The San Diego Padres have a strong military fanbase, and I love reading soldiers’ comments online, which typically go something like this:
“I’m in the Marines, and this team is what we call FUBAR’d…, this is what’s wrong…., this is what needs to be done…. BOOYAH!!!”
Rarely are the merits of these posts criticized or debated, and the poster often disappears for awhile; all of which I find fascinating.
It’s a very open & democratic forum, and generally laid-back with Padres fans. It’s a relief from being a Rays fan, having to deal with all the Red Sox/Yankees hyper-competitiveness. Here’s what I had to say about the Pads in their MLB forum this fall:
10-29-15: Padres name D-backs’ Green manager
Andy Green is energetic, has managerial experience in the minors, embraces sabermetirics, and is well-respected in the Diamondbacks organization. The San Diego Padres need to rebuild, so I like this hire. [posted on Facebook]
11-02-15: Padres move quickly to bring back Balsley
I too am relieved that Darren Balsley is staying. I wasn’t sure he’d stay with this mess in SD, but this is his home. It appears the Nationals are even worse off in their management situation with the Black/Baker fiasco. Balsley will help rebuild this pitching staff– he’s the best as so many have already pointed out. The fan support in this forum surely helped.
11-13-15: Kennedy, Upton reject qualifying offers
A.J. Preller wins another one for San Diego this week– every little bit helps. Kennedy isn’t worth more than $10/year; he & agent Scott Boras are banking on an overpay deal. We’ll see…
Deal Matt Kemp who had decent numbers in 2015, but needs to be in the AL where he can DH. Shields & BJ Upton are surely on the block too, but Kemp is the priority. So far, so good for Padres fans, the Kimbrel deal is the right idea. Keep adding depth to the farm system, and work on player development; that’s how the Royals, Astros & Cubs did it. No one really knows how any of these prospects are going to pan out. Smart GM’s look for prospects with high upside, and grab as many as they can get.
Note: Teams don’t keep their compensation pick if they re-sign their free agent. They would also have to forfeit the pick should they sign another qualifying free agent and not have a first-round pick to give up (either because they pick in the top 10, or because they sign more than one qualifying free agent and have previously surrendered their first-round selection).
These compensation picks currently sit at # 31 & #32. If the Padres don’t sign a qualifying-offer FA this off-season, these picks will end up in the low 20’s or high teens. They already have the #8 pick, so this will immediately add talent to a depleted system if Preller & Co. make good selections in the June draft. The Padres have historically had a terrible farm system, and this is how you fix it.
Preller has made his share of mistakes in his first year on the job, most noticeably the Matt Kemp trade. However he also stole Wil Myers, who can be a franchise player if kept healthy. Franchise players don’t grow on trees, and this organization is still reeling from losing Adrian Gonzalez, and then giving away Anthony Rizzo. Preller cleaned house and got rid of many assets that were largely fungible. Preller is obviously a stat guy, and his blind spot seems to be baseball tactics and in-game management. He needs to get at least one lefty in the rotation, an adequate (affordable) shortstop, and another LOOGY (Left-Handed One Out Guy) in the pen, so his new manager isn’t handcuffed like Black & Murph were in 2015.
In response to another fan on the board who disagreed with SD trading Trea Turner & Joe Ross for Wil Myers:
How about “acquired Wil Myers? For a 22-YO 2B who ‘hit’ .225/.295/.325 with the Nats in 2015 & a 22-YO potential 2/3 starter in Ross. 24-YO Myers has superstar upside, but he obviously has to stay healthy. His wrist injuries began in Tampa from diving for balls on their artificial turf. Diving for balls in CF last year didn’t help, which was Preller’s fault as much as Myers’. He’s a corner outfielder & stud prospect. It was a great trade for the Padres, and it’s been overlooked because the 2015 Padres were so badly put together.
How’d I do on the rest?
11-20-15: Padres announce Spring Training schedule
Below are the remaining off-season dates of which Padres fans should be aware. The Rule 5 draft is next, and it could be an opportunity for Preller to snag a prospect– depending on the talent available and their roster situation in 2016.
Rule 5 footnote: Organizations may also draft players from AA or lower to play for their AAA affiliates for $12,000; and may draft players from A teams or lower to play for their AA affiliates for $4,000. Most 12/4K picks never approach becoming MLB players, but serve as organizational filler which has value in that they help true prospects develop quicker, and with more success.
Dec. 7-10 — Winter meetings, Nashville, Tenn.
Dec. 10 — Rule 5 draft
Jan. 7 — Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2016 announced (Trevor Hoffman)
Jan. 12 — Salary arbitration filing
Jan. 15 — Salary arbitration figures exchanged
Feb. 1-21 — Salary arbitration hearings
Feb. 18 — Voluntary reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players
March 1 — Mandatory reporting date
Any updates on the AFL, winter ball action, or any other Padres buzz are always welcomed by out-of-area fans. Thanks!
11-21-15: Henderson, Yount recount milestone moments
Pete Rose (24 seasons): .303/.375/.409, w/ 198 SB, 149 CS; Tim Raines (23 seasons): .294/.385/.425, w/ 808 SB, 146 CS. Rock was more valuable, and it’s a joke he isn’t in the HoF. Rose should obviously be in too, but that’s another discussion…
11-23-15: Open-minded Green embraces defensive shifts
“He’s open to any idea that’s going to help a team, help an organization get better,” Preller said. “He’s not looking at any idea or a particular statistic as being gospel. I think that’s something we share. You present an idea, he wants to hear it and then he wants to see how it works.”
The GM & manager are communicating, and on the same page. This already makes the Padres better than last season.
Andy Green has managed in the minors, so he presumably knows how a roster needs to be constructed in order to win. Green needs to be in agreement with A.J. Preller, and vise-versa. That isn’t interfering, it’s called attempting to understand one another so they both can do a better job.
Old-school vs sabermetrics is a misnomer. Statistical analysis is meant to illuminate parts of the game that were traditionally overlooked or had gotten lost. Run production & run prevention are thought of much differently today, than they were 20 years ago. If you fall behind, you get left behind.
Moneyball critics always point to the fact the Oakland A’s under GM Billy Beane have never won (or even reached) the World Series. All that proves is that you need SOME payroll investment from ownership, in order to win it. The TB Rays were the same way, and it was maddening to root for them when team owner Stuart Sternberg didn’t care to invest. Many Rays fans (such as myself) quit the day they traded David Price, and not coincidentally GM Andrew Friedman & Joe Maddon left soon after.
Stats GM Theo Epstein joined the Red Sox in November 2003, and ended their Curse in less than a year, building a mini-dynasty in the process. That’s what happens when you combine a more-than-adequate payroll with moneyball. Ask any true blue Brew Crew fan, “Which do you want: beer or brats?” and they will ALL correctly answer, “Both!” It’s the same way with old-school & sabermetrics.
11-20-15: Report: McGwire in talks for Padres’ bench coach job
Mark McGwire would be an inspired selection for bench coach. He was a power hitter who knew the strike zone. See how much more valuable he is, over a contemporary 1B who didn’t control it as well:
Mark McGwire (16 seasons) .263/.394/.588 1626 H 1317 BB
Cecil Fielder (13 seasons) .255/.345/.482 1313 H 693 BB
They both could mash, and PEDs surely inflated McGwire’s .588 SLG%, but the ability to take a walk is a baseball skill which big Cecil lacked– hurting his value.
It’s Mac’s career .394 OBP that truly separates him as a HoF-level performer.
Mark McGwire acted honorably during the PED show trials of 2005, by quite correctly refusing to answer whether or not he had ever used PEDs– as any answer would have put him in legal jeopardy. He told the committee, “I will use whatever influence and popularity that I have to discourage young athletes from taking any drug that is not recommended by a doctor. What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates.”
None of the players were granted immunity in exchange for testimony, which would have allowed them to speak freely. Instead of dealing with the public health crisis of PED usage in young athletes, the congressional hearing cynically entitled “Restoring Faith in America’s Pastime” was an exercise in bipartisan political grandstanding. Rafael Palmiero (lying then finger pointing) & Sammy Sosa (pretending he didn’t understand English) truly disgraced themselves; but no one topped Bud Selig. The commissioner of the Steroid Era, in a snivelling & gutless performance, repeatedly claimed “no knowledge” or was “unable to recall” over a decade’s worth of overwhelming evidence of widespread PED use in MLB. More than anyone else, Allan Huber “Bud” Selig is responsible for MLB’s PED era, which still persists today.
Mark McGwire confessed his steroid use in 2010, with contrition. He is a proud, yet humble man who burns for redemption. New manager Andy Green & hitting coach Alan Zinter are inexperienced at the MLB level, which can be a problem with veteran players. Big Mac’s presence in the dugout & around the hitting cage would be an asset for the Padres, commanding respect from the players, while not challenging Green’s authority. I believe if he is given a fair chance, he will act with integrity & work his butt off to help the Padres achieve their goal of finally winning a World Series. That’s all a fan can ask for.
Open Letter on the Padres from an outsider’s perspective:
An argument can be made, that the only season the Padres had a true ace was in 1998. That was the only season the Padres had Kevin Brown, and unfortunately they ran into one of the best teams ever in the World Series. Jake Peavy had four seasons of ace-level pitching in San Diego, and is the best career starting pitcher the franchise has ever had. Who is #2? It’s a toss-up between Andy Benes and Andy Ashby.
The franchise all-time MVP pitcher, measured by WAR is closer Trevor Hoffman. The Padres have been in existence since 1969 and their franchise 5-man rotation leaders by IP is: Eric (Win, Lose or) Show, Randy Jones, Peavy, Ed Whitson and Benes; which clearly reveals an Achilles heel that has existed since inception. The Padres must develop (and retain) better starting pitching, or it will never win a World Series.
Another organizational Achilles heel is their failure to recognize the talent within. Consider these players: Dave Winfield (left as FA), Ozzie Smith (traded after 4 seasons), and Roberto Alomar (about to turn 23, and by far the best player in that deal). In 1992 young 3B Gary Sheffield was handed to the Padres by Selig’s Brewers. He became an overnight star, then was shipped to the Marlins who won the WS with him in 1997. San Diego got Trevor Hoffman in the deal, but Sheffield (22 seasons, .292/.393/.514) was worth much more, PED arguments aside. Hoffman is a HoFer because you need a closer, but his overall value is limited by his 1098.1 career IP. For comparison, Tom Glavine (Braves) had 4413.1 IP. More game time means more value towards winning.
Dealing 1B Adrian Gonzalez was another deathblow to a Padres competitive window. He would have been Señor Padre at the end of his HoF career, if they had kept him. Organizations typically don’t recover from that, especially when they squander the trade’s centerpiece by sending 1B prospect Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs for Andrew Cashner. Cash definitely has good stuff, with 2/3 upside if he can figure it out & stay healthy, but who knows how good Rizzo will be? He was age 25, hitting .278/.387/.512 in 701 PA in 2015.
Only RF Tony Gwynn (20 seasons: .338/.388/.459) and Trevor Hoffman (18 seasons: 2.87 ERA) stand out as HoF-level career Padres, and that’s just not enough to win consistently in 47 seasons.
This is the legacy new GM A.J. Preller inherits, so long-time fans (who are understandably frustrated from decades of incompetence) need to cut him some slack. He’s had some missteps, but he’s also proven a quick study. Let’s face it, this entire organization needed an enema. Much detritus has been flushed as the Padres start anew, hopefully with better planning, scouting, coaching, and eventually players. A winning philosophy combines the best of ALL baseball thinking, as this game is too vast to ignore either its historical lessons or its recent innovations.
As far as team president Mike Dee and owner Ron Fowler go, their job is to provide Preller with the necessary payroll, while staying out of the day-to-day operations. The mantra with GM Andrew Friedman while he was in TB was always “trust in the process,” meaning if you are doing things correctly you will eventually see good results. The Rays were a moneyball franchise that never won it all, because they were hamstrung by ownership– competing short-stacked in the AL East, always forced to play for future seasons. “Pile up enough tomorrows and you’ll end up with a bunch of empty yesterdays,” said Robert Preston in The Music Man (1962).
In this era, a MLB team needs a payroll of at least $100-120 million to win it all. Ownership supplies the money, so obviously it is let in on plan, but it shouldn’t be allowed to meddle. If Preller eventually needs a boost in payroll to acquire a player who will put the Padres over the top (as the KC Royals did in 2015 by acquiring Johnny Cueto at the trade deadline), then ownership is obliged to step up. Mike Dee’s job from a baseball standpoint is simply to hire & fire the GM. As team president, his job should mostly focus on revenue acquisition from media, ticket sales, promotions, etc… A winning organization make his job easier.
Padres fans need to be patient, and die-hards understand this all-too-well. It’s a long off-season to go, but don’t have any winning expectations for the Padres until 2018, at the earliest. Obviously things will change as players get traded, new prospects develop, etc… All we can do as fans is understand the process, and speak our voices in forums such as these. Successes need to be understood objectively, and are also the best opportunity for fans to express their emotions. Organizational failures should be pointed out and discussed analytically and rationally, avoiding anger & hysterics– which don’t help. It also doesn’t help to list random, useless stats as an argument. All non-pitchers can be precisely measured using the triple slash stats, AVG/OBP/SLG. If it is a season comparison, provide plate appearances & player age; for careers, provide the number of seasons played and defensive position. Defense is now accurately determined, with advanced metrics replacing traditional errors, put-outs and assists. Pitchers are accurately valued using ERA, IP and K/BB ratios– season & career.
All this is a reasonable fan contract. The more Padres fans get on board with this program, the easier it is for GM A.J. Preller to do his job. The STL Cardinals are a great example of an organization that has everyone in sync, from ownership down to the bat boys/ball girls. Their organization & fans understand when to let an old star go (Albert Pujols), and who to retain (Matt Holliday). They develop their own position players and pitchers. That’s why they are consistently competitive, and win their share of World Series. If this is indeed the model Preller is trying to build, then it deserves fan support.