I trust everyone enjoyed their holidays. I walked all over town, watched a boatload of Dresden Files and Extras, and finished the first draft of the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual. It currently weighs in at 265 pages, so I’ll be spending the next few weeks trying to whittle that down a bit.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, reports indicate that Jeff Moorad is interested in buying the Padres. Moorad, who resigned as CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, is a former player agent whose philosophy in running an organization appears to align well with that of John Moores. As the U-T’s Tim Sullivan notes:
In partnership with Ken Kendrick, Moorad’s tenure in Arizona was characterized by an infusion of youth, a reduction in payroll and a reliance on computer analysis. That strategy sounds strikingly similar to that which the Padres have espoused with uneven results, so much so that Moores declared the Diamondbacks, â€œalmost a poster child of how clubs should be runâ€ in a September story in the Arizona Republic.
The rest of the article is filled with quaint righteous indignation, my favorite passage being this:
If Moorad and his associates have the means to buy the ballclub, their first order of business ought to be restoring the shattered faith of the Padres’ many disaffected fans. The quickest way to achieve that would be to declare that the fire sale is finished and to plow enough cash into the product to show sincerity.
So cash equals sincerity. I think I missed that day in class.
Anyway, if Moorad does purchase the Padres (and it’s still not clear to me what role the Moores divorce plays in all this), I have a few suggestions:
Keep citing a World Series championship as the goal
Sure, it’s hopelessly unrealistic, seeing as how 97% of teams will fail in a given year, but people love hearing that crap. The trick is to say it with conviction. Prop glasses help, if you remove them at just the right time: “Our goal is… [dramatic pause, followed by removal of glasses] …to win a championship.”
You don’t have to believe this tripe, you just have to make fans believe you believe it. You know that a more reasonable goal is to be competitive, say, four years out of five (as the Padres have been since moving to Petco Park), but you mustn’t give voice to that truth.
As Karen Armstrong observes in A History of God, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” So lie to the fans; spin them a colorful yarn that gives them a reason to believe — talk about will and commitment, hard work and dedication, whatever — just make stuff up that sounds good. Then, once they’re happy with your little story, get back to the business of positioning the team to be competitive 80% of the time.
It’s all about perception. Once you’ve convinced the fans that you’re gunning for a World Series title, it doesn’t really matter what you do.
Keep the current front office intact
Count me on the side of Ray Lankford at Sacrifice Bunt. The brain trust has a plan and it’s mostly working. Hire someone charming to tell the media and fans a lovely story of hope or whatever it is they need, and let the decision makers focus on what they do best, i.e., make decisions.
The good news is, Moorad is the man responsible for hiring Josh Byrnes as GM of the Diamondbacks. During his time with the Red Sox, Byrnes worked with Bill James, so I think it’s safe to assume that Byrnes is reasonably well versed in performance analysis. And presumably Moorad wouldn’t have hired Byrnes if he didn’t value that aspect of his game. This should bode well for Sandy Alderson, who was the first GM to put James’ theories to use in a real working environment.
Kevin Towers? Well, Moorad interviewed him for that same D’backs GM job a few years ago. And Towers’ trade record pretty much speaks for itself.
Moorad has been running a franchise on a shoestring budget; he gets how that works. So does the current Padres front office. Given their familiarity with the system, it would be foolish to throw all that knowledge out the window, and Moorad doesn’t strike me as a fool.
Change the team’s name to Chargers and slap yellow lightning bolts all over everything
The Chargers brand has gotten under San Diegans’ skins in a way that no other sports franchise’s has. At the very least, people won’t hate you when you finish the season with a .500 record and still reach the playoffs.
Yeah, I’m kidding on that last one. Sort of…