A Note for the Inside of the New GM's Desk
Dear New Guy,
Welcome! Boy, we thought you'd never get here. Not that this has been a miserable baseball summer in San Diego, but there are kids all over town who hear the word "bat" and immediately think mom and dad are taking them to a cave to see something hanging upside down when it's not flying.
After watching the Padres for the first half of the summer, it no longer occurs to these poor, scarred kids that a bat is a piece of wood used to produce a base hit, often even with a runner in scoring position.
As you move into the General Manager's office, let me be the first to welcome you and tell you right up front: There are three things contained in Petco Park guaranteed never, ever to disappoint:
The ribs at Phil's Barbecue.
The burgers at Hodad's.
After that, you're on your own.
Not that this is a big job, but we sure hope you're the Second Coming of Branch Rickey, John Schuerholz and Pat Gillick combined. Is that too much to ask? It's gotten to the point where we sit around watching Dave Dombrowski steal David Price from the Rays, and Billy Beane wheel and deal Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, and it's like somebody is speaking in tongues to our simple Pidgin English. We don't even understand stuff like that anymore.
Why can't we ever get a player like that?
Instead, we've been so beaten down by watching a lineup stocked with sub-.200 hitters for the first couple months of the season, it feels like we're living in Toledo, Ohio. Go Mud Hens! Or something like that.
Even given the fact that the Padres lead the NL in runs scored since the All-Star break, they still ranked last in the majors in runs scored entering this week - by 52 runs!
This was covered in your interviews, I assume, but allow me to emphasize: As you get to work, there are no "untouchables" on this roster. None. Zip. Except, perhaps, for Kevin Quackenbush, because he has such an awesome name. Still makes us smile every time manager Bud Black summons him, and Lord knows we'll take the smiles wherever we can get them these days.
When you are looking at the position players, especially, you're going to have to search the Web for the best group rate you can find on one-way tickets. Yonder Alonso has regressed to the point there's no way he can be part of future plans. N-o w-a-y. It's one thing for a first baseman not to have power, as long as he pounds doubles like Mark Grace. All Alonso pounds is outs and crushed hopes.
Yasmani Grandal and Everth Cabrera are nowhere close to the same players as before the performance-enhancing drug suspensions (yes, Cabrera has provided a couple of sparks recently, but still).
Will Venable? The team MVP last summer, it's as if someone declawed him over the winter. Must be a Petco thing (what happens in the stores, not the ballpark!).
Cameron Maybin? More of a threat peeing in a cup this year than he ever was in the batter's box.
And don't even ask about Carlos Quentin. DO NOT EVEN MENTION HIS NAME! Just make him disappear. You do that, you may never have to buy a drink in this town again. Or a fish taco.
You've got four outfielders signed for next summer: The Q Who Must Not Be Named (criminal, at $9 million), the currently suspended Maybin (two more years at a guaranteed $16 million), the .225-hitting Venable ($4.25 million) and, finally, the lone bright spot, Seth Smith (two years, $13 million).
Here's the catch: Right now, among those four, you've got maybe one-and-a-half total outfielders. Smith is the one.
Jedd Gyorko? We'll call his .181 a sophomore slump and hold our breath - for now.
Bare as the cupboards are position player-wise, the international pipeline is even more barren. I believe the last foreign player of significance the Padres signed before Odrasamer Despaigne was Rickey Henderson. Once, as a free agent, Henderson phoned former Padres GM Kevin Towers and left this message: "This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball."
So as you can see, it's not like this place hasn't had its share of cuckoos in the nest before.
There was a time when this franchise didn't hire GMs, you know. Towers simply lorded over baseball operations as a sort of GM for life. And for a time, it worked: He was the architect of the 1998 World Series team, and his Padres won division titles in two of the first three seasons after Petco Park opened.
When then "owner" Jeff Moorad (again, don't ask) fired him in 2009, Towers had been on the job for 14 years. At the time, he was the game's longest-tenured GM with the same organization.
Now, you're the third GM in five years, Meat.
Two things you have going for you: Ownership is more stable than it's been since 2008, when John Moores' impending divorce threw the franchise into the start of a downward spiral. And the farm system slowly is improving.
The Padres' system is ranked No. 11 in the game by Baseball Prospectus. Austin Hedges is the game's top catching prospect but, sigh, hitting isn't his strength. Outfielder Rymer Liriano has been gobbling up Triple-A pitching since his promotion last month.
As advertised, you'll love the pitching here, probably even more than the Hodad's burgers. Tyson Ross has developed into a legitimate All-Star. Jesse Hahn is a find. Andrew Cashner is darn good between disabled-list stints.
Ian Kennedy? Having a terrific year, but you're probably going to have to trade him this winter: He's eligible for free agency after 2015, his agent is Scott Boras and you know what that means. Hope you brought your scouting reports.
As you can see, this is a gorgeous place. I just hope you'll get a chance to take off the hard hat, get outside and enjoy it one day.
Oh, and one last piece of advice: Don't fire the batting coaches. It's become so cliche in Petco. Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell are not the problem.
The problem is, it's like that old joke where the manager ambles to the mound to remove a pitcher getting creamed and tells the guy, "Don't worry, it's not your fault."
Heartened, the pitcher looks up.
And the manager continues: "The scout who signed you, it's HIS fault."