It’s that time of year again. My annual Five Questions article is up at Hardball Times. One of my questions focuses on the new ownership group and what it is doing to regain fan trust:
Jeff Moorad and President and COO Tom Garfinkel have come in and expressed a commitment to the organization, the fans, and the city. They have made themselves available to the people and demonstrated a willingness to listen and improve where possible.
The previous regime had trouble with that aspect of the job. Sandy Alderson, as brilliant a baseball mind as you’ll find, showed little patience for details that didn’t affect the bottom line. He and his group succeeded in many areas, but never really connected with a fan base that sought a kinder, gentler leader. San Diegans wanted to be addressed as equals in a partnership, not as subjects of an oligarchy. That was not the style of Moores and Alderson, and one got the sense toward the end that ownership and fans regarded each other as necessary inconveniences.
The new ownership group has made strides in restoring hope among disillusioned fans. Moorad and Garfinkel have talked a good game, but talk must be backed up by action. They have taken some small steps in that direction: lowering the price of beer, changing the start time of weekday afternoon games, and other cosmetic changes that may not make a difference to the bottom line but that tell San Diegans, “Hey, we’re listening and we’re trying to improve your experience.”
I also offer thoughts on Chase Headley, Mat Latos, Randy Ready, and which of the Padres young players will emerge in 2010. Enjoy the article…
I stumbled on the article and read it, without noticing the byline. I was wondering why it was so well researched and readable. Now I know.
Here’s a question to follow up on yours: Why is it called a player’s “natural position” when what we mean is “the position this player has had the most experience playing”? In your article I see this reference with regard to Headley: he’s been playing LF, but his “natural position” is third. I see this term many other places as well in baseball writing. Is there really anything “natural” about it? Using Headley as an example, I’m sure he put in hundreds and thousands of hours taking grounders at third to be MLB-caliber. It was not “natural.” Nobody is born with a leather glove on his hand. Just wondering… It always strikes me as an odd term.
Perhaps one day GY and I will sit at an oceanfront bar and debate just how brilliant Sandy Alderson was. I don’t doubt that he was smart and skilled, but “brilliant” to me involves being an innovator. It seems to me that what Alderson specialized in was following the orders of his boss, whether that boss was Bud Selig or John Moores. He wasn’t coming up with great new ideas. Selig wanted to get the umpires under control (a worthwhile goal), Alderson did it. Moores wanted somebody who could balance competitiveness while absolutely minimizing risk, even if that meant occasionally passing on a chance to leap the team forward or to make a substantial investment in young players. Alderson did that.
With the Padres, he implemented a plan that was somewhat successful, at least on the field. It was hardly revolutionary and we can’t ignore that 2008 happened on his watch (before ownership collapsed) and that the team’s connection to fans, as GY pointed out, were never a priority. His arrangement of the front office smacks of nepotism and/or egocentrism — no, Towers, these two key people with ties to the A’s report to ME, not you. Hard to call the draft record under SA “brilliant” either. Stronger than it was when Towers and Gayton were apparently picking names out of a hat, but still overly risk-averse.
Using a military analogy: Alderson seems like a very good executive officer who was tasked with being a commander, a role for which he was not as well-suited.
Excellent article, Geoff.
I really hope Headley has a big year. By that I mean a significant step in the right direction. I’m not expecting him to hit 30 HR’s and bat .300. I just hope to see improvement across the board with him.
As for your comment about the payroll:
When you say that the payroll is going to be low for a while, what does that mean to you specifically? 2, 3 years,..5 years, longer?
I’ve read Moorad’s comments over the past 6 months, but it all seems very vague. Just wondered how you viewed it.
@Field39: Thanks, glad you liked it.
@Geoff B: I’ve never thought about that. I suppose “original” position would be more precise.
@Tom Waits: Alderson gets serious “innovator” points in my book for introducing the ideas of Bill James into a big-league front office at a time when James was very much an outsider whose approach to the game bordered on heresy. Alderson’s willingness to apply sabermetric principles in a practical setting established a path since traveled by many others.
@Parlo: I don’t have a good sense of how quickly payroll will return to higher levels either.
re: payroll … I may be fan-ly naive, but I have a sense that payroll is being “saved” for a sunny day … i.e., this ownership group is saving for the day when its farm has produced the right talent to make a run, when spending the marginal $10M to $20M on “the right free agents” will make the difference. I know that’s what I want … therefore it’s what I’ve heard … I’d bet Moorad knows how to play-the-game, small-market-style … which, to me, means lay-low-then-pounce
Branch Rickey says “Sandy Alderson introduced what now? I was a Jamesian before Bill James was born.”
Alderson does deserve innovative credits for his sabremetric work with the A’s. Branch Rickey’s ideas had been forgotten by most when the A’s started their ascent. Oakland was innovative in other ways under Alderson as well; no team before had managed to add several tons of muscle to its players. Whether that was good, bad, or indifferent, it’s hard to believe that Alderson (or LaRussa) didn’t know what was going on in the weight room.
In San Diego, though, he took the playbook he wrote 15 years earlier and used Find/Replace to swap “Athletics” and “Padres.” That’s painting with a broad stroke, of course, but it’s hard for me to see anything brilliant in his management of our team. Competent, yes.
I don’t think they have any money to save. They’re servicing some or all of the enormous debt that John Moores set up, their revenue was badly damaged last year, and none of the ownership group has deep pockets. I’d be stunned if they’re building a contingency fund. I get the sense that they’re scraping for every dime and will be for the next few years.
@Tom Waits: Branch Rickey’s ideas had been forgotten by most when the A’s started their ascent.
…it’s hard for me to see anything brilliant in his management of our team.
You’ll get no argument here. I consider Alderson to be a brilliant baseball mind, but clearly his best work came when he was in Oakland.
Doesn’t Moores still have controlling interest in the Pads? I thought I read that Moorad and his group just got to 45% with this last payment of $45 mil. Has Moores’ divorce been finalized. Most everything I read says that payroll can’t go up much until that is final or revenues jump up a bit. I don’t think either has happened yet, have they?
Another *W* today!!!
I’m am encouraged by the results of the last 2 weeks … I understand the limitations, but spring Ws are *not* meaningless!
NICE outing by LeBlanc … 6 IPs with ZERO walks and 5 K’s! … that’s a sweet trifecta: getting in his innings + throwing strikes + missing bats!