial hitting savant to play left field.
Ishikawa/Aurilia (is there any doubt Richie will be back?)
In the AL East, a lineup like this would ensure a fourth-place finish at best, but in the NL West it could be just enough to win. In a year where the Giants look to have a tough time selling tickets for home games where Lincecum isn’t pitching or Randy Johnson isn’t going for his 300th win. Because as we all know, Giants fans love their individual milestones. Speaking of milestones, Manny’s 608 hits away from 3,000 (which at his pace would take four seasons to achieve) and 73 homers away from 600 (something he should get to within three). You know, the more we add up the numbers, Manny seems more and more like a future Giant. That is, until you notice he missed 70 games over the past three seasons.