Response to “The Sad Truth”
Well, I watched the four-part You-Tube documentary, Padres: The Sad Truth. It is an overview of the Padres since 2009 (albeit with some moments before then, most noticeably the 2007 Jake Peavy trade).
Produced by 25-year-old fan David Marver, the thesis of the documentary is simple: current Padre ownership need to change the way it operates or they will lose their fan base.
The Jeff Moorad Era
In 2008 John Moores, the Padre’s owner since 1994, put the team up for sale. Within months, a group headed by former player agent and Arizona Diamondbacks part-owner Jeff Moorad announced their intention to buy the Padres.
It is at this point that The Sad Truth begins.
While there are other items discussed in this documentary (Orlando Hudson, Ryan Ludwick etc.), the bulk this article will focus on the main issue: the recent behavior of the Padre’s front office. Sad Truth documents how over the last four years, Padre ownership–most especially during the ill-fated Moorad era–constantly made promises to San Diego fans which ultimately were not kept.
Marver starts with Jake Peavy, their 2007 Cy Young Award winner who is the all-time team leader in strikeouts and is second in wins. In 2009, the team signed him to a multi-year extension, and Moorad said he hoped that Peavy would be with the team “for years to come.”
However, he was traded that same year. As a parting shot, Peavy said he was glad to be joining a team (the White Sox) “that’s committed to winning.”
Next on the block was Adrian Gonzalez. In May 2009, Moorad was asked who his favorite ball players were. He said, “I’m glad Adrian Gonzalez is on my side,” and he will be “an anchor on the Padres for years to come.”
At the end of the 2010 season, A-Gon was gone.
The Sad Truth also shows how, from ’09-12, the Padres’ cumulative payroll was the lowest in baseball. Meanwhile, Forbes reported that the team had the highest operating incoming of 2010, at $37 million; the same year their payroll dipped to $38 million. In layman’s terms, this means that their payroll could have been doubled, and they would have broken even.
This is hard for a Padre fan to hear.
Up to this point, one could conclude that this documentary is merely a Jeff Moorad bashing session. After all, in March 2012, baseball’s owners made it clear that they would never approve a sale of the Padres to a group that included Moorad. A few weeks later, he stepped down from the Padres’ brass, and John Moores was back in charge.
The “New” Ownership
Later that summer, a new group featuring the family of Peter O’Malley (who owned the Dodgers for many decades) stepped in to buy the team.
So, all is good now, right? Wrong.
As Marver demonstrates, eight of the members of the new ownership group were also part of Moorad’s contingent. Most notable is Ron Fowler, who is the new group’s point-man. And this is not a good thing, contends The Sad Truth, because the same elusive patterns that were seen in Moorad’s tenure keep popping up.
For instance, Fowler announced that current president Tom Garfinkel and general manager Josh Byrnes will be staying on. He also said that they are committed to keeping home-grown talent in San Diego.
Shortly after he said this, third baseman Chase Headley had a monster second half, finishing the season with 31 homers, a league-leading 115 RBI, and an OPS of .875. He won off-season awards including a gold glove and a silver slugger award, and was fifth in the MVP balloting.
So suddenly, the Padres ownership has an immediate test case in front of them. While Headley is controlled by San Diego for two more years, fans are waiting to see what will happen. So far, the results are not good: a recent Union-Tribune headline stated that negotiations on an extension are not going well. The most recent news is that there is no news on this front: Headley’s agent and Padre ownership aren’t even talking.
Another bad sign is that after last season, Padre ownership announced that their highest priority would be to add at least one more starting pitcher. Result: they resigned Jason Marquis, owner of a career 4.60 ERA.
To make matters worse, when Andrew Cashner got hurt in an off-season accident, the Padres still stated that they need to add just one starting pitcher. And on January 2, after repeatedly saying they wanted to add pitching, management suddenly said they are “confident” with the pitchers they already have.
One can only wonder, why the sudden reversal?
(To be fair, the Padres recently signed veteran Freddy Garcia, likely after The Sad Truth was finished with production.)
In short, while a move could still be made before the season starts, the first off-season with the Fowler group in control had been a disappointment.
The final section is called “What can you do?” Marver recommends not giving any money to the current ownership: don’t go to games, and don’t buy their merchandise.
In a nice finishing touch, it ends with the famous line from the classic Who song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
Evaluation: What’s good about The Sad Truth
The strongest point about this documentary is its attention to the Padres’ front office. Much of what it does say is accurate, as far as it goes. While the verdict is still out on the new ownership, early patterns show that they are acting just as they did under Moorad’s leadership.
While the production quality is amateur, The Sad Truth is grassroots campaigning at its best: whereas Tea Partiers and Occupiers are political, this is a movement that is demanding that owners of a sports team pay attention to its fans, and put a winning product on the field. Yes, there have been some viable excuses along the way (more on that later), but after a while, fans don’t want excuses; they want wins.
To put in in the simplest possible terms, if the Padres had been winning in recent years, then The Sad Truth would never have been conceived. Because they have not, it is now with us.
What’s bad about it
While The Sad Truth has much to say, it also leaves a lot out. There are a number of factors which are left unmentioned, and thus it does not present a full and accurate picture of recent Padre history.
Unless I missed it, there is no mention of John Moores’ divorce in 2008. At or around this time, Moores became an absentee owner, rarely if ever coming to Padre games, preferring to stay in his home state of Texas. Such neglect from ownership can only lead to a diminished on-field product, which is precisely what happened–most especially the drastic payroll cuts. Let us not forget that the whole time Moorad was in the picture, Moores still owned a majority stake in the Padres. Therefore, he was still primarily responsible for payroll. This is a glaring omission in The Sad Truth.
At times, this documentary also makes mountains out of molehills. For instance, Marver complains that in 2011, “for the second year in a row,” the Padres traded their best home run hitter, Ryan Ludwick (following Gonzalez). However, he does not mention Ludwick’s paltry Padre stats: in parts of two seasons in San Diego, he played 160 games and had 17 home runs, a .228 batting average, and a .659 OPS. He clearly was not happy as a Padre, and his career has since rebounded in Cincinnati. Hence, there was other reasons besides salary why Ludwick was traded which The Sad Truth does not account for.
It also makes much of the Orlando Hudson debacle. Unfortunately, though, not all free agent signings work out, and no one could have predicted that Hudson would be as bad as he was. There is no doubt that ownership now views that $11 million spent on him was a huge error in judgment.
Perhaps most the most glaring omission is the recent extensions the Padres gave to some core players: before the ’12 season, Corey Leubke, Cameron Maybin, and Nick Hundley were all locked in to multi-year deals. Granted, they have thus far been disappointing–mostly due to injuries–but that’s the risk of making long-term deals, which would explain in part current ownership’s unwillingness to overpay and commit multi year contracts to the likes of Edwin Jackson.
And last summer, under the approval of the new incoming ownership, Carlos Quentin and Huston Street were also extended, which is a good indication that new ownership is willing to spend money to keep good talent in San Diego.
A big move the Padres did not make is also ignored: they refused to guarantee Heath Bell three years, and so he signed with Miami for millions. Bell was so ineffective there that he almost immediately lost his role as closer.
Lastly, there is no mention of the Mat Latos trade, which has brought the team an established starter (Edinson Volquez) and three promising young players at key positions (1B Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, and reliever Bruce Boxberger). Receiving Alonso necessitated the trade of Anthony Rizzo, whose tenure in San Diego was a bust. Alonso figures to be a solid hitter, while Grandal showed great potential in his rookie season–although he will have much to prove due to his positive PED test. And without Volquez, the Padres rotation would be in even worse shape than it is.
While The Sad Truth makes some solid points, it does not tell the whole story. With the notable exception of the 2010 season, the last 5-6 years have been difficult for Padre fans, beginning with Moores’ divorce and Moorad’s alleged duplicitousness.
This has doubtless led to growing impatience with the incoming ownership group. Yes, some of them (especially Fowler) were around when Moorad was in charge. Yes, the first off-season with this group has thus far been disappointing. And yes, Fowler’s statement that he wanted to keep good homegrown talent in San Diego for years to come immediately came back to bite him with Headley’s strong second half in ’12–and one can well imagine that in contract talks, his agents are asking for the moon.
And while I am frustrated with all of this, I am not yet ready to throw in the towel. Let us not forget that Fowler and company approved Quentin’s and Street’s extensions; if they had not and then signed elsewhere this offseason, you can be sure that The Sad Truth would have made much of this, and hence would have had a more solid case to make.
As for Headley, Padre ownership knows that time is on their side. Don’t forget, Headley had only 36 career homers before he hit 31 last year (including just 4 in ’11), and that the Padres control him for two more years. While it would be good to lock him up long-term, it would be foolish to overpay him if last season proves to be a fluke.
For the record, if Headley has a solid ’13 season and he is traded, then you can add my name to those who will be quoting from The Who (see above).
That said, Marver is correct that the new ownership group has a lot of work to do. Due to previous owner’s mistakes, they have to prove that they are different, and committed to winning. A solid blockbuster trade (for, say, Giancarlo Stanton) would be a good start, as would adding a proven starting pitcher before the season begins, and solving the local cable TV issues, which to their credit they have been trying to do.
Therefore, while The Sad Truth does have its inaccuracies (some of them glaring), it should serve as a warning to Fowler, O’Malley, and Byrnes that Padre fans will not settle for anything less than a solid commitment to winning, and that anything resembling the same old excuses from previous regimes will not wash.