The recent 30-day suspension of San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller came as a shock to most in the industry. We knew there were some whispers of an investigation, but nothing had been made public until Thursday afternoon. The second-year G.M. was suspended by MLB for actions in regards to medical records and purposely withholding information regarding Drew Pomeranz who was traded to the Red Sox in late July.
The Sox must have really felt victimized as they apparently had made a huge stink over the trade and the fact that Pomeranz is supposedly injured to some degree (even though he has made every start for the team). We already knew this same Sox franchise was upset over what many inside the industry perceived as a bad trade for Craig Kimbrel in the offseason. The Sox got exactly what they wanted in Kimbrel but he injured his knee early in the 2016 season and his numbers continue to look mortal after years of being untouchable in Atlanta. There is no blame for the knee injury Kimbrel suffered, but Tom Werner and company certainly did not like the fact the young G.M. got a great deal for the closer.
So was this really about Drew Pomeranz and his health? I’m sure they were not happy learning that Pomeranz has been dealing with some arm “soreness” but the Sox could have used common sense in making a deal for the lefty. He had never surpassed 101 innings in his professional career (and did that in his first year), so it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that at some point this season he would be the victim of general soreness or a dead arm. That is just natural. His body needs to get used to the extensive workload.
The Red Sox failed to recognize this and I wrote about it at the time of the deal. Pomeranz was not a good fit for them. They plan on playing deep into the playoffs, and to rely on Pomeranz to pitch having thrown double his previous limit for a season, is just plain old stupid. Not that Pomeranz doesn’t have value for the Sox, but his true value is in the fact he is under team-control cheaply for the next few seasons, not that he will provide instant playoff innings for them. The Red Sox had almost immediate remorse as most in the industry questioned them dealing their #1 pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza for a pitcher who was having a career year.
My conspiracy theory about the Red Sox continues as the Padres have annihilated the international market this period. The team has exceeded $65-70 million dollars on young talent in this signing period. The same signing period in which the Red Sox may not bid on anyone. They are being punished by MLB for unlawfully signing minors while supposedly being under a spending cap per player. That in itself is an outrage and the team had to forfeit five of their top signed international players as a penalty. Talk about being unlawful or doing thing deceitful. This international market stuff is all hearsay and frankly not completely relevant to the Pomeranz issue, but it does make you think.
Is it sour grapes on the Red Sox part? Are they upset because the Padres are no longer considered a second class franchise in the international market which they were huge players in year after year? Is this “Big Stink” just a method used to push their weight around and show the lowly Padres that the Sox are the class of the league. I would like to think MLB is above such acts. A lot of persons in the industry have described the punishment handed out by Major League Baseball as too soft or a slap on the wrist. That might be true. 30 days for a Padres team that is out of the playoff race is not a horrible punishment at all for the G.M. And rightfully so, as the crime was petty and that leaves me to the old sports adage.
“If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying”
Yes there are ethics involved in “cheating” as you do not want to take foreign substances to boost your performance and your ultimate goal out there is not to hurt anyone. However if you can get a competitive edge on your opponent and fail to capitalize on it then you are only cheating yourself. Its like stealing a sign from the bench or executing a successful squeeze bunt. Should A.J. Preller have disclosed all medical issue that Pomeranz had? Perhaps. But what happen to buyer beware or what happened to the day and age when sports teams would have their own physical done on a potential player to be acquired? Why would you not look into a players health if you are about to acquire him? Why would you not talk to him and ask him questions regarding his health? Why was common sense not use when determining if Pomeranz could remain healthy for the rest of the 2017 season? Then there is the fact that some Major League teams might be practicing the same policies the Padres have done in the past regarding medical record keeping. Those teams are surely changing things now, but the Padres were made example of for a reason.
That reason was Colin Rea. The Padres had to have reason to believe something was wrong with Rea when he was dealt. I sincerely believe that. They had no intention of dealing him, but when the Marlins asked for him with Andrew Cashner, the Padres were intrigued. Rea was already being babied by the Padres as he would start the second half of the season in the fifth spot in the rotation. Take into consideration he was also set to El Paso earlier in the year to lessen the strain on his arm. Again, the Marlins could have done just a little bit of homework to make the determination that Rea was dealing with arm issues. The Padres purposely withheld some information regarding Rea, but they quickly fixed the situation by sending prized prospect Luis Castillo back to the Marlins for an injured Rea. This put them on notice with Major League Baseball of shady operations and opened up all the critics. The White Sox according to some reports had issues too with the James Shields deal. For the life of me I cannot figure out why as Erik Johnson is the one who went down with an elbow injury. The Padres if anything should be the ones crying foul as Johnson was supposed to eat up innings for the team in the second half. It seems like these teams were just trying to get a handout after having remorse for making a bad trade. You can be sure the White Sox want nothing to do with Shields and would prefer to have their young prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. Too bad, so sad. That deal is done.
A.J. Preller and his image took a major hit. That cannot be debated. He made a mistake and most importantly he was caught and punished for it. For a community that is already distraught with their sports teams, this is just another example of …. why can’t we have nice things? This will hopefully blow over in time. The Padres are under a microscope right now in regards to their medical records so I wouldn’t think this would be detrimental on a future trade with other organizations. It might be though. If it is and other teams refuse to deal with the Padres because of Preller, then ownership will have to make a huge decision. Letting go of the architect of your blossoming farm system would be a huge blow to this franchise. One that would take a long time to recover from. Let’s hope we do not get to that point.
There is a fine line in the game of baseball when it comes to right and wrong. The Padres were wrong in doing what they did. The team and the young G.M. learned a valuable lesson. If you ask me, I’d rather have my G.M. cheating and trying (to a certain degree) then not doing a damn thing about improving the team. But that’s just me.