SAN FRANCISCO -- There have been subtle signs of change.
Staci Slaughter, a Giants vice president, kicked off a presentation to the media last Friday and talked about the moves the organization has made. Rob Dean, part of the family that owns a large percentage of the Giants, welcomed everyone to the Play Ball Lunch on Monday. Later that day, VP Alfonso Felder stood and examined the field after a storm hit Oracle Park.
A year ago, all of those spots likely would have been taken by Larry Baer. It'll be more than three months before he's back in that position, but even then there will be uncertainty. Baer on Tuesday morning was suspended without pay until July 2 by Major League Baseball over a public incident with his wife, Pam.
In separate statements, Baer and the Giants' board of directors complied with the move.
"The Commissioner has imposed what we believe to be appropriate disciplinary measures and we will work with Major League Baseball and Mr. Baer to ensure that all aspects of the disciplinary program are completed," the Giants said in a statement attributed to their board.
The baseball will go on, of course, starting Tuesday night at Oracle Park. The Giants have operated normally since Baer took a leave of absence on March 4. It's impossible to know what's truly going on behind the scenes, but team officials say everything is running smoothly, and the baseball operations department certainly is humming.
That's where this might most be noticed by fans long term. Baer has been a key part of every major push the Giants have made in free agency, and a few days before the incident with his wife, he flew to Las Vegas with Farhan Zaidi to meet with Bryce Harper. It's hard to see that being the case with the next marquee target, but Zaidi, in the aftermath of Baer's decision to step away, said he did not expect the situation to impede his immediate work in any way.
Baer hand-picked Zaidi, but the new president of baseball operations currently reports directly to the board of directors. He met with the board during the interview process.
"Larry did a great job of kind of making sure I'd had some direct contact with them and had relationships there," Zaidi said earlier this month. "We don't necessarily have another Harper situation imminent or brewing that's going to require real active involvement from the board, but as decisions need to be made, we have a really strong infrastructure in place."
Zaidi already had complete control of the Giants' roster, with the notable exceptions being a player like Harper, who would have required a significant commitment from ownership. Perhaps at some point Zaidi will have to tell someone on the board that Madison Bumgarner trade talks have picked up, or something similar, but for now the focus is on building the roster, and he has been as busy as any MLB executive in recent weeks.
For future years, there are question marks, though.
The Giants still are trying to determine whether Zaidi will report to Baer after July 1 or continue to work directly underneath the board. In their statement Tuesday, the Giants said they will make changes to the governance structure and designate a new control person.
That means Baer, who will return as CEO and president, no longer will attend MLB's ownership meetings and similar events. Per a source, the organization still has not determined if Baer, upon his return, will report to a new boss. In the past, he was a representative of ownership, and all aspects of the organization funneled through Baer.
Dean will serve as the interim control person as decisions are made, and he appears to be a heavy favorite to take that role long term if he wants it. The son-in-law of former majority owner Sue Burns, Dean gave an impressive and heartfelt speech at the Play Ball Lunch on Monday, and there are some within the organization who view him as their next leader.
That will be determined over the next three months, and the next two weeks will be telling.
With Baer ordered to stay away, at least one of the club's vice presidents will represent the team in San Diego for Thursday's opener. Baer was a regular at Giants-Dodgers games, sitting a few rows back of the plate near the visiting dugout. Will someone from the ownership group or board be at Dodger Stadium on Monday?
Then there's the April 5 home opener. That usually has been a time for Baer to give a speech and help kick off the season, but it's unclear at the moment how the Giants will handle that ceremony and all future occasions where Baer always was an on-field presence.
For over a decade, Baer and Bruce Bochy have been the voices of management, but this is an organization with a new direction in baseball operations and a new manager on the way. Over the next three months, we'll find out if the shake-up extends to ownership, too.