In a piece today on ESPN, baseball writer Jayson Stark mentions San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer as a dark horse candidate to replace Bud Selig as the commissioner of Major League Baseball. Selig announced today that he will step down from the office after the 2014 season. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman had the initial report, which lists Selig’s last day as commissioner as January 24, 2015.
Though not a front-runner, Baer has to be mentioned as candidate because of his qualifications. The job of commissioner is three-fold:
-Represent (aka be the CEO) for MLB’s 30 owners
-Shape the global image of baseball
-Provide an outlet for fan scrutiny
Baer hits all three of these points quite nicely. As the CEO of the Giants, he represents a core group of owners whose financial interests are tied to the decisions made by Baer and his administration. From the outside looking in, the Giants appear to be one of the more profitable teams in baseball. Estimates of the Giants payroll for 2013 hovers around $140 million, the 6th-highest in baseball. AT&T Park is a sellout-machine, with 2017 seeing the conclusion of the $20 million annual mortgage payment that began when the park opened in 2000. Forbes has the Giants at No. 7 in Major League Baseball in net worth, and estimates an operating profit of $17 million per season. Suffice to say if Baer does leave, the Giants will be in good financial shape.
With three World Baseball Classics now in the books, the international market for baseball has never been better. Baseball, entrenched in Latin America and Japan for decades, is spreading to WBC-participant countries like Australia, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. AT&T Park (and the Giants) hosted the championship rounds of the 2013 WBC, introducing their beautiful ballpark to a worldwide audience. The Classic set all kinds of records, including the most-watched television event in the Dominican Republic in a decade.
As far as individual international players, the marketing machine behind Venezuelan-born Pablo Sandoval has been inspired. Panda hats litter the California coast, helping fans embrace a foreign-born player whose enthusiasm for the game knows no bounds. Sandoval’s English isn’t perfect, but his connection to the fans has been something Baer and his team have been able to capitalize on.
Giants fans most remember Baer from his World Series Parade speeches or interviews with Amy G during games. He comes off warm, jovial and enthusiastic about the team. His media persona seems uncoached and genuine, something stodgy owners appear incapable of accomplishing.
Will Larry Baer be the next commissioner of baseball? No, probably not. But he should be a candidate, and the Giants would be worse-off to lose their CEO.