Losing is a Disease (A Padres Theme)

Credit: AP Photo
Credit: AP Photo

In 2016, the San Diego Padres went 68-94. They finished 23 games out of first place.

Attendance was down 1,337 per game—a 8.25 decline%.

TV ratings were down a league-leading 38%.

Active payroll was just over 29 million at season’s end.

Yesterday, the General Manager responsible for the team’s disastrous finish came back from a 30-day suspension for an ethics violation to find the team President, Mike Dee was fired.

Those are undisputed facts.

Nevertheless, many Padres fans are convinced the team is headed in the right direction. Who, outside of San Diego, could believe this? As the “motivational speaker” in The Natural drones, losing is a disease.

Losing franchises think this way: We will tank this season and the one after and maybe the one after for high draft picks and to provide prospects the chance to mature. When the time is right, we will go grab one or two free agents and voila! World Series, baby.

That’s how losers think.

The fundamental problem is, prospects are extremely high-risk (even top prospects), and the team will still have to pay credible free agents (several—not a sprinkling). It is also a far better strategy to let kids grow alongside veterans than to have unproven kids grow together. In general, we learn from those who are better and more experienced than us, not just like us. The team needs quality veterans now, not just later.

Losing is a disease and the Padres have it, badly. The reason the same teams tend to make the playoffs and win the World Series year after year is because they never let their team fall this low intentionally. There is a sense of organizational pride that recognizes losing a hundred games is not acceptable, and that burning the team to the ground in the name of the future isn’t a strategy. It’s a recipe for long-term mediocrity. After all, what goes down, must come up. The difference between a 15-game and a 30-game turnaround in record is the difference between hiking your local “tough hike” and hiking Kilimanjaro.

The losing mentality also hurts the team in free agency. After all, who wants to go to a losing team known for not paying their people long-term. Look at the Padres current contracts. There are NO long-term contracts on the entire team. I’m not saying the team doesn’t have club control. I’m saying the disease of losing also develops a culture of “cheap” that pervades the organization—and it is visible in the Padres current approach to contracts.

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

What are the chances the Padres will resign Wil Myers (especially if Josh Naylor is ready), Hunter Refroe, or Manuel Margot when they need to be paid? Well, there is little evidence of any chance. They haven’t paid anyone else—and kept them. The Padres are becoming the Chargers of MLB—only the Padres are cheaper and win less.

There is a better way.

The model of a perennially winning franchise isn’t found in Kansas City and Houston, as some suggest. It’s found in San Francisco, St. Louis, Texas, Boston, and yes, Los Angeles. These teams not only compete for their divisions every year at the MLB level, they have elite farm systems. They chew gum and walk at the same time.

Thus far, A.J. Preller seems to be an able scout—although his results are still unknown. Many of the Padres’ top prospects are Josh Byrnes picks (Renfroe, Hedges) or those drafted and grown in other systems recently traded for (Margot, Asuaje). If he is a quality scout, he has proven only (to be kind) a mediocre General Manager. The 2014-15 experiment was a mess. The team’s record has declined under his leadership. You can read my thoughts on the Padres current organizational imbalance and gaps here. We won’t even address ethics concerns.

Padres fans must expect better from ownership at the Major League level. Simply saying, “wait until 2019” (or likely much later) isn’t good enough. Losing is a disease. The cure is ownership committing to winning strategy that believes they can chew gum (build the farm system), and walk (have a credible MLB team on the field) at the same time.

Heading into 2017, both the Padres’ offense and defense projects to be improved—mostly by virtue of replacing average, older talent with fresh legs, team speed, and plus arms/gloves. However, the pitching situation is dire, and the Padres shortstop situation is fragile at best. Ignoring this is only kicking the can down the street. The Padres could legitimately compete for a Wildcard spot next season if they built a credible pitching rotation. But that is unlikely to happen, because losing is a disease.

Dear ownership:

Spend some money. Re-sign players that are key to the future. Build a roster you think can win 80 games in 2017, and 92 the next. Trade some of these high-upside long shots for credible Major League talent—or MLB ready prospects—especially pitchers. Don’t try to buy yourselves two or three seasons at the thrift store.

Whatever you do, just don’t lie to us as previous ownership has—saying…we’re saving our money for when we have a shot. Because, when you’re committed to losing now in the name of the future—the future never comes.

Winning costs money. Winning takes risks. Winning refuses to accept mediocrity. And…winning pops the champagne and makes it all worthwhile. On the other hand…

Losing is a disease.

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Tim Spivey
Tim is a former pitcher and avid, life-long baseball fan. He is also a husband, father, pastor, writer, and professor...who drinks a lot of coffee.

2 thoughts on “Losing is a Disease (A Padres Theme)

  1. Im a Preller fan, no doubt. And I love his work ethic and passion for the game of baseball. But even an optimist like me, has his days, when Im COMPLETELY disgusted with this franchise. A franchise, in fact, that is and has been for many years, the worse team in major league baseball, on SEVERAL FRONTS,m besides the on the field product.

    Even when they won division titles in 2005/2006, there was still a stain of negligence on this team..and anyone with two brain cells, knew the Padres were a “default NL West winner”, because the Matt Kemps and Lincecums were still very young and developing or were on teams that were a little worse than the Padres, those particular years….
    However, I post this knowing that our time will come, sooner than I trhought. I dont even stress about it anymore. I know the Padres are going to win a WS and will have their parade down Harbor Drive and Market, in the next 5-6 yrs, if not before then..with Preller at the control panel.

    but every season that goes by and I see a revamped and refurbished team like Cleveland or especially the Cubs going to the post season, I get totally pissed off. And it starts with how nonchalant and abusive the past 3 owners/owner groups, before the current one, have been in SD. The dysfunction and drama starts with Tom Werner in my opinion (he of little faith and balls)..and then John Moores and then “the layaway king”, Geoff Moorad, who to my mind was fundamentally a “white collar criminal”, no different than the Wall Street crooks that were all over the place, before and after “the crash” back in ’08

    erase those 3 morons and insert a Peter Seidler/OMalley group in there, decades ago, and the Padres would already have a ring or two..no doubt in my mind.

    Peter Seidler?..I dig this guy. This is a committed owner who listens to his GM and Preller’s staff when they tell him “hey, Peter?..uh, we can find the talent, but its young talent and we need you keep Fowler off the radio for the most part and away from the tv, so that you can tell local sports radio and the press that we’re not going to seriously contend for awhile…thats just the way it is, right now. We cant keep blowing smoke up the butts of the fans, with pipedreams and lies, because all that will do, is widen the distrust between the FO and the fans, even more than it already is. We need you to buy into this and lock down the hatches, while we dig our heels in for a few yrs, while this talent matures and develops”

    the Ricketts family bought the Cubs in 2009…7 yrs ago…and from 2010 to 2015, they SUCKED. And it really did “feel” like they just decided “you know what?..we’re going to sit back and acquire young controllable talent, and we’ll let the big league team suck, while we collect the Schwarbers and Bryants and Javy Baezs of the drafts”..and in a handful of yrs, they were relevant again.

    Seidler is using the same blueprint..and like Ricketts, he’s putting his money where his mouth is, and he’s standing strong beside his GM. And who is their “Mike Dee”?..uh, that would be Theo Epstein, who is a baseball man, thru and thru…not a business man with a gimmick for every damn thing.

    I just wanna say, regarding Mike Dee?…I trust my gut more than my head. And my family has always given me credit for my gift of prediction..its kinda eerie, really. And Im not bragging. My gut tells me that Mike Dee has been up to something illegal or corrupt for some time. And he thought he was getting away with it, until someone he thought didnt know what he was up to, dropped the dime on him (hence his shock when he was busted and fired)…and my hunch is that it was someone who was actually within the FO that knew, and was not going to allow Preller to hang in the wind, while Dee basically got away with “something”. And my other notion is that the Boston Red Sox were not going to sit idly by, without pressuring the Commish and his “baseball mob”(LOL) to nail Mike in some way or fashion, “after all they did for him” (as the saying goes). In other words, had he not been busted one way, it was surely going to happen, another way.

    I just have a feeling that there may be more people within our front office and even outside it, who dont think that Preller is NEARLY as responsible or guilty as Mike Dee is.

  2. Read the headline, and that’s all . Losing is a disease and AJ Preller is the cure!!!! Go
    Padres!!!! Glad to have you back!!

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