San Francisco Giants team president and CEO Larry Baer will be reinstated from a four-month suspension on Tuesday. Contributor Marc Delucchi offers up his take on the franchise’s controversial decision to keep him around.
To call the last few seasons for the San Francisco Giants dismal would be underselling it. The team fell from perennial contention to the NL West cellar. The faces of the franchise, who had once carried them to relevance and World Series championships, became shells of their former selves.
Regardless of how far things have fallen on the field, their lowest moment undoubtedly comes today, on July 2, 2019.
This past Saturday, the Giants announced that suspended team president and CEO Larry Baer would be reinstated today. Baer had been given a four-month suspension by Major League Baseball after TMZ released a video showing him in a physical altercation with his wife, Pamela Baer.
It is important to mention that Baer will not be returning to an identical situation. Rob Dean, who served as the acting president and CEO during his suspension, will take over a new role as chairman, placing him above Baer in the decision-making hierarchy.
As first reported by Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, Dean emphasized that the organization’s leadership will work in a “more collaborative manner” going forward.
Opinions on the reinstatement have been mixed.
Tim Kawakami of The Athletic sees the changes as a pretty clear reduction of power and of his role in the organization. On the other hand, the aforementioned Schulman had a milder stance, suggesting the San Francisco Giants may have wanted to make some of the changes regardless of the incident.
In the end, however, the cost is minimal for Baer.
He will return to the same title and almost all of the team’s executives will still report directly to him. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s a story we’ve seen play out numerous times over the past decade across all major sports, including Major League Baseball.
It’s tragically fitting that Baer’s reinstatement will come just days after Cincinnati Reds announcer Thom Brennaman commented on how Addison Russell “had to suffer through” a domestic violence suspension.
Russell was suspended by the league after his ex-wife, Melissa Reidy, released a candid letter accusing him of numerous instances of physical and emotional abuse. The suspension of just 40 games was lambasted by many, and rightfully so.
When the Cubs front office chose to bring Russell back following the incident, they argued that they were trying to be a part of the solution.
In these situations, those defending the perpetrator often ask where the line is drawn. The answer isn’t straightforward. However, the line has to be somewhere, and Russell’s behavior went far beyond it.
That brings us back to the San Francisco Giants and Larry Baer.
The incident in question does not approach the accusations against Russell, but it still raises questions. Pamela Baer released a statement following the incident saying that she was not injured in the incident and just lost her balance. She just wanted privacy and did not want him punished. The truth in these cases does not always emerge until much later, though, as we saw with the Russell incident.
In the end, a league that sees a place for Addison Russell sees a place for Larry Baer.
These are the moments when supporters speak of redemption and second chances. I believe in both things, but I also believe that it is society’s job to keep all people safe, especially those who have historically been victims of abuse.
Baer has worked for the Giants for decades and his position as a team partner reflects his incredible wealth. At 62 years old, even if there hadn’t been a public incident, it wouldn’t have been shocking to see him retire this year. As such, removing Baer from the organization would have been much more symbolic than anything else.
Yet the league and the San Francisco Giants organization are still unwilling to do it.
I often refer to this powerful piece from Sheryl Ring at FanGraphs when people ask the cost of including someone like Russell in baseball. When MLB makes these decisions, they are telling many potential fans that their voices are not welcome.
Perhaps my reaction is too strong. In the context of these incidents, Baer’s was mild by comparison.
Debbie Mesloh, president of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women, was among 12 advocates that sent a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred calling for Baer’s suspension. Even she said last week that she did not object to Baer’s return.
However, in my opinion, leadership must be held to the highest standards, even higher than the players. I am perfectly aware that market factors will prevent that from ever happening, but reality is a separate issue.
We should be asking ourselves: What is the right thing to do?
A day will come when a player with a history of domestic violence becomes available. Now, Larry Baer will have a voice in whether the San Francisco Giants are willing to sign him. That shouldn’t be acceptable.
Still, the organization seems willing to move on.
“I would say I’d hate for anyone, not Larry, you or me, to be judged in a short window of time after doing so much good,” Dean told reporters. “Larry has done a tremendous job for the community, for this organization, as a leader for a very long time.”
Meanwhile, let’s look across the bay to the Golden State Warriors.
In Game 3 of last month’s NBA Finals, Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry dove into the crowd chasing a loose ball. As he tried to get up, venture capitalist Mark Stevens reached over multiple seats to shove Lowry while yelling some choice words.
Stevens happened to be a minority stakeholder in the Warriors.
I’ve yet to see them criticized for the decision. Someone unwilling to respect players, if only for a moment, shouldn’t get to hold a stake in a team.
They drew the line there and made a statement.
Still, the NBA has been similarly hesitant on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. Just last month, I wrote a piece for GrandStand Central chronicling the league’s consistent complacency punishing players in such instances.
There’s no question Baer’s behavior was more deplorable than Stevens. His punishment should exceed what was handed to Stevens. Instead, he will serve a suspension a third of the length, retain his stake in the team, and keep a prominent position in the front office.
By reinstating Larry Baer today, the San Francisco Giants are also making a statement that they don’t particularly care.