Moorad to Buy Padres?

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, “almost a poster child of how clubs should be run” 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…

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59 Responses »

  1. #46@Geoff Young: As Branch Rickey said, it’s much better to get rid of a player a year too early than a year too late. Plus with Khalil’s nearly non-existent plate discipline I wouldn’t exactly think he’d be the type of player that’s going to age well.

    Lost in all the Trevor backlash (along with the reported Fire Sale) is that the Padres have been entirely quiet about their 3B/LF plans next season. Logically, the Padres would trade Kouzmanoff, move Headley to 3B, and go into the season with a Gerut, Venable, Giles and Hairston OF. Maybe he’ll be traded closer to spring training?

    One final thing on the Hoffman departure. Trevor isn’t really good enough to be a closer on a good team (odd that the Brewers would sign him but I guess he might be better than Gagne) His main value to the Padres was in remembering the past when he was a dominate closer. I understand that role has some value, I’m sure there are some fans who go to the games simply for the chance to hear “Hell’s Bells” in the middle of the ninth inning.

  2. #43@jay: I think it is clear Greene is more than slightly flawed, particularly in Petco, and his “many strengths” are two: plus defense and plus power for a SS. I believe, and the FO seems to believe, his flaws, which are indeed many (can’t hit for average, can’t draw a walk, can’t adjust to the breaking ball, declining plate discipline, declining BB rate, increasing K rate, apparent lack of mental/emotional ability to adjust to hitting in Petco), outweigh his strengths.

    I think there’s good reason Burrell and Bradley weren’t pursued by the Padres. Why give an aging slugger wtih terrible LF defense, better suited to being in the AL where he can DH, a contract to play in a Park which places a premium on OF defense? Why give a fragile, both emotionally and physically, player a contract when you are likely to get similar production, much more cheaply and for a longer period of time, from Chase Headley? I also find it very hard to believe Burrell, whatever we could get for Kouz and keeping Greene would make the difference in taking us from worst to first. That really seems like a stretch.

    Everyone has to make up their own mind about whether to “believe” in the farm system/FO, but given the current market conditions in MLB, it is the only long term, viable method for competing in the SD market. There is no way for the team to compete on the model of Boston, NY, Chicago who buy talent via FA.

    #46@Geoff Young: Well, I should credit you for highlighting the issue for me. I don’t think it was an original thought on my part at all, but rather developed from reading Ducksnorts over the past several years. So plug away, you deserve it1 :-)

  3. #47@Tom Waits: If these are jokes, they sure are falling flat.

    I don’t smoke, and I probably have a few beers a year.

  4. #48@parlo: Can you be more specific about the talent? It’s not as if Maddux would have been back; Wolf is certainly no great loss; I’ll take Bell over Hoffman from a purely performance point of view; and we don’t yet know who will replace Greene.

    So what are the holes now and what were they a year ago?

    Thanks for explaining the perspective on feeling cheated. I won’t argue with you about that. I have no idea whether it is well founded or not, but regardless, as you point out, it’s an emotional issue so it doesn’t have to be rational.

    I think you overstate my position with regards to anyone who disagrees with me, but I do require rational argument and factual support for one’s position to be persuaded. I haven’t seen that in discussions of the team’s performance nor in relationship to the roster moves we’ve been discussing.

  5. #49@Tom Waits: “On the other hand, if you’re counting on spring training to tell you much of value, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.”

    You misunderstood me. It’s not that ST will tell you anything from a performance perspective, but it will at least tell you who is going to replace Greene. Speculating at this point that it will be Vizquel I believe is rather premature. This is what I was saying.

  6. #53@Kevin: So without drugs or alcohol, you believe that trading an above-average defensive shortstop who is likely to be a league-average hitter, which is an uncommon combination, for a minor league reliever whose success is largely based on a weird delivery “makes the team stronger.”

    That doesn’t require any further comment.

  7. #56@Tom Waits: So if you disagree with someone, especially if you really disagree with them, then they are on drugs or alcohol.

    That doesn’t require any further comment.

    Attack positions, not people.

  8. #56@Tom Waits: #57@Kevin: This conversation is done. Thanks.

  9. PEAVY NEEDS TO STAY, we cannot trade Jake now that Moorad has taken over. I used to think that Jake needed to go for a package prospect deal, but let’s keep him for this year at least to see how things pan out. If Moorad is willing to buy the Pads now in this economy, then he must be sitting comfortably at least, eh? So why not believe this turnaround might come sooner than expected?