Andy Green is signed on as the San Diego Padres manager through 2021. But will he even make it to the 2020 season?
Entering this season, few people expected the Padres to compete with the Dodgers for the NL West crown seriously. Most experts picked the Padres to win 78-80 games (I picked 76) and having an outside shot at the wild card.
So the fact that they are 59-65 shouldn’t be a huge surprise.
And yet, many Padre fans are calling for Green’s ouster. They cite things like bad pitching change decisions, allegedly mishandling the clubhouse, and mostly, a losing record. But is that the right call? Are fans being too impatient, or is there something to the complaints?
To answer that question, let’s first take a look at the arguments for why Green should be retained beyond 2019. Then, we’ll consider the reasons that some say he should be dismissed when this season ends.
First, the overall improvement. One year ago, they were 48-76. Before their Tuesday, August 19 game at Cincinnati, they stand at 59-65, which represents an eleven-game improvement.
Additionally, many of the young ballplayers have finally started to take their games to the next level. Just two examples:
- Despite a low batting average, Hunter Renfroe now has a career-high 31 homers to go with improved plate discipline (36 walks in 372 at-bats, compared to 30 and 403 last year), and vastly improved defense (leads all major league outfielders with 23 DRS, and the NL in assists with 11).
- After a slow start, Manuel Margot has finally learned to get on base (.366 OBP since the All-Star break) and steal bases (16 in 17 attempts, as opposed to 11 out of 21 last year).
If scorn is going to be heaped upon Green for things that go wrong, then surely credit is also due to the skipper for these developments.
Second, Green cannot be blamed for (most of) the Padres’ pitching woes. Critics love to point out the Padres’ pitching problems, especially the bullpen. But let’s face it: this bullpen is overworked. Badly. And the chief reason why is that the 2019 Padres lack an ace; a true stopper who can be counted on to go at least seven innings and deliver a quality start.
This was supposed to have been an offseason priority; and while the Padres were often mentioned in connection with names like Trevor Bauer, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and others, a deal did not happen.
Padres management has also been very intentional about limiting the pitch counts for Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet, both of whom are recovering from Tommy John surgery. The same was true for Matt Strahm when he was in the rotation earlier this year.
Throw these inconvenient truths together, and you’ve got a serious problem throughout a full season.
But the fact that the Padres did not get a frontline starting pitcher cannot be laid at the feet of Andy Green; the blame for this lies with upper management.
Along these lines, fans have called for Green’s dismissal for questionable bullpen decisions. But fans are quick to forget that not only is the pitching stretched; the club is still rebuilding, and this is the best way for Green to learn just how good these pitchers are.
All of that said, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin.
First, the Padres have fallen off badly since the All-Star break. As the midseason classic was being played, San Diego’s record stood at 45-45. Excitement was in the air over a possible trade for a quality starting pitcher, and fans were anticipating the possibility of their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade.
But since then, they have gone 14-20. One of the manager’s responsibilities is to keep the players motivated, as it is a long season. For a team that was treading water this late, such a fall-off is both noticeable and alarming.
Lack of disciplinary action towards Ian Kinsler. On May 16, veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler hit a three-run homer that helped them win the game. But afterward, he made obscene gestures and shouted expletives towards the fans. Nobody believed Kinsler when he said, “That was for my teammates.”
Kinsler later recanted. But for some reason, he received no disciplinary action from his own manager—let alone Major League Baseball.
Third, a possible lack of communication. A good manager has to communicate clearly to his players what their role is. This includes having to tell a starter he is being benched, and why.
“There’s no reason (with) the value I bring to the field — even right now, honestly — I shouldn’t be in the lineup,” Hedges recently told the Union-Tribune. “That’s just the value I bring. That’s what I expect. But a lot of that isn’t up to me.”
Granted, Hedges also admitted that he has to play better—his batting average has been below .200 for most of the season. However, his statement that there is “no reason” why he shouldn’t be playing indicates a lack of communication about his role.
These last two items lead to the next (and biggest) reason why Green’s status could be in jeopardy:
Fourth, the question of whether Green has lost control over the clubhouse. Earlier in August, Barry Bloom of Forbes named Green as one of eight managers who could lose their jobs this year.
“According to sources close to the team, he’s lost the clubhouse,” Bloom declared.
Upper management has denied this, but Bloom, a sports journalist with over 30 years experience, has not backed down. He said in an August 13 tweet that his source is “unimpeachable.”
Bottom Line: Green should be excused for many (though certainly not all) of the pitching problems—even the best managers make these kinds of mistakes over a 162-game schedule. He also should not be blamed for rookies making mistakes—that happens on young teams.
But clubhouse management is an issue. Players need to know that their manager is in charge, that he won’t put up with nonsense, and that he has a steady hand. So, if Bloom’s report is true, then it could be curtains for Green. But that is a big if.