The Giants Are Doing All The Little Things Wrong

There was a time not that long ago when the San Francisco Giants actually owned the Bay Area, and you could tell because they routinely had to get the city to block off streets for a parade and hire off-duty policemen to handle the nightly sellouts. The 49ers had left to play an hour south of town and the Warriors hadn’t yet moved across the Bay, so the Giants were winning championships while unencumbered by competition—a historically unbeatable combination. They could and did sell the idea of continuity, from the pretty ballpark to the grumbly but well-regarded manager to the clever front office to the players themselves, and they sold out every seat for most of a decade. You could always rely on the Giants to be, well, the Giants.

As it turns out, you still can, because now they are persistently running crosswise with the fan base, which has dwindled by 30 percent at the ballpark and many thousands more in lowered TV and radio ratings. Their owner, Charlie Johnson, is an active yet absentee owner (he lives in Florida and has been seen less at his park than John Fisher has at his), and he is an aggressive right-wing-of-the-Republican-party donor in a profoundly left-leaning town; he apologized for it once, but keeps doing it, thus hollowing the apology.

They have been miserably anonymous for six of the last seven years; they hired and then fired an unpopular and ordinary manager (Gabe Kapler) to replace the popular and successful one (Bruce Bochy); they annually positioned themselves to land a big name in free agency and just as annually failed, and after not getting Shohei Ohtani the year after not getting Aaron Judge and walking on a deal they cut with Carlos Correa, head of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi obliquely blamed San Francisco’s homeless problem as the reason why they can’t close the deal; they even gratuitously took the legs out from beneath third baseman J.D. Davis this month, cutting him after losing to him in arbitration so they could save several million in what is a legal (by the language of the collective bargaining agreement) but decidedly skanky maneuver.

And now, in a small but still viscerally unpopular and unnecessary move, they just told their longtime public address announcer, Renel Brooks-Moon, to take a walk after the two sides couldn’t agree on a new contract. Evidently the money they weren’t going to pay Davis couldn’t be applied here.

Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t be that big a deal, even though she’d been on the job for 24 seasons. I mean, how many PA announcers can you name? Bob Sheppard with the Yankees, the original Voice Of God? John Ramsey’s familiar baritone with the Lakers? Dave Zinkoff with the 76ers and his famous “Dipper Dunk” for Wilt Chamberlain, “The DOC-TOR!” for Julius Erving and his best work, “And now a word about smoking in the arena: NO!”?

Brooks-Moon’s style wasn’t particularly distinctive. She was a woman, but she wasn’t the first woman—she had replaced Sherry Davis, who lasted seven years before being replaced as part of the Candlestick Park/Pacific Bell Park changeover. Brooks-Moon, though, was a familiar and pleasant fixture for a franchise that thrived on maintaining its fixtures, like radio voices Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, the occasional clubhouse visits from Willie Mays, and holding onto players who performed well for them, sometimes to their detriment. Even their new manager, Bob Melvin, is an old Giant.

The player part is no longer true, obviously—their longest-serving roster presence is now Austin Slater (2017) and most of the other 25 have arrived within the last year or two. That’s what happens when you routinely finish third or worse, and you miss out on splashy signings: the roster becomes a festival of misfit toys and anonymously multi-positional guys with average major-league skills. The Giants have become the worst kind of team—the one with a proud history and a way of doing things that has been abandoned and replaced by metric tons of anonymized meh.

As for Brooks-Moon, it is hard to believe that her contract demands were suddenly all that challenging, or that her work either at the ballpark or in her promotional tasks was particularly deficient. Someone just decided that the money could be better spent on not being spent, at the cost of continuity for a team that hasn’t got a lot else to sell and whose next 77-85 record will still cost $177 million. This was just another underthought whim by a team with a dwindling tether to its fanbase—a chance to put in an unmemorable weekend radio voice they could pay two hundred bucks a day, at the risk of annoying people who were already annoyed.

This wasn’t Farhan Zaidi’s doing, unless he really does run the entire franchise rather than just the baseball department. But his tenure in San Francisco after being declared an up-and-coming brain in Oakland (when the A’s were good) and Los Angeles (with the Dodgers) has deteriorated to hot-seat resident, and Brooks-Moon’s dismissal is another small but telling example of the organization worrying too much about too little and worrying too little about the large. It all gets conflated into a series of internal debates about what matters to you, and why that isn’t the Giants any more.

Brooks-Moon will be fine, because whatever celebrity bump she loses on her walks home from the ballpark being stopped by fans wanting a chat will be replaced by the knowledge that she’ll never again have to spend her Tuesday nights navigating the Nationals’ batting order. The Giants on the other hand are more adrift from their place in San Francisco than they were a week ago, and for no good reason. At a time when they should be reveling in the serial bunglings of the A’s and consolidating their grip on the Bay Area’s baseball audience, they are treading mud with lead shoes. It may not matter to you as you watch the Twins and Royals, but for some reason this is the kind of thing that matters to Giants fans, and the Giants don’t have so many spare fans to discard for such a small thing when they are already chasing them away for bigger ones.

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