Nobody at East Village Times has been a harsher critic of the San Diego Padres than I have.
I remain a staunch skeptic of the approach ownership is taking. After much deliberation, I reluctantly renewed my season tickets for another season—knowing I’m going to watch carnage on the field every night for at least two seasons—perhaps much longer.
Why? Well, let me tell you.
I believe in the new Padres manager. He no longer has the job he took: leader of a franchise composed of young emerging stars and veterans expected to contend for an N.L. West title. He now has a roster bereft of MLB talent (except for that Myers guy) and veteran leadership. You know what? It doesn’t seem to bother him at all. I love his attitude about it. Green is also extremely knowledgeable about the game and a quick decision maker. He coaches like every game is his last…and his players play hard for him. The Padres don’t have players, but they have a Manager.
Given my previous criticism of the Padres’ direction, you might assume I’d be thoroughly critical of ownership as well. I actually blame the failed experiment and organizational imbalance on A.J. Preller. I really like the new Padres ownership. Ron Fowler speaks frankly to fans. Laziness really bothers him. So does losing. If the Padres languish too long, Preller will be gone, and Fowler’s wallet will reopen. Why? Because Ron Fowler seems to be genuinely annoyed by chronic losing…especially if he’s paying substantially for improvement. Right now, he thinks he’s paying for future wins. If the Padres aren’t at .500 by the end of 2018 (Fowler’s own benchmark), Preller will be likely be fired or lose Fowler’s ear.
Ron Fowler isn’t Jeff Moorad. He’ll give Preller two more years to see genuine progress on the field. I think that’s all Fowler can stand. I’m glad, because as long as ownership cares and they make real moves—fans will hang in there. Right now, most fans are buying what Preller is selling. They won’t in July of this season if the Padres are 20 games out of first place—and if prospects are languishing. They will need something beyond, the empty axiom, “trust the process.” I expect Ron Fowler will speak to the fans with something more substantive and own it if it isn’t working. I’m glad. I trust ownership like that.
The Padres’ projected outfield will be the most exciting to watch in baseball. Those are real athletes out there. Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Travis Jankowski, and Alex Dickerson all make me want to stop what I’m doing and watch them hit. They are also quite good defensively. Dickerson just knows how to hit. Margot and Jankowski have superb range, and Renfroe has a cannon on his right shoulder. I have nothing but the highest of hopes for the Padres’ young outfield.
The Padres have a lot of exciting prospects, albeit at lower levels. Many of those prospects will never see the MLB squad because they will fizzle out or because of injury. But by the end of this year, the cream should start to rise to Double-A or Triple-A…and Padres’ fans will have genuine reason for excitement then. If there is little or no cream rising to the top—even the optimists will begin to admit the rebuild isn’t working. Those who have already proved themselves in college are most likely to make it all the way–think Eric Lauer and Cal Quantrill (if he can stay healthy). My favorite prospect to watch right now is Michael Gettys…also a CF who I would love to see in Triple-A by the end of this season.
Trading throughout the off-season and throughout the season
A.J. Preller is a tradeaholic. This means the opportunity to improve the club always remains—if his reputation isn’t too damaged from the suspension. We will also know a lot about where the Padres are really heading as trades get made. If the Padres begin to trade off the few costly or MLB-ready pieces they have left for more A-ball and international prospects rather than upper level or MLB ready players…we’ll know they aren’t rebuilding, they are “going Moorad,”—always talking about the alleged “bright future” that never comes. The Padres are an organization quite out of balance right now from Double-A on up—with a surplus of outfielders and second-basemen—and virtually no quality starting pitching and lacking a credible shortstop anywhere above A-Ball (unless you count Jose Rondon). Luis Sardinas is not a long-term solution. This we know, A.J. Preller is not afraid of making a move. That gives Padres’ fans some reason for hope at all times.
What do you think? Why are you excited about this Padres season?