SAN DIEGO -- On Tuesday, Larry Baer returned to an organization that is in many ways similar to the one he stepped away from in March.
The franchise, for a third straight year, is struggling on the field and has serious long-term roster concerns. The rival Dodgers look light years ahead. Attendance at Oracle Park is down once again, and you can expect another hit to the season-ticket base this winter.
The problems are the same ones Baer faced before MLB handed down a half-season suspension for a public incident with his wife, Pam. Baer has had time to reflect, and in his own words, try and grow. You can bet he spent a chunk of those three-plus months away also thinking about how he can try and continue to dig the Giants out of this hole, but it remains unclear how much his role will change.
The Giants put out a statement Saturday saying Baer would return as president and CEO, but it will not be as public a role as it was before, according to sources. During an appearance on NBC Sports Bay Area on Saturday, Rob Dean, who served as acting CEO, explained the changes, saying the Giants were altering their "corporate governance structure."
"(It's) not that different than it was prior," Dean said. "Larry always has been reporting to the board, effectively. I will take a little bit more of an active role in that liaison between ownership and Larry, as president and CEO. As with most clubs in Major League Baseball, the president of baseball operations will report through ownership now, so I will take that role there."
That is where fans will notice the change the most, and that is where everyone on the outside will get their questions answered. What is Baer's future role? We might not really know until this winter, when the Giants presumably will chase a free agent or two.
Baer has previously been in on every high-profile pursuit, including a run at Bryce Harper this spring that centered around meetings between Harper's side, Baer and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. Will Baer be in the room next time? Will it be Dean and Zaidi? Or will it be all three? That's a question that will be answered over time.
Another question will be answered much sooner. Baer certainly would have served as the emcee for any Bruce Bochy ceremonies this September, but after the suspension, he is expected to take a step back from those responsibilities. People within the organization do, however, expect that to change over time, and Dean hinted at that.
"I really think Larry is pretty great at that piece of it and it's not my most enjoyable thing to do," he said. "I've been going to Major League Baseball meetings with Larry for eight or nine years now and really enjoy that side of it. I also really enjoy working with the employees in the office, so I don't know how much you'll see me out in the public, but I'm sure you'll see me in the ballpark."
The Giants will need someone to publicly represent ownership -- for on-field ceremonies, end-of-season press conferences, signings, community events, etc. -- and it'll be interesting to see how they handle that moving forward.
Of more immediate concern is just getting Baer back into the swing of things, and continuing to try and find solutions. The team is 19 games out of first place. Attendance is down significantly. Fan interest is, too. Dean said the ownership group, which he will now represent as the team's chairman, has handled all of this well.
"It definitely has been a difficult year on and off the field, but really it's the same ownership group that kept the Giants here in 1992 and really always has taken a long-term view," he said. "It has been stable for a long period of time with Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy at the helm, and there is the transition, but again it's the same ownership group taking the long term approach. We're financially healthy and really excited to rebuild the program on the field and then also take advantage and invest in the business off the field."