Recently, A.J. Preller, the Padres’ general manager, emphasized the importance of stability throughout the organization, from the big leagues and throughout the minors. However, the team’s association with a radio station has been anything but stable. For the third year in a row, the broadcast station for the team will change, this time to 97.3 The Machine.
Thanks to mobile devices and the MLB AT Bat app, fans no longer have to be tethered to a radio to listen to games.
However, according to statista.com, almost 27 million fans tuned in to radio broadcasts of MLB games last year. From 2004 through the 2016 season, Padres fans could listen to games on the Mighty 1090, which has a sports talk format and a range from Baja California to Santa Barbara to Lake Elsinore. However, rumor has it that the team’s CEO at the time, Mike Dee, badly misjudged the market and demanded that 1090 ante up a ridiculous price to continue broadcasting Padres’ games. The station declined.
Instead of negotiating further with 1090, Dee opted to switch to 94.9, an FM station with a soft rock format and a much more limited range. The pre- and post game shows would be cut from an hour to 30 minutes, and Rich Herrera would host the programs. In reality, Herrera rarely had more than 15 minutes before games, barely sufficient time to announce the lineups and starting pitchers. However, he knew so little about the Padres or the sport of baseball that the length of time hardly mattered.
When Dee departed under a cloud in October of 2016, he left behind a contractual commitment to Entercom, the parent company of 94.3 and 97.3, through 2021. A few months after his departure, Dee landed on his feet with a position as president of sports for (surprise, surprise) none other than Entercom. On the positive side, the latest broadcast station, 97.3 The Machine, will provide hour-long pre- and post game shows this season, hosted by Chris Ello, a sports talk fixture in San Diego.
Aside from Padres coverage, the station promises a combination of sports, rock, and comedy. Former 1090 host Dan Sileo, well known for his racist and sexist comments, will claim the 10 am. to 2 p.m. slot. By the end of the month, Kevin Klein (formerly of the Bay Area) will host his own show, which he announced by tweeting “We will be taking our talents to A Whale’s Vagina (aka San Diego).” He hasn’t arrived yet but has already alienated female listeners (to say nothing of their fathers, husbands, uncles, or brothers).
Do the Padres as an organization really want to be connected through their broadcast station to the likes of Sileo and Klein? Do the Padres want playoff games broadcast on a station with a mixed format rather than one dedicated to sports talk? Do the Padres want to take advantage of the void left by the Chargers and increase the fan base?
During his tenure with the Padres, Mike Dee made one boneheaded decision after another, including naming the Hall of Fame Plaza after former MLB commissioner Bud Selig (you remember him, the guy that left the Padres in limbo while he took care of the franchise just to the north of us) and wasting a draft pick on Johnny Manziel. The Padres need to admit that the contract with Entercom made no sense and find a way out of it, just as the team has paid for other mistakes (like trading for Matt Kemp). Then the Padres should return to a station with a sports talk format, like 1090, and work with that station to increase fan interest in the only major league team left in town.