A.J. Preller wants yes-men at his beck and call. He wants the Padres organization filled with those who enable him, not challenge him, as president of baseball operations and general manager.
Apparently, Bob Melvin didn’t fall in line. It appears the relationship soured to the point where Melvin is now leaving for the Padres’ division rivals up the California coast.
The same place where Bruce Bochy won three World Series titles after leaving San Diego.
It apparently wasn’t Preller’s fault when the Padres had a massively disappointing 2015 after his shopping spree. It was Bud Black‘s.
Preller’s first manager whom he truly hired was Andy Green, who proceeded to go 274-366 (.428). The Padres never sniffed the playoffs in four seasons with Green.
Heading into 2020, Preller chose another first-time manager in Jayce Tingler. He guided the Padres to the playoffs in 2020, including a series win, but they fell flat on their faces in 2021. The COVID season was a mirage.
Bob Melvin was hired to be a breath of fresh air. He is a proven veteran manager who was brought here to handle the group of stars the Padres boast. Year one of Melvin was a resounding success, with a run to the NLCS in 2022.
However, things bottomed out culturally for the Padres in 2023. The vibes were bad, and rumors spread about dissension in the ranks. Preller and Melvin’s relationship seemed to sour. Instead of Preller being removed from office after another disappointing season, he gets to hire his fourth full-time manager in nine years.
That’s hardly a recipe for success.
Preller is the common denominator in this revolving door of managers among brutally disappointing seasons such as 2021 and 2023. The roster is top-heavy with well-paid stars. Yet the Padres had a weak and soft underbelly that got exposed.
Padres owner Peter Seidler preached stability but also not being afraid to make a change. He recently said, “A.J. is excellence,” when some questioned Preller’s standing with the organization.
In nine full seasons with Preller as general manager, the Padres are 636-720 (.469) with two playoff appearances (one in a traditional season). Normally, general managers are fired long before Preller got to this point. Stability does not always mean success.
Changes are definitely needed for the Padres to grow up, but the wrong one was made. Melvin is universally beloved in Major League Baseball by former colleagues and players. While Preller is often met with a raised eyebrow and even distrust in some aspects.
Preller even got up in front of the fans after this gut-punch of a season and assured the fans that Melvin would return in 2024. Only to turn around and allow one of the Padres’ biggest rivals to interview Melvin and essentially steal him away.
Preller has many talents. He saw the potential in a blossoming teenaged Fernando Tatis Jr. He built the farm system into a highly coveted asset around the league.
However, he seems to struggle in arguably the most important aspect of being a general manager- MLB roster construction.
Frankly, the Padres have not been short on star power or cash in over half a decade. Those days are gone. Yet, Preller routinely mishandles the major league portion of the roster. From starting pitching depth in 2021 to lineup construction in 2023, the Padres have had glaring weak spots under Preller at the big-league level.
On top of that, some of the trades Preller made have completely blown up in his face. He acquired Mike Clevinger and Austin Nola (among a few others) for the likes of Gabriel Arias, Austin Hedges, Owen Miller, Josh Naylor, Cal Quantrill, Ty France, Andrés Muñoz, Luis Torrens and Taylor Trammell. Most of which have become stable major-league contributors elsewhere.
The list could go on.
Melvin, while not perfect, is not the problem in San Diego. Melvin wasn’t here in 2021. Or 2019. Or 2017.
The player development and analytics side of the franchise is lacking. Superior teams are running circles around the Padres in developing their big-league players and preparing them night in and night out. The Padres do not give their players what they need to succeed. That falls on Preller and his staff above the manager. Players constantly come to San Diego and underperform. That is a problem that far outdates Melvin’s arrival.
What needs to be emphasized is that Preller is not just your average general manager. He is the president of baseball operations. He is the boss. He calls the shots. The player development, scouting, and analytics all fall under Preller’s purview. Seidler just cuts him a check.
Preller’s fingerprints are all over the Padres’ failures over the last decade. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Letting Preller handpick another manager is, by that definition, insanity.
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.