Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Giants' ROI

I've frightened the dog with sudden whoops and with precipitous celebratory dances a couple of dozen times during the past two months as my San Francisco Giants pieced together a memorable and unlikely season.

They could somehow blow it this weekend and they could break the hearts of fans yet again. But this is a beloved bunch of Giants enjoying one of the franchise's most inspiring seasons thanks to a management group willing to spend to fix its product.

The Giants have been here before — a handful of times in my lifetime — but never with such a motley collection of screwballs, pot smokers, knuckleheads and castoffs. The season has been a dream, especially considering that the opening-day lineup offered little to inspire confidence among fans. I mean, really, did anyone seriously think the Giants would end up in the World Series with John Bowker in right field?

But that's why I'm especially grateful for the back-office boys at Willie Mays Plaza this year. In previous years, the Giants' bean counters expected fans to fill the seats simply because the brand-new stadium was cool or because Barry Bonds could hit home runs.

This year, management made mid-season business decisions that saved the team from another season of oblivion. They were the type of decisions that seemed counter-intuitive in today's slash-and-burn business environment.

Stuck with aging veterans who weren't performing despite their huge contracts, the Giants were struggling by the All-Star break. Attendance sagged and there was no buzz about the Giants, even among the hard-core fans.

Rather than whining about the economic environment, the existing huge contracts for non-productive players and taking their lumps, the Giants decided instead to get all revolutionary on us. Instead of trying to promote the chicken crap they had by calling it chicken salad, they decided to spend the bucks to rescue decent players from the MLB scrap heap. Imagine that! Spending money to improve the product! In this day and age!

Certainly, some of their acquisitions were simply steals. Pat Burrell and Cody Ross were under contract elsewhere and the Giants were able to pick them up for a song. The Giants brain trust made smart acquisitions, for the most part, but management had to know that they would be on the hook for huge new contracts with its new talent once the season ends.

Give 'em credit. The Giants bucked today's business trend. They gave their customers what they demanded. They weren't scaredy capitalists. And they've achieved success.