SAN FRANCISCO -- For years, the Giants have talked about how everything done by the front office is a collaborative effort. They shared in the credit and the blame, and when the team lost 98 games last season, Larry Baer, Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and Bruce Bochy sat side-by-side two days after the final game and tried to explain what happened.
Eventually an axe had to fall, though, and on Monday afternoon, it was Evans, the general manager, who was let go first. In the aftermath, Baer, the president and CEO, said ownership and Sabean will look for a “next-gen” person to lead the franchise.
So, what exactly does “next-gen” mean in this case?
“The game has changed and evolved a lot,” Baer said. “We’ve had a lot of consistency here, which I think has served us really well, and a lot of stability, but nothing goes forever. We have to have somebody that’s going to present the blueprint for the next five to 10 years of Giants baseball. It’s time to have a fresh look at that.
“We’ve had a tremendous cycle here starting in 2010, 2009, really. But you always have to re-pot. Next-gen is finding someone who can put a great blueprint on this franchise given the ballpark and given the amazing fan base.”
If the Giants are to be successful, next-gen will mean finding someone who can catch up to the current generation of baseball executives. The outgoing regime won three World Series titles, but since the last one, the game has shifted. The Giants have fallen behind. Offenses now are built around homers, and this team won’t have a single player even hit 20 of them. While Sabean again mentioned the ballpark Monday, there’s no good explanation for how this same lineup can’t display power on the road.
The Giants made a next-gen type of hire when they brought Alonzo Powell in as hitting coach after a stint with the slugging Astros, but the new head of baseball operations will need to find players Powell can mold. This current roster will finish last or second-to-last in the NL in homers. The first questions for any prospective hire should be about building a lineup that can handle AT&T Park, and perhaps the next set should be about doing so in part with international players.
Even after opening a new academy in the Dominican Republic, the Giants still are woefully behind. When was the last time they developed their own international star? Well, it’s been a while since Pablo Sandoval’s debut.
For as much as the Giants have done in recent years to address their gaps in analytics, they still are behind others, too. All you need to do to figure that out is walk past the old visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. It has been turned into an office holding the analytics people working for a team that is about to win a sixth consecutive NL West title.
The Giants are aware of the gaps, and they believe their farm system will be in much better shape under David Bell. But they haven't done enough. The develop-while-contending model broke down at some point, and it has led to a purge.
Baer said an increased emphasis on analytics and international signings is part of what he means by next-gen, but he said there still will be a blend.
“If you look at the really successful franchises, I wouldn’t say they’re all analytics and they’re not all scouting-based,” he said. “You need to have good people in both areas and a leader who will come in and appreciate both and lead the organization into the future.”
The search for that leader became public Monday, and there’s a lot at stake. The next-gen hire will shape the next decade of this franchise, and while it will be a sought-after job, it’s one that also comes with plenty of work to do.
The Giants have fallen behind. It’s been clear for two years, and on Monday, it was acknowledged.