It doesn’t take a genius to see the San Diego Padres aren’t a rich team. But they aren’t a poor team either. Yet suddenly they’re dumping good players left and right. Well, they’re dumping both good players because of “salary concerns” even though everyone knows the team is dumping salary due to owner John Moores’ impending divorce. Let me say in no uncertain terms: this is a travesty and an affront to every Padres fan and player that ever stuck with the team through the shitty years. Including when the team demanded a new stadium so it could compete financially. And it’s a personal insult to both Jake Peavy and especially Trevor Hoffman.
I was born in San Diego in 1980, the same year the Padres went 73-89 under Jerry Coleman in his one year as manager. I would get used to records such as the mediocrity of 1980, but falling in love with that team was easy. From the awful brown uniforms to the colorful players to my mom’s crush on Bruce Hurst, I was a Padres’ fan through and through. Phillips, Booter, and I remained loyal, intense fans all the way through the fire sale of 1993, the wild success in 1996-1998, the post-’98 fire sale, the team’s subsequent awfulness, and the recent successive division titles.
Why deal with so many ups and downs? Clearly the organization couldn’t keep it together, right?
Throughout all that insanity. the team never lost its meaning, it’s special connection with the fans. The awful teams of the early 90s and early 2000′s still had a cast of characters true fans could absolutely root for. I still remember ironically cheering Billy Bean’s excellent job hustling from right field to back up first base on grounders and always hitting the cut-off man. Hell of a player that Billy Bean (later famous for coming out of the closet after retirement). I have an Archie Cianfrocco baseball card on my mantle. The early part of the 21st century gave Padres fans the joy that was Eric Owens and the time Phillips chased his SUV down so he could autograph a ball I caught in the stands that he threw up to us as we were dressed as “The Eric Owens Fan Club”. Mind you, these were awful, awful teams, but we loved them. They were almost always a shitty team, but they were our shitty team.
The organizational constant through all that has been GM Kevin Towers. He created the division winners in the 90s and 2000′s and is one of the best baseball men in the game. Recently, the team brought on Sandy Alderson as another baseball mind to make sure the team was run well from top to bottom (not just at the Major League level), given its limited funds. In the short time since Alderson has been with the team, the bullpen has gone from strength to liability, the offense has stayed awful, and we have few high-level prospects. He also insulted Trevor Hoffman the last time he and the team were negotiating in 2006. In case you forgot, and judging by the ratings, you did, the Padres were God-awful in 2008.
But now the team is losing its soul too.
After the 2008 debacle ended, there was at least the positive idea that we had some very talented young players at the major-league level (Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Chase Headley, and Nick Hundley) and we only needed a couple of pieces to be competitive again. Sure, those pieces were a top-three starter, a big bat and a fast center fielder who could lead off, but we’re close, dammit.
Now Jake Peavy is all but gone for a mix of prospects and underwhelmed fans and Trevor Hoffman, the Hall of Fame closer and the only player left from the 1998 World Series team, isn’t coming back either. Wait, “isn’t coming back” should read “was insulted and run out of town by the team” when they pulled his contract offer off the table.
Owner John Moores is going through a very ugly divorce and there’s a pretty decent chance this salary dump/fire sale is a direct result of that. I’m not going to tell a man what to do with his property…wait yes I am. John Moores needs to sell this team now. He needs to save the Padres and the city from “rebuilding” when it’s completely unnecessary, especially with such a smart front office.
Yeah sure, sports is a business, but that business is putting asses in seats, not dumping as many veterans as possible. Who will fans want to see more? Trevor Hoffman closing games and being within a year or two of retiring or Heath Bell and his fascinating take on fitness? I’m also pretty sure the fans won’t be happy about the team trading away the best pitcher this organization has ever had, while he’s still in his prime, so we can watch third-tier guys get lit up every night next season. Hell, the only reason Adrian Gonzalez isn’t gone too is because he’s cheap as hell.
This isn’t “rebuilding.” It’s not “salary restructuring.” It’s a fire sale, pure and simple. The team has already given up on 2009 and maybe even 2010. The undercurrent of both the Peavy deal and the Hoffman dump is that both players were unhappy with the direction of the team. In other words, the front office isn’t necessarily trying to win right now and ownership wants to save money. Damn 50/50 laws. Why does it have to be so hard to be a rich, white male in this day and age?
San Diego fans have been condemned to the same hell occupied by Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Florida fans. We’re all stuck with organizations that no longer care about the fans and have little or no loyalty to players who have given their entire careers to the team. It’s all about money in San Diego now, and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it. My team has lost its soul.
I’m going to cope with this disaster the only way I know how: in true Padres fashion. I’m going to use the phrase that’s gotten me through the good times and the bad times (mostly bad). Every time I see a story about this now, every time I think of the Padres, and every time I see them play in 2009 I will say what I’ve always said: