Sadly in baseball hindsight is 20/20. Every trade that is made will be scrutinized. That’s just the business. Whether they be good trades or bad trades for each individual team, the one thing that is for certain is that teams cannot go back in time and correct these mistakes. Once you make that decision and pull the trigger on a trade that is the end of it. There’s time for plenty of looking back but no ability to turn back the clock and set it right.
As many of you San Diego Padres fans know by now, there has been a lot of talk in recent days about general manager A.J. Preller and if he has really been a failure as a GM one year into his tenure. A lot of the most recent talk on this subject came from a Grantland article, affectionately titled “Teardown Artist” written and by Rani Jazayerli. I have let the general subject of how to measure a general manager’s success, as well as the more specific topic of that article, kick around in my head the last couple of days. Consider this my half rant/half response piece to that article and a more general job evaluation of A.J. Preller so far as the Padres general manager.
Let’s start with that article. The “Teardown Artist.” That’s just a tad bit harsh don’t you think? While it’s true the Padres find themselves eight games under .500, and ten games out of the National League West, at the all-star break it can’t really be THAT bad can it. Well Mr. Jazayerli makes the point that it is THAT bad and perhaps even worse.
As a Padres fan, and probably just like many of you, I took this article as a personal attack the first time I read it through. This guy must hate the Padres. He doesn’t know what he is talking about. What an idiot. And the list goes on and on. But as I sat, mulled it over, and reread the article a few different times I got a different vibe from the article. It wasn’t a personal attack on me, the Padres organization, or any of us fans in general. It was really a diatribe on A.J. Preller and perhaps Padres ownership, although a diatribe that does contain at least some basis in fact.
Some of what Rani Jazayerli said is true. Some of these trades made by A.J. Preller were stupid. The Matt Kemp for Yasmani Grandal swap was a huge risk from the start and many saw it as such. You don’t have to be a genius to see that specific trade was risky and that it really hasn’t panned out the way the Padres hoped. Beyond this point of agreement about a few of the trades, I would have to vehemently disagree with Jazayerli on a few other important points.
To begin we’ll discuss the first line of the article under the title; “How general manager A.J. Preller destroyed the San Diego Padres in a matter of months.” Now if that isn’t a loaded and hyperbolic statement by itself then I don’t know what is. It can obviously be said that some bad trades were made and some good prospects were traded away. But in no way did A.J. Preller destroy a whole franchise in a matter of months as was stated. The Padres may be better than they were last year or they may be worse but the point remains that they are not destroyed beyond repair. They still have a farm system, albeit one that is not as deep as previously, and more importantly they have a good core of young and cost controlled talents at the major league level. I’m talking about Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Yonder Alonso, Austin Hedges, Brandon Maurer, Tyson Ross, and Andrew Cashner, among some others. This franchise is still in a much better place than many others and is far from completely “destroyed.”
Another mistake that Jazayerli makes in assessing the Padres offseason, is placing the initiative, as well as the blame, almost entirely on A.J. Preller. It’s as if A.J. Preller, a guy with years and years and years of player development experience, suddenly forgot all this and decided he would blow up a farm system all in the blind hope of putting together a winning roster. It was more than just an A.J. Preller decision. Something that is hard to understand for fans of teams that are not small markets, apparently even for a guy like Jazayerli who is also the fan of a small market team in the Kansas City Royals, is that small market teams face different financial constraints, different ways of running teams, as well as different fanbases. More so than A.J. Preller, this wild and seemingly irrational off-season frenzy had a lot to do with the new Padres ownership.
Jazayerli references the Padres mediocrity in the article but still fails to understand how deep it went. For year after year after year after year, since the World Series run of 1998, the Padres have been sold the same BS story every year by every owner and every general manager that has been a part of this organization. The same narrative is always advanced. This team does not have the budgetary flexibility, or more likely the desire to have the budgetary flexibility, in order to “buy” winning players and put a winning product on the field. Instead we get the same old mediocrity every year while the ownership and the general manager try to build a winning team on farm system development alone. Rinse, Wash, Repeat. This has been the same general formula for the last sixteen years of the Padres history.
And this formula has made the Padres a laughing-stock across baseball. The only thing worse than being a “bad” baseball team is being a baseball team that no one cares about. The Padres got nearly ZERO national attention and were nearly completely ignored over the last fifteen or so years. While the steps AJ Preller and Padres ownership took in the off season were not absolutely necessary, they were the steps that the team needed to take to avoid the mediocrity on the field and the apathy in both the local fanbase and national media that had plagued the club for the better part of fifteen years.
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