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Welcome to the worst year in the history of the San Diego Padres.
Before the season even started, we mourned the death of longtime broadcaster Jerry Coleman. During the season we lost the other “Mr. Padre,” Tony Gwynn. The team’s performance hasn’t been exciting or good, and the front office tried to cover up the PR disaster it created when it drafted an NFL quarterback by firing the team general manager. I won’t even bother mentioning the promotional campaigns that have drawn the ire of many Padres fans.
Did Josh Byrnes deserve to be fired? Yes, but he never should’ve been hired in the first place. A team that fires its GM a little more than a month before the MLB trading deadline is ready to move in a new direction. The goal is to hire someone with a vision for where the team is going and give him free reign to get there, even if that means trading away all of the team’s stars during his first month in San Diego. That plan isn’t exactly working out so far …
Padres have interviewed 5 GM candidates. 4 candidates have declined interviews. Forst, Chernoff, McLeod & now Girsch. That’s quite a ratio
— Marty Caswell (@MartyCaswell) July 9, 2014
None of the guys who turned down the team is currently a GM or has been a GM in the past. These are future GMs who are waiting for a good opportunity to move up. Apparently, the Padres are such a mess that the possibility of a promotion wouldn’t even entice these guys to take a vacation to San Diego to sit down for an interview.
By my count, the team has actually interviewed six guys:
• Larry Beinfest, former Marlins GM
• Ray Montgomery, scouting director for the Arizona Diamondbacks
• Logan White, vice president of amateur scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers
• Billy Eppler, assistant GM for the New York Yankees
• A.J. Preller, assistant GM for the Texas Rangers
• Mike Hazen, assistant GM for the Boston Red Sox
The Marlins, Diamondbacks and Rangers all currently have worse records than the Padres. The Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox make up three of the four teams with the highest payrolls in MLB this year. If the Padres want front office talent from another team that knows how to succeed without huge financial resources, these aren’t the candidates.
The only person the team has publicly ID’d as a future interview is Kim Ng, who would be the first official female GM in professional sports. Ng is more than qualified, but has been passed up by less-qualified white men more than a few times. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Padres passed on her, using the interview to create good PR.
Bud Black is still around despite the team’s inconsistent play. Phil Plantier is still the team’s hitting coach despite the egregiously bad offensive statistics. Josh Byrnes was fired, with the straw that broke the camel’s back arguably being a decision made by his boss, and the GM search is taking so long that whomever is hired will likely have two weeks or less to formulate a strategy for the entire organization and work the appropriate trades to put that strategy in place.
Did I mention that the team is handing out contract extensions without a GM in place, such as the two-year $13 million deal that keeps 31-year old Seth Smith in San Diego through the 2016 season? It’s almost like the team doesn’t need a GM at all!
Next season, the team has $21.1 tied up in a starting outfield of Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin and Smith, which means the new GM is stuck with much of the same roster for at least one more season. There’s also the matter of Chase Headley, one of the team’s best and most consistent players, and whether the team can re-sign him in the offseason or if it needs to trade him away now to recoup any value it can. That’s a difficult decision that would normally require the GM to get to know Headley, and his agent. Whomever is hired won’t have that luxury. Maybe the good news is that A.J. Hinch, the team’s acting GM since Byrnes’ dismissal, is reportedly working on a deal to send Headley to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for prospects. (Prospects that the team’s new GM could very well not have any interest in.)
So, to recap, the team is making long-term decisions that will affect the future of the club just days before hiring a GM that they expect to have immediate success. Byrnes didn’t make it to the end of his third season in the gig, which should give you an idea of the owners’ expectations. This is likely one reason among many that some of the top candidates for the position declined to interview. The firing and the process to find a replacement was also so poorly timed it will undoubtedly make the beginning of the new GM’s tenure difficult.
All Padres fans can do now is hope that the team hires the right guy (or lady) for the job and has some patience with him/her, but we’ve seen nothing from the organization over the last several years that tells us their either of those things is possible.