Giants formally announce retirement of Neukom

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Giants formally announce retirement of Neukom

Sept. 15, 2011
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Mychael Urban
CSNBayArea.com staff

SAN FRANCISCO -- In a press conference that felt far more like a celebratory passing of the torch than a rehashing of the reportedly contentious events that led to it, outgoing Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom and incoming CEO Larry Baer insisted that it would be "business as usual" for the 2010 World Series champions.

The announcement of Neukom's pending departure followed Wednesday's San Jose Mercury News report that there was unrest in the ownership group over his leadership. Neukom admitted in his opening remarks that the release of the story advanced the club's internal year-end timetable for him stepping down. He described Thursday's gathering as "impromptu."

Neukom neither admitted nor denied reports of communication issues with the other owners, describing their dialogue over his three-year tenure as "robust."

Asked if he was forced out, Neukom said, "I don't think that's the right characterization at all."

Baer said he will assume Neukoms duties as CEO -- but not as managing general partner -- effective Jan. 1, 2012. Neukom will serve as chairman emeritus through 2012.

"We had hoped to make this announcement after our baseball season ended in order to minimize any distractions for the baseball team or for the fans or for the front office," Neukom said in his opening remarks. "... The good news is I will be succeeded by Larry Baer, who has been the cornerstone of this franchise for 20 years."

Asked about his dealing with the other investors, the 69-year-old former Microsoft lawyer said, "my relationship with the other investors, from my standpoint, is positive," adding that "there was no precipitating event that I'm aware of."

Neukom, who took over the primary ownership position from Peter Magowan in October 2008, said he will be divesting his ownership shares back to the ownership group, but will remain a season ticket-holder and be available for consultation "in every sense."
Neukom spoke of growing up in San Mateo and playing baseball in the street as a young fan of the Giants. He highlighted his father's purchase for him of 10 shares of Giants stock in 1958, adding that he wished he still had the stock certificate.

Baer indicated his gratitude and respect for Neukom's contributions, highlighted by last season's World Series victory over the Texas Rangers.

"First and foremost we achieved a world championship last year under Bill's leadership and we will never forget that," Baer said.

During the press conference Neukom laid out the goals he established after taking the owership lead in 2008. This included providing winning baseball for the fan base, increasing attendance, increasing the value of the Giants enterprise as a whole, and to "win it all."

"We managed to achieve this," Neukom said. "And I'm obviously very proud of that."

Neukom told the assembled media he plans to focus his attention on the World Justice Project, an initiative he founded in 2006 to strengthen the rule of law worldwide. He also plans to teach at Stanford Law School, his alma mater.

As for Baer, the focus remains unchanged.

"Going forward, this is business as usual. To put it simply, this is not a turnaround in any stretch of the imagination," Baer said, noting that in the soon-to-be 20 years under the current ownership group, the Giants are unique in having just three field managers, two general managers and now three CEOs.

"The perspective of winning is foremost, tantamount, always will be. We've had continuity around that concept since this group has owned the team."

Baer said that payroll would not be reduced and insisted the team would maintain its stance that it has territorial rights to San Jose.

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants went 0-62 last season when trailing after eight innings. Chris Marrero wasn’t around for any of that, but it’s a stat that could help Marrero as he tries to lock up a bench spot. 

The first baseman/left fielder crushed a three-run shot in the ninth inning Tuesday, wiping out a two-run deficit against the Cubs. Marrero also has two walk-off homers this spring. 

“This kid, you see it when he goes up there. He’s got great focus,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s intensity and determination. From day one, you could see it in his at-bats. Late in the game, he seems very comfortable. He wants to go up there.”

Tuesday’s homer, which shot out to right-center, was the eighth of the spring for Marrero. That ties him with a guy named Bryce Harper for the MLB lead, and the vast majority of Marrero’s bombs were no-doubters. 

“It’s been a great spring for him,” Bochy said. “The last game here, it seems fitting that he would do something like that. He’s already done it a couple of times. This kid has done all he can. I love his swing and the work that he’s put in.”

With Michael Morse down, Marrero is the best remaining option as a power right-handed bat off the bench, a glaring need a year ago. Justin Ruggiano, another one in the mix, followed Marrero’s shot with one of his own. The homer was Ruggiano’s second of the spring. 

Ruggiano is a better fit defensively in the outfield, but Marrero has been solid at first and Bochy said he’s fine with what he’s seen in left field. “He’s still working on it,” Bochy said, noting that Marrero will play left field during the Bay Bridge Series. 

LEADING OFF: Denard Span saw a wild pitch bounce off the bricks behind home plate, and he never slowed down. Span sped around third in the second inning and slid in ahead of the throw. The notable part of the play wasn’t that a quirky bounce allowed Span to take 180 feet on a wild pitch. It was that his legs did. The 33-year-old has been a different guy in his second spring with the Giants. Last year, Span was coming off hip surgery. This spring, his old game has returned.

“I’ve just been able to do the things I’ve always been able to do,” Span said. “I have more control of my body. I’m stronger. I had a full offseason and a full spring training to get my legs up under me. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and more confident.”

A healthy and spry Span would be a big boost to a lineup that often looked flat in the second half last season Span showed off every aspect of his game Tuesday. He blasted a leadoff homer on Jake Arrieta’s second pitch, and during their second matchup, he put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Span stole second easily before his race home. 

“He’s playing terrific baseball and he’s been a real inspiration, being our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s what we needed — energy at the top of the order.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) is feeling much better, and Bochy said he’ll play third base during the games at AT&T Park before getting four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. Joe Panik (drilled in the back on Monday) said he’s feeling fine. 

POSITION BATTLES: Here’s the latest on Matt Cain, and here’s an update on Aaron Hill and Jimmy Rollins. 

ICYMI: Big news today from NBC Bay Area. Matt Williams, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross have joined out pre- and post-game shows. You can find stories about those guys on our homepage here. Those shows will also now be an hour long on both ends of the game, adding an extra hour of Giants coverage to your day. Which is good. 

That’s all on the way during the regular season. If you missed any of our spring coverage, you can find a bunch of features here, and podcasts here (spring pods included Mike Morse, Matt Cain, Mac Williamson, Jimmy Rollins and others, with one more coming this week). And in case you’re new to our coverage, the Twitter account is here and the Facebook page is here. Next stop, San Francisco … 

 

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

MESA, Ariz. -- Aaron Hill didn't play in the final Cactus League game, but he didn't need to. By simply being on the flight to San Francisco on Tuesday, Hill got good news. 

The veteran infielder was due a $100,000 bonus on Tuesday, and while the Giants haven't formally announced their roster, you don't pay a man that much money to come play three exhibition games against the A's. Hill appears to have made this club as a second backup infielder, along with Conor Gillaspie. Another veteran, Jimmy Rollins, got the news that the Giants are headed in a different direction. 

Team officials spoke with Rollins this week about their future plans. He was not on the travel roster Tuesday and did not attend the game against the Cubs. 

"We're waiting to hear back from him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He knows the scenario and the situation. We're waiting to hear back."

Rollins, 38, showed the Giants that he can still handle shortstop defensively, and he was a quick learner when he moved to second. But he hit just .119, falling behind Hill, Kelby Tomlinson and others in the mix for bench spots. It would seem unlikely that Rollins would want to get additional at-bats in Triple-A, but that feeling hadn't been fully conveyed to team officials Tuesday. There was a hope that Rollins, an East Bay native, might join the team for the Bay Bridge Series, which finishes Saturday in Oakland. Rollins grew up an A's fan.

Rollins and Hill were part of a crowded infield group at the start of camp. Gordon Beckham also had a retention bonus and he asked to be released when he was told he wouldn't make the opening day roster. David Hernandez, the third player due a bonus, also was released. He promptly signed with the Atlanta Braves.