San Diego Padres’ owner Peter Seidler breaks the mold.
Obviously, paupers don’t acquire sports franchises. Over the years, wealthy folks like C. Arnholt Smith, Ray and Joan Kroc, Tom Werner, John Moores, Ron Fowler, and Peter Seidler have owned the San Diego Padres. But, only one—Peter Seidler– has made the investment necessary to compete in Major League Baseball year after year. A member of the Dodger blue O’Malley/Seidler family, he has obviously shed any remaining loyalty to the franchise up the freeway and gone all-in for the Padres.
Until Moores’ marriage fell apart, he stood out among the owners for his financial commitment to the team. Four years after he purchased the Padres from Werner in 1994, the Padres made their second appearance in the World Series. Thanks to the team’s success, voters rewarded Moores by approving Petco Park’s construction in the East Village. But a bitter divorce forced him to try to sell the team, first to former agent Jeff Moorad in late 2011. After months in limbo, Major League Baseball quashed that sale due to economic concerns. In 2012, Seidler and Fowler swooped in and purchased the franchise for $800 million. Last November, Seidler bought out most of Fowler’s share in the team.
Early on, Seidler and Fowler demonstrated a commitment to investing in the team while also giving general manager A.J. Preller free reign even after his 2014/15 trade fest fell flat, and his early efforts resulted in a series of losing seasons. Beginning with Wil Myers’ extension, the Padres entered into contracts heretofore unimagined in franchise history. Finally, the investment began to pay off as the pandemic Padres made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
However, the team didn’t stop there. This month the Padres and Fernando Tatis Jr. made MLB history by entering into the longest contract in the league’s existence at $340 million over 14 years. But the contract does not start to pay off big money until 2025-26 ($20 million) and 2029 ($30 million), with just 10 percent paid out over the first four years. Over that period of time, the pricey contracts for Myers, Eric Hosmer, and Manny Machado come off the books. Seidler obviously regards the dynamic and gifted Tatis Jr. as a generational talent and a natural face of the franchise.
Obviously, Seidler is not just some trust-fund big spender. As the founder of Seidler Equity Partners, which has an estimated net worth of $3 billion, he has spent his working life in international finance. From the beginning, he has committed to making the Padres relevant.
Over the franchise’s history, the Padres’ payrolls have ranked toward the bottom, but under Seidler and Fowler, the team slowly crept up to 24th in 2019 to 11th in 2020 and ninth this year at (gasp) $157,170,000 according to spotrac.com.
But thanks to the Chargers, the Padres have the advantage of being the only game in town. After issuing threats for months, the Chargers finally fled to Los Angeles in 2017, leaving a huge hole in the hearts of SD sports fans. After Machado joined the Padres in 2019, attendance increased by 11 percent. Ensuring that the most exciting player in franchise history will stay in town will also put fannies in the seats in the not-so-distant future, which will also increase income from concessions and merchandise.
After all, the pandemic will not last forever. Cases and deaths continue to decrease while the number of vaccinated residents increases. The Padres have aided that cause substantially by opening up Petco Park’s vaccination superstation. Although closed temporarily due to a shortage of vaccines, the site will reopen soon. The Padres will reap the benefits of a city starved for sports and a championship, especially after a pandemic.
Last year after the Padres’ first trip to the playoffs after a 14-year hiatus, fans celebrated “Slam Diego” by purchasing t-shirts and masks. Tatis’ new mega-contract should cause another big leap in revenue. In the meantime, the franchise can count on other sources of income, including development projects on the land around Petco Park, as well as corporate sponsorships for the only game in town.
For the first time in possibly forever, the Dodgers cannot dismiss the Padres as easy prey. In fact, the additions of starting pitchers Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove probably nudged Los Angeles into paying big money for Trevor Bauer. A segment of the fan base has already expressed alarm over Bauer’s reputation as a cyberbully, misogynist, and general loose cannon, and his presence could mess with clubhouse chemistry.
For the first time in the San Diego Padres history, the team’s owner has the wherewithal, the patience, and the will to field a competitive team year after year. Peter Seidler has persevered through one losing season after another and finally been rewarded by a playoff berth in 2020 and even higher hopes for this season.