As with everything we read about the Padres at this point on the calendar – so far is the operative word. Last June when inherited GM Josh Byrnes was fired, Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler said this to the SD Union Tribune:
"“This was a decision that was not made in a day or two, not even a week or two. The last couple months in particular, we’ve seen what you’ve seen and our fans have seen. This was a team we had high expectations for. Those expectations have not been reached.”"
Now sitting about seven months down the road from that decision, at least on the outside things look pretty good. As pointed out in this article by Matt Calkins of the SD Union Tribune, a lot of the credit goes to Mike Dee for defying jaded San Diego sports fans expectations that management had no clue what it was doing.
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The firing of Byrnes – and the timing of it in particular – certainly seems to be the moment when things actually started changing for the Padres. A move like that was far more bold than what Padres fans had gotten used to. This wasn’t their “big move” signing of a reclamation project in Josh Johnson. Where the “big trade” was Luke Gregerson for Seth Smith (albeit that one worked out). This was a change in tenor. A change in attitude. And it hasn’t stopped since then.
A.J. Preller was able to make significant strides in the off-season unlike any Padres GM in history with an ownership group that has high expectations and the guts to let their GM go after it. What the situation was like with Byrnes is tough to know, and no doubt all of the ownership issues of the Padres over the past decade certainly stagnated the team in doling out real free agent money and even what direction the team wanted to go for.
It has been pointed out accurately that the farm system depth Preller inherited was built in large part by Byrnes and the GM before him, Jed Hoyer. Yet it also can’t be disputed that neither of those men seemed to have the confidence to really make the move that put themselves all-in. Whether that timidity was from them or from the higher-ups we can’t know.
Fans still remember Kevin Towers fondly because of his cowboy-style GM thinking, and while there is an element to that from the stars that Preller is getting, you have to think Preller comes at it from a different angle. He is renowned for his scouting, and the best GMs just seem to know which players not only to acquire, but also which ones are okay to get rid of.
Think of the Atlanta Braves and their tandem of Scouting Director Paul Snyder and GM John Schuerholz. They made plenty of trades in their time – particularly pitchers – but didn’t miss much. There aren’t many trades where they got the low-end of the stick.
The Padres on the other hand, the same cannot be said. Besides the aforementioned Rizzo, we still don’t know what the team got for Adrian Gonzalez several years after the fact and the biggest return from Jake Peavy hasn’t pitched since early 2013 and is just trying to hang on anywhere in Clayton Richard.
How Preller’s trades of the ’14-’15 off-season are seen, history will judge in a couple years – or just one. If the Padres go on to win a World Series in 2015, there would be nothing that any traded prospects could accomplish that would make the trades bad.
As Mike Dee said last year at Byrnes firing: “Performance is the name of the game, as in any sport…”. The moves have been made and Padres fans have faith in their leader and team ownership for the first time in a long time. Now let’s get this season started and prove it on the field.