No place to go, but up for the San Diego Padres

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: AP Photo

The San Diego Padres have only one place to go as they suffered again in 2019 to a last-place finish. 

As the clock turned to midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Padres said goodbye to a tumultuous, promising, discouraging decade of baseball in San Diego.  From 2010 through the end of the 2019 season, the team averaged only 73.9 wins.  The best year of the bunch began the decade.

Although the pundits had picked the Padres to finish last in the National League West in 2010, the team actually had a fairly firm grasp on the top spot at 6.5 games above the San Francisco Giants in late August. On the 26th of that month, a loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks began a ten-game slide.  When the dust settled, the Giants won the West with the Padres in second at 90-72.  Despite that nose dive, Bud Black won Manager of the Year in 2010, joining Bruce Bochy as the only Padre’s skippers to garner the award.

From then on, the Padres took a nosedive.  The team hasn’t even broken even in any year since, with the worst of the decade being the 2018 season when losses outnumbered wins 66-96.  In 2013 and 2014, the Padres finished third in the division but otherwise fell to fourth and fifth place and by wide margins. Last year, thanks in part to the Dodgers’ 106-56 record, the Padres found themselves 36 games back of the NLW leader.

A decade of decline began with an indiscretion, a nasty divorce, and the drawn-out sale of the team.  John Moores had bought the team in 1994 from Tom Werner.  During Moores’ tenure, the Padres made it to the World Series in 1998.  Thanks to the excitement generated by that heady experience, the Padres moved from Qualcomm Stadium to Petco Park, one of the best ballparks in the country.  But when Moores’ wife Becky sued for divorce, he was forced to sell the team.

Although a group led by Jeff Moorad agreed to buy the Padres in 2009, the sale fell through but only after a protracted period in limbo.  The decade began with major league owners refusing to approve the sale on January 12.  Just in time for spring training, Moorad stepped down as chief executive.  The excitement that usually accompanies the return of baseball changed to confusion and uncertainty for players and fans alike.

The sale remained in limbo until August of 2012 when Moores pivoted and sold to the current ownership group led by Ron Fowler and including members of the famed Dodger O’Malley family: Peter and Tom Seidler, Kevin and Brian O’Malley.  While stability has come to the owners’ box, the same cannot be said for the positions of general manager, manager, hitting coach, and a roster in constant flux.

Josh Byrnes acted as general manager from 2012 to 2014 when Preller took over August 5th.  Since the current owners took charge, Black, Dave Roberts (one game), Pat Murphy, Andy Green, and Rod Barajas (eight games) have managed the Padres.  Next year first-timer Jayce Tingler will take over, and much of the coaching staff will have changed as well.  Even long-time pitching coach Darren Balsley has lost his position.  Adding to the disarray, Mike Dee, the Chief Operating Officer who hired Preller, moved on for undisclosed reasons in October 2016

When Preller fired Black in mid-June of 2015 Sports Illustrated’s headline read, “Despite improvement, Black ousted for not meeting steep expectations.” Author  Cliff Corcoran made a note of the fact that the winning percentage had actually improved as the 2015 season evolved.

Apparently, expectations had outpaced reality as Preller’s remake of the team fell flat. Those expectations had been sky-high thanks to the new general manager’s attempt to remake the team on the fly at the end of the 2014 season.  Dubbed “Prellerpalooza,” the team’s roster changed substantially.  The trade of shortstop Trea Turner for Wil Myers has become the symbol of Preller’s wholesale changes in the roster.

In the meantime, Preller has received high marks for his draft classes from 2017 to 2019, according to Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser (“Ranking Every MLB Team’s Draft Performance in The 2010s.”)  Overall for the last decade, he places the team 20th in performance with 49.1 WAR, while the Astros led baseball with 103.8 WAR.

When the 2019 season ended, Padres owners declared that their patience has run thin. Hope for the Padres lies in the highly-rated farm system created by Preller.  In 2018 and 2019, San Diego led baseball with ten players in the top 100 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.  Pitchers MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino wait in the wings and may see some action in 2020.

Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and pitcher Chris Paddack generated renewed excitement in Petco Park last year, as did the addition of third baseman Manny Machado to the top contract in MLB history at $300 million over ten years at the time.  For the historically penny-pinching Padres, the contracts for Machado and first baseman Eric Hosmer, as well as the extension for Myers, put the team in uncharted territory.  While the latter two contracts have weighed the team down rather than uplifting it, the ownership group has shown an unprecedented commitment to bringing winning baseball to a starved city.

In reality, there’s no place to go but up for a team that generated more frustration than excitement in the last decade.

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Diane Calkins
Baseball has been a part of Diane's life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.

8 thoughts on “No place to go, but up for the San Diego Padres

  1. Up isn’t the only direction possible for the Padres. With inept AJ and loud mouth Fowler, the MLB might need to add a fifth place to our division… just for the Padres. I’m waiting for a Preller to make a couple more knucklehead trades. He’ll give away a lot to hope he saves his job (good job Fowler).

    We’ll likely garner 5 more wins than last year provided players stay healthy. This is not our year to compete… still. 2021 will be the year we might get a sniff at a WC spot. It’s possible a few players exceed expectations or a kid or two are better than expected.

    I hope we keep Hedges and allow him to catch the kids and mentor them from the #1 catcher position. Success will depend on Meyers being stabilized through consistent coaching and playing. Tatis needs to stay healthy, Machado needs to mature and get serious, Hosmer needs to try and imitate a MLB player and contribute, the kid pitchers get their experience, the other pitchers stay healthy, and AJ hibernates and doesn’t trade the whole farm system for a player to be named later.

    4th place and a decent draft again. The few prospects get their feet wet and we look to 2021. Let’s stabilize this team and establish continuity and a Positive mentality. Those assist with winning.

    1. Hello Tony C,
      One can only hope that this year and this decade begin to erase the bad taste left by the past decade of futility and disappointment.
      In my view, the team would be wise to keep Hedges not only for his skills behind the plate but his commitment to the pitching staff, but that is highly unlikely. Myers will be even more marginalized than previously as there’s really no place for him with the additional outfielders and first place given over to Hosmer.
      Your ifs, especially regarding Tatis, are spot on. We all hope you’re right about 2021, although it’s frustrating to have the goalposts moved every year.

  2. It is amazing how much specific Owners impact the success or failure of their team. It is far more amazing how Owners–those who have made hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars elsewhere–are stunningly bereft of common sense, and lack awareness about the most obvious facts, and cannot manage the business inside of sports, especially in hiring others to run their business. The Chargers have proved this many times over, as have other teams that tend to succeed more than others, or fail more than others (Sacramento Kings; Redskins).

    1. We hope for the best, but with a blowhard owner who is so dumb that he’s surprised his team’s budget must include facility maintenance, and a GM who will spend $144 million on Eric Hosmer, keeping hope alive is an uphill struggle. Not to say we have the worst owner/GM, there are always the Mets and the Orioles, but San Diego deserves better.

      1. There’s hope because the blowhard owner is just one shareholder who is currently the team Chairman, but NOT the control person – that’s the Managing General Partner. The MGP was ill the last three years and delegated to the Chairman while under treatment. The Chairman, who is now 75, may well be replaced by a younger shareholder, while the recovered General Partner re-asserts his control.

        Between the blowhard Chairman and the departed CEO, we can never be sure how much of what Preller has done was his doing, or what he was directed to do. The MGP represents the group that bought out John Moores’ controlling 51% ownership, and we may now get to see how he and his group intend to run the team.

        Given that the majority group includes former Dodgers co-owners Peter O’Malley and his sister Terry Seidler, as well as their children who grew up with the Dodgers, there’s enough expertise in running a major league franchise in the majority group to be hopeful.

        1. Hi Larry,
          You’re right. We don’t know how much Fowler and Dee had to do with the “Prellerpalooza” and other moves that Preller made early on. In the front office, Logan White’s track record, as well as Dave Cameron’s expertise, should help. After all, the latter warned against giving Eric Hosmer a huge contract…
          If nothing else, Peter Seidler’s gene pool could kick in and help guide the team.
          Fowler does understand and echo the frustration of fans though. It’s been a long drought.
          Thanks for the comment,

      2. Hello Tom,
        Fans do hope for the best, but you’re right, deals like that for Hosmer put a big dent in the hope. Unfortunately for every lousy team, there are two or three with good management and constant improvement.
        Thanks for reading,

    2. Hi Tommy,
      That’s a very good point about common sense not necessarily transferring from business to baseball. Although, I would point out that distributing beer does not require absolute genius.
      In the meantime, throwing money around doesn’t guarantee success in baseball.
      Thanks for your thoughts,

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(Visited 972 times, 1 visits today)
Diane Calkins
Baseball has been a part of Diane's life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.