A Most Patient Man- Peter Seidler

Credit: Orange County Register

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Credit: MLB

Recently Peter Seidler, chairman and lead investor for the San Diego Padres, told reporters, “If you’re going to fall off a cliff like we did last year, you may as well make it dramatic. And we did. I think that was a once-in-a-century what I’ll call learning experience for all of us.”

Falling off a cliff perfectly describes the Padres’ 2021 season. Although the team had been five games up in the second wild card on August 1st, it lost 33 of 45 games to end the season. The team finished with another sub-par record of 79-83.

However, unlike most of his predecessors, Peter Seidler has proven to be a patient owner—so far. He’s also the first with baseball in his blood as he springs from the O’Malley family. Walter Francis O’Malley brought the Brooklyn Dodgers to the west coast in 1958. Seidler is the grandson of Walther O’Malley and nephew of Peter O’Malley (who owned the Dodgers from 1970 to 1997).

Peter Seidler, Kevin O’Malley, and Ron Fowler bought the Padres in 2012. Until 2020 Fowler acted as managing partner and hired A.J. Preller as general manager in August 2014. But in November last year, Seidler took over as chairman from Fowler, buying out his stake in the team.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Seidler also has a Master of Business Administration from the University of California Los Angeles. The savvy businessman founded a private equity firm (Seidler Equity Partners) which has an estimated net worth of $3 billion.

With a cushion in the billions, Seidler can afford to be patient. Except for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Padres have not produced a winning season during his tenure.

Other Padres owners have not shown such patience.

In 1974 during the home opener, the Padres were losing to the Houston Astros when Ray Kroc (the team owner from 1974-1984) took over the microphone from announcers and addressed the crowd: “Ladies and gentleman, I suffer with you. I’ve never seen such stupid ballplaying in my life.” He capped that comment off by declaring, “There’s more future in hamburgers than baseball.”

Credit: USA Today Sports

Following in his footsteps, Fowler actually called the Padres “miserable failures” in a diatribe in June 2016 after a miserable 2-7 road trip. He targeted starting pitcher James Shields and called him “an embarrassment to the team, an embarrassment to him.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlCcWFSg8jg

In 2015, the first year of his $75 million contract, Shields produced a record of 13-7 with a 3.91 ERA. However, the following year he regressed to a 2-7 record and 4.28 ERA, thus generating Fowler’s ire. A short time later, the Padres traded Shields to the Chicago White Sox for Erik Johnson and a kid called Fernando Tatis Jr.

Since the Padres hired Preller, he has zigged and zagged from an initial trade-fest to rebuilding to trying to win. He’s built up the farm system and then torn it down in an attempt to win now. According to MLB.com, the Padres farm system has slipped to 17, behind the Arizona Diamondbacks at 4th, the Los Angeles Dodgers 5th, the San Francisco Giants at 11th.

Preller’s eye for talent cannot be denied with Fernando Tatis Jr. being the prime example. In a short period of time, he’s been named an All-Star (2021), won two Silver Slugger Awards, and led the National League in home runs.

However, managing the young superstar has proven to be problematic. Last year, Tatis Jr. lost precious time to shoulder issues but refused to undergo surgery to address the recurring problem. We’ll never know if a healthy Tatis Jr. would have changed the course of the second half of the season.

This season, Tatis Jr. will sit out at least the first two months thanks to a wrist injury incurred while riding a motorcycle (an action forbidden by his contract). And his loyalty to the Padres has been questioned by actions like clearing his Instagram account of all references to his team.

Although the Padres can cover shortstop with Ha-Seong Kim or rookie CJ Abrams, the front office must seriously question the wisdom of offering Tatis Jr. a $340 million contract, especially since he was still subject to arbitration.

In the meantime, Preller has been tied down by the contract that brought the first baseman, Eric Hosmer, to San Diego and, to a lesser extent, Wil Myer’s extension. Third baseman Manny Machado leads the team at $32 million, with Myers at $22.5 million and Hosmer at $21 million. Those three take up a good chunk of change.  It’s common knowledge that the Padres have tried repeatedly to trade both Hosmer and Myers, which has reportedly disrupted team chemistry.

However, the excitement of a new season helps wipe out the memory of last year’s fade. In their second year, starting pitchers Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Blake Snell give the Padres an advantage. Machado, Jake Cronenworth, and Kim provide great defense at the hot corner and up the middle. After his first year in the United States, Kim looks much more comfortable at the plate and has a .333 average so far this spring. In 2020 in Korea, Kim had 163 hits, 109 RBIs, 30 home runs, and a.306 batting average.

Also, this season the Padres will have their first experienced manager under Preller. Bob Melvin has the experience and the gravitas to get the best out of this talented group. Thanks to the new labor agreement, there will be two extra chances to reach the postseason.

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Seidler’s comments about “falling off a cliff” indicate he has a wry sense of humor as well as an ability to put matters into perspective.  He obviously still has faith in the man he hired in 2014, as he recently signed Preller to a four-year extension.  In the San Diego Union-Tribune, writer Tom Krasovic recently questioned treating “Preller like he’s the next Branch Rickey, signing him through 2026.”

So far, Preller hasn’t proved to be the second coming of Branch Rickey. But he can go into this season knowing the boss has his back.

1 thought on “A Most Patient Man- Peter Seidler

  1. Nice article Diane. Thank goodness for Patience. We fans tend to have very little. I’ve bashed AJ over the years for his overpaying in trades and the bonehead contracts he’s given to Hosmer and Profar to name just two.

    Our farm system seems ready to produce a few prospects for the next few years. Since we cannot pay every player 30M a year, it’s imperative we develop some good players. I hope AJ will leave the farm system alone this year and let the young guys get their ABs.

    I am curious how patient Seidler will be with Preller if the Padres don’t produce like they’re capable of. I’d say AJ has through ‘23 to produce a finished product. I hope AJ has the patience to not overpay and deplete the farm system. We seem set up to be good for at least the next couple years. The evil blue team to the north has taken over for the Yankees and are purchasing pennants. We need to develop our own each year to keep pace.

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