Just over four months after a public, physical altercation with his wife Pamela and being suspended by both the team and Major League Baseball, San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer will return to his post on July 2.
While Baer will return to his role as president and CEO, Robert Dean will remain the club’s designated control person, representing the team in league matters. He took over as the club’s designated control person in Baer’s absence.
Baer will have much work to do in order to win back the Giants community, but things may have already changed too much within the organization for him to win back his former responsibilities within the team.
During a March 1 incident in Haeys Valley, Baer, 62, and his wife struggled for a cell phone during a public argument. The incident, in which Pam Baer, in a walking boot due to a foot injury, tumbled out of a chair and onto the ground as she and her husband vied for his cell phone, was caught on tape, which was released to TMZ. A security video from a nearby business later surfaced, and showed that the couple had argued in the park for 25 minutes before the incident.
Baer initially took a leave of absence, and was suspended officially by the league and the team on March 26, effective through July 1. The San Francisco district attorney’s office considered criminal charges, but declined to pursue them, citing insufficient evidence of a crime.
The Giants and Baer released a joint statement on Saturday, touching the steps Baer has gone through since his suspension, such as participating in regular counseling sessions. The statement also said that Baer will initially focus on “reconnecting with employees and receiving updates on all aspects of the organization,” mny of whom were said to be disturbed by the video of the altercation.
“I am truly sorry for letting you down,” Baer said of fans, employees and the Giants community. “While my time away has been difficult on many levels, it has allowed me opportunities for introspection and, with the help of some wonderful people, growth. I’ve been able to step back and take stock of myself as a person and as a leader. I am wiser for it, and the work continues.”
Baer’s actions sent shockwaves through the San Francisco community, prompting a letter to Major League Baseball from local civic leaders, a group calling itself #DoWhatsRightMLB, on March 15.
“Since the very beginning, I think that the coalition that we brought forth to talk about some things that we had encouraged Major League Baseball to do, was to make sure that there was accountability,” said spokesperson Debbie Mesloh. “We wanted to make sure that measures taken would be equitable with what they asked the players to do, and knowing that there’s such a strong organizing around the Junior Giants, making sure that we elevated to Major League Baseball that young people are watching.”
Members of the Junior Giants — a free, noncompetitive baseball program serving over 25,000 participants in 90 leagues across Northern and Central California — sign pledges that they will not participate in bullying or violence.
“We want to make sure that we are replicating that with our leaders,” Mesloh said. “Time is going to tell a little bit, here, on whether some things they put in place around the accountability continue. We certainly hope it does.”
Baer still has a lot of work to do in order to win back a significant chunk of that community, especially in light of other recent ownership punishments. Golden State Warriors minority shareholder Mark Stevens was suspended for a full year from NBA games by both the team and the league for laying hands on Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry during the NBA Finals. Baer got four unpaid months for laying hands on his injured wife.
“I don’t know if you can compare the situation with Mr. Baer and the financial penalties, and given his role with the Giants,” Mesloh said. “He will no longer be part of the control function. That was another decision that Major League Baseball came down [with] at the time. We felt like there were strong measures given out by Major League Baseball. I think it’s important, with the leagues, that they do show this accountability.”
The Giants will also adopt what’s become standard practice in baseball: that the President of Baseball Operations — Farhan Zaidi — will report to the control person. That means Dean, not Baer. That’s a significant change, and one that Baer seemingly acknowledged in his statement.
“The Giants are in a major transition on and off the field,” Baer said. “This includes some structural changes, which I fully embrace. Major League Baseball is a complex and ever-changing industry, now more than ever. Success requires leadership that listens to and learns from all voices, that leverages the ideas and talent of every person in every department, along with tapping the resources and energy of our fans and the Bay Area community.”
On the field, Baer returns to a team that is well into the first of what will be a multi-year rebuild under Farhan Zaidi. During his absence, five executives — including Zaidi — performed his responsibilities, and Dean took over as the designated control person with MLB. Along with continuing in that role, Dean will also, on behalf of ownership, collaborate with the executive leadership team on major organizational issues.
Baer will continue to attend owner’s meetings, but Dean, whose wife, Trina, and sister-in-law Tori Humphrey, own the third-largest stake in the club (among the 20-plus-member ownership group), will seemingly take on at least some of Bear’s previous responsibilities. In light of Commissioner Rob Manfred pushing for teams to designated control persons with greater ownership stakes in teams, the move makes even more sense, as Baer owns less than 5% of the team.
Though Zaidi will still have plenty of leeway in shaping the team, Baer will continue to at least have some voice in decisions involving on-field personnel, which would seemingly include the club entertaining offers for ace Madison Bumgarner and others as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.