SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Giants are doing a brisk business in ticket sales again but they have no desire to match the Dodgers’ payroll dollar-for-dollar. And get this: they’re open to the idea of letting the A’s play home games at AT&T Park.
They’d like to sell Panda hats beyond this season, too.
Those were among the topics that came up as Giants CEO Larry Baer delivered an informal state-of-the-organization in a gathering of beat reporters in the dugout at Scottsdale Stadium prior to the club’s first Cactus League exhibition Wednesday.
Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle had to do with their Bay Area neighbors. While Baer maintained his stance that the Giants’ territorial rights to Santa Clara County are non-negotiable, he said would continue to support a new stadium for the A’s within Alameda or Contra Costa counties.
And if that meant the A’s needed a temporary home …
“There’s precedent,” said Baer, pointing out that the Yankees played at Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium was being renovated in the 1970s. “(The A’s) have got to come up with a long-term plan. Once that’s ironed out, then maybe you take a step back and say, 'Is there something we can do to be helpful?'
“Obviously (owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher) have to come up with their plan and go from there.”
The Giants face a different type of competition within their division, where the Dodgers’ forecasted payroll of $230 million now dwarfs the Giants, who will open the season at roughly $150 million.
Baer defended the organization’s plan to incrementally grow the payroll, which stood nearer to $95 million when they won the World Series in 2010.
“We’re fine with not matching the Dodgers dollar for dollar,” Baer said. “It’s an art, not a science, and it comes down to making judgments. Drafting some of the players we’ve drafted, those were judgment calls, not money calls.”
The Giants spent nearly $180 million to retain Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Javier Lopez while adding Tim Hudson and Michael Morse this winter. They’re open-minded to extending Brandon Belt this spring, and Sandoval merits further discussion.
Baer offered no apologies to fans who felt they should have done more.
“We pride ourselves and we think we can get it done with a plan where, each year, as long as the business stays strong, we can go up,” Baer said. “We’re not looking for wild swings up because that leads to wild swings down.”
Baer said he and the front office view last season’s 76-86 record as an aberration, and ticket sales appear to show that fans are taking the same mindset. Baer said 2.6 million tickets have been sold for this season, which is roughly where the club stood at this point a year ago. Tickets remain for every game except Opening Day, but Baer was hopeful that the club’s “official” sellout streak of 246 games – the longest consecutive regular-season streak in the majors -- would keep going through 2014.
“Or we’ll get very close,” Baer said. “We’re very thankful for that. Sometimes you see an off year and see fan withdrawal or apathy or whatever.”
Will those fans keep buying Panda hats after this season? GM Brian Sabean made it clear he supports an effort to sign Sandoval to a multiyear extension, keeping him off the free-agent market after this season.
Baer said no substantive talks have taken place, but he is “open minded. We don’t have infinite dollars. No team does, despite what you might think. But we’re open minded to it. It’s about them coming back with a recommendation as to where the money should go.”
It appears the Giants have less appetite to extend Sergio Romo, who will be a free agent as well. Baer said he would be open minded and listen to the recommendation from baseball operations. An extension for Brandon Belt is possible as well but more of a "back burner" item.
Baer stressed that if Sandoval doesn’t sign an extension by the end of the spring, it doesn’t mean his days as a Giant are limited. He pointed out that Pence entered his walk year without a contract. They ended up signing a deal before he hit free agency – barely.
Baer revealed that Pence signed his five-year, $90 million contract in manager Bruce Bochy’s office at 1 a.m. after the third to last game of the regular season. Then Pence got on his motorized scooter.
“I said, 'Hunter, we’re giving you $90 million. Can we just get you an Uber?’ ” Baer said.