The Giants are letting Renel Brooks-Moon depart, and it’s even worse than it sounds

It’s a business.

There’s no way to use that phrase without coming off as patronizing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fan, a baseball writer or an executive saying it. “It’s a business” feels like it should always be followed by several light pats on the head. It’s a business, you poor, confused child. Pat, pat, pat.

Yes, professional sports is a business. We get it. But it’s also one of the weirdest businesses in the world. It’s regional pride wrapped up in silly tribalism, mixed with nostalgia and the best childhood memories possible. It’s what people do at night and on the weekends for months and months to forget about their real lives. Most adults can describe what they do every day, at a basic level, with “it’s a business.” Baseball is one of the ways people forget that.

Baseball’s a business, but it shouldn’t be a visible one, at least during the season. You can worry about the business part in the offseason, with tables of nine-figure contracts informing you of a team’s ability to hand out 10-figure contracts. During the season, the business part should be something that you have to be reminded of. It should be in the background, with the foreground being the sun in your face, the garlic on your breath and the pinch-hitter at the plate.

Renel Brooks-Moon won’t be back for a 25th season as the Giants’ public address announcer. The Giants announced this news in a press release titled, “Ahead of the 2024 Season, Giants Name Renel Brooks-Moon Public Address Announcer Emeritus,” which sounds cool, until you get to the part that informs you that she won’t be the PA announcer this season because of stupid business stuff.

From the release: Although they discussed an extension of Brooks-Moon’s contract which ended in December 2023, after extensive discussions they mutually and amicably agreed to part ways.

Mutually and amicably agreed sounds much nicer than the words Brooks-Moon’s friends are using, as Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. They’re using the words “pushed out.” It’s a business.

And if it’s a business, that means there’s a cost-benefit analysis to be done for every decision. It might be possible for McKinsey & Company to send an army of consultants in and study a baseball organization for a couple months, then determine that a PA announcer isn’t worth a dime over $X. Does the Giants’ front office have a proprietary formula of $/WAR for PA announcers? It can’t be ruled out.

Every cost-benefit analysis, though, has to make space for public relations and fan goodwill. The ledger has to have a spot for the bad vibes a move creates. You’ve already seen the Giants make a decision using a ledger that doesn’t include those costs. Not allowing backpacks and large purses into the ballpark makes an additional $X in concession sales and locker rentals over the season. If you don’t include the vibes in the spreadsheet, the cost is nothing. In reality, dozens of families — hundreds? — have to scramble before every game to undo their carefully packed afternoons and take things from one bag and stuff it all (including the original bag) into a brown paper bag. Now you have a bag in a bag, with all the same items and worse vibes.

(When this happened to me and my family, the handle on the paper bag ripped five steps from the entrance. Could we get a new bag? We could not. It’s a business.)

So it goes when it comes to ditching a PA announcer who is as popular, iconic and beloved as anyone in her profession can possibly be. I have no idea how far apart they were on money, just as I have no idea what a successful PA announcer actually makes. A million? A tenth of that? A quarter? Twice as much? Google isn’t much help.



The Voice: How Renel Brooks-Moon became the enduring soundtrack of Giants baseball

Whatever it is, my guess is that Brooks-Moon was underpaid by a lot. Not relative to other PA announcers around the league, but relative to the vibes she brought to the ballpark. You can’t go to dozens or hundreds or thousands of games over a quarter-century and hear the same mellifluous voice in your head the entire time without getting attached. It’s a part of the experience in ways that you don’t consciously process until it’s gone. Yeah, I guess I have heard Ángel Pagán’s name in my head in Renel’s voice this whole time. Turns out she’s a part of my inner monologue now.

Now, over a hundred times every game this season, a PA announcer will lean into a microphone and say, “A reminder: The vibes of this organization are in the toilet.” The words will come out like “Now pinch-hitting for Pedro Borbón: Manny Mota,” but the meaning will be completely different. Before every game and every batter, a voice will remind you that this is a business, not a game. The spiritual equivalent of John C. McGinley in “Office Space” looked at two different salary figures and decided that the bigger one wasn’t worth it. It won’t be the new announcer’s fault, and you might even get used to them quickly. Maybe in 25 years, you’ll have grown just as attached. Probably not, but it’s a chance worth taking to save some money, apparently.

It’s a business, but it’s also a business that includes very visible owners who don’t act like it’s one. Only now is Steve Cohen acting like it’s a business, but it’s a safe bet that when the timing is right, he’ll cut it out and return to firing six-shooters in the air while screaming “Yeeee haawwww” at the Winter Meetings. Warriors owner Joe Lacob was willing to spend $80 million after luxury taxes for one season of Kelly Oubre, who might be the Seth Lugo of basketball players? It’s a business, but it’s one that you would run very, very differently if you were a billionaire owner. You would sit in your suite, crab sandwich in both hands, living and dying with every pitch your very expensive free agent throws. It is absolutely bizarre that some (most?) billionaires don’t take advantage of their ability to do this.

For whatever reason, though, they don’t. A lot of those billionaires got their money by understanding business. Some got their money because their parents sold jeans, and their day-to-day experience has always been like being kicked in the head by a horse, but others got to that level of cognitive impairment by making decisions. Cut this, invest in that, move this headquarters there, blah blah blah. These folks aren’t concerned with vibes because they can’t feel them, don’t need them, can’t understand them. You certainly can’t tally them up on a spreadsheet with a dollar amount attached to them.

Except that’s very, very wrong. You can absolutely attach a dollar amount to them. It just won’t be a precise one. You can figure out exactly how much it would cost to manufacture 20,000 bobbleheads of Jello Biafra in a Giants hat, then compare that to how much extra revenue that might lead to through ticket sales and concessions, but you just have to make an educated guess when it comes to vibes.

My educated guess is that the money the Giants are saving by not retaining Brooks-Moon won’t be more than what this move will cost. Nobody bought a ticket specifically to hear Brooks-Moon, but they’ll certainly avoid buying tickets if the vibes are off. On the final day of the regular season, it’s possible that a voice you’re not familiar with will say, “Now batting for the Cardinals, Brandon Crawford” for a crowd of 25,000 fans. Those people would be there for the overall baseball experience, not to see if the Giants can nab their 80th win. They’ll have months to absorb and reflect on that experience. The rotten vibes might waft under their nose like gym socks the whole time.

It’s a business. Sometimes businesses can be really, really dumb, though. It’s impossible to put an exact dollar amount on the lingering malaise and worsening fan experience of a franchise. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a cost.

(Photo of Brooks-Moon in 2022: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

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