Bill Neukom

KNBR tiptoes around the Bill Neukom thing

Bill Neukom was pushed out as the San Francisco Giants Managing General Partner, a story that broke on Wednesday afternoon. Big news, right? Sure, unless you run a talk radio station that carries Giants games. Then it’s just a nice little transition of power from Neukom to Larry Baer.

Once Mark Purdy’s story about Neukom’s ouster caught fire on Twitter, KNBR was in full damage-control mode. Note, Mark Purdy didn’t report about KNBR doing something crazy on Wednesday, like Gary Radnich and Ralph Barbieri forcing Lee Hammer out as program director. This was a Giant story in every sense of the word, and seeing as KNBR is the Giants’ station and supposedly the top sports radio station in the country (thankfully they stopped making those nebulous claims a while ago), it’s a story worth telling. Right?

One would think so, especially since the story broke with KNBR’s resident brass-killer Ralph Barbieri on air at the time. Y’all remember that time when Ralph and Sabez yelled at each other on the air about lunatic fringism, right? And that other time about Armando Benitez? OH, IT’S ON, MOTHERBUSTERS.

Eh, not so much. The hosts were told to tread lightly. And lightly they treaded.

I was trapped in my car trying to get to Oakland from San Francisco during rush hour on Wednesday afternoon, and from what I heard both Barbieri and Tom Tolbert were muzzled. Want to know how I know, other than the fact that Barbieri pretty much recited Baer’s wikipedia resume (He’s an amazing marketing guy, only he’s really sincere!)?

The Razor and Mr. T hit the phone lines, but not in their usual manner. Instead of going 5 minutes at a time with their favorite caller(s), the kings of KNBR ran through calls like Marty Lurie. It was like someone else was running their show, because every caller got about 90 seconds. What happened, did Gary Radnich move to the 3-to-7 slot? No, the Razor and Mr. T were under orders to chill out on any sort of organizational questioning when it came to the Giants.

Maybe that’s why they freaked out when they went to a caller early on and all the calls … weren’t there. The board went from all lit up to completely dark, and Barbieri and Tolbert, instead of content to ramble as per usual, seemed a little worried. Someone pressed the wrong button! Blame an intern! Blame the producer! Not like they had anything to talk about on their own or anything, and we all know how easy Tom and Ralph find it to chat about subjects for hours on end.

Since when did Ralph and Tom care about a full board? They rule the station! They routinely leave callers on hold for hours at a time. But on Wednesday afternoon, after the Neukom news broke, they did a strange caller-dominant version of their show interspersed with standard “news of the weird” type stories like the Gordon Ramsey-looking dwarf porn star who died in a badger cave.

Maybe it’s my naiveté, but must a pro franchise demand kid glove-treatment when they can’t get ahead of a story? Do they expect KNBR to politely assume everything’s peachy after their only World Series-winning general partner just got the boot?

Or perhaps KNBR was proactive in their Giants protectionism. Maybe the Gigantes, who are busy with stuff like long road trips and firing senior citizens, didn’t even have time to even tell KNBR what to say. Maybe KNBR put the shackles on their hosts … just because? Naaahhhh….

KNBR censored Ralph and Tom, and they’ll censor everyone else on the station who doesn’t know well enough to censor themselves. Funny, on Wednesday morning as I was heading to AT&T I heard Gary Radnich “jokingly” chastising Larry Krueger for bringing up the names of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes when Larry Baer was on. If only they knew what Baer’s been up to lately — not that it would change what KNBR hosts were allowed to say.

They have to talk about the story today, being as there’s a press conference at AT&T Park announcing Neukom’s “retirement.” But if I hear anybody ever question anything about the all-powerful Baer, it would be the first time. If you hear something, feel free to correct me in the comments.

Finally, everyone who has a job knows what they can and can’t mention, especially about management and those putting money into the operation. And the Giants are in the somewhat unique or rare position of being a private company who does most of their business publicly. But can teams really force mass-media “blowtorches,” that so many people around here get there sports news from, to limit any sort of questioning of the franchise that they work with/for? A certain program director says yes.


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