In August of 2014, when A.J. Preller took over the general manager role for the San Diego Padres, the franchise was a mess.
The team had no identity.
The Padres could not be trusted to draft correctly, and they definitely had issues developing players. Things changed in San Diego. Nearly eight years later, this franchise is poised for relevancy like no other time in its fifty-plus years of existence.
A.J. Preller deserves a ton of praise for this fact. There is no denying this.
However, this is a results-based business. Major League Baseball is just that. It is a business.
The Padres have yet to achieve the ultimate goal of a World Series title.
Peter Seidler and his ownership group invested in payroll like no other time in the history of this organization. When Manny Machado‘s $300 million contract was signed, that was (at the time) the richest contract in the history of North American sports. Think about that. The Padres, who nickel and dimed Tony Gwynn (their greatest player) his entire career, invested over a quarter billion dollars into just one player. The Padres did this, only to throw another $340 million to Fernando Tatis Jr.a few years later.
What has changed? How is this conceivable?
The Padres are expecting to win. That is the goal. Not to just make the playoffs. But to compete deep into the postseason and eventually hoist the World Series trophy. The fans have shown up at the gates and merchandise for the Padres is flying off the shelves. Petco Park is a hip place to be and San Diegans cannot get enough of Padres baseball.
On Thursday, the team enjoyed its 14th sell-out of the season. In the middle of the week, the team drew 40,000 fans. The showing in the stands is what has funded the Padres’ recent run at the playoffs. Petco Park is a hip place to be, and the Padres have turned themselves into marketing geniuses. The fans are sold.
A.J. Preller has done excellently to construct this team, but there is little to celebrate. Spending money and drawing a fan base is not a major achievement for a franchise that is over five decades old. It is nice, but the city of San Diego surely demands more from the Padres. The city yearns for a championship.
If the San Diego Padres do not win it all in 2022, it will not be the end of the world for this regime. But, their window of opportunity is closing. Results must be had, and the expectation is for this to be more than just a one-year run to relevancy. The team is constructed for long-term success with its minor league system. But if the major league team cannot get the job done, then someone will take the blame for their failures.