Baseball and Leadership: A Look at the Padres Leaders


I was listening to the Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney recently, and he talked about the leadership of Royals GM Dayton Moore and Manager Ned Yost. He talked about how the Royals were not expected to do much last year, or the year before that, or this year…from the statheads. Yet, in reality, they won their first World Series last season, made the World Series all the way to Game 7 the year before that, and this years story remains to be written but were able to retain All Star left-fielder Alex Gordon. How can the Padres relate?

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For one thing, that is a huge reason why Andy Green is the new manager of the Padres. A.J. Preller has almost literally purged every member of the Padres who was a Padre when he came into the fold except for Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner. This is not surprising when a CEO comes into a company that he almost first cleans out the old management regime. Tech company Zenefits recently saw their CEO resign amid poor compliance concerns and their COO became their new CEO. How does that work?

Yet for a baseball team leadership is often an under-valued metric that is difficult to put into real terms of measure. So I thought it would make sense to take a look at what made Ned Yost a World Series champion and how that can be applied to both A.J. Preller and new manager Andy Green.

Deb Calvert wrote out five leadership qualities that Yost displayed that helped him lead the Royals to the promised land.

  1. Ask for Feedback: The story is relayed as one night in 2014 Yost expressed his frustration at the reporters who were badgering him and his young team. He expressed his need to stay positive even when things were not going well. He said, “At times, when you lose your patience or get frustrated like I did last night, it’s counterproductive.” It is documented that he will often check in with his team to see how they are doing and how his actions affect them. This keeps him from putting blinders on. Pat Murphy as the interim manager seemed doomed from the start in many ways – but was unable in a shortened season to turn the ship around. Meanwhile, Green has already made an effort to check in with his veteran players even before spring training.
  2. Shared Vision of the Future: The Royals knew exactly what they were building and working towards for several years as they accumulated talent on the roster and in the minor league system. Calvert writes “A leader who appeals to other to share his or her exciting dream of the future is a leader you genuinely want to follow. Far too many leaders get mired in their own authority, failing to bring others with them as they operate in command-and-control mode.” This is important I believe more for Preller than even Green. Preller seemed to lack a clear direction this off-season on when he wants the Padres to win big. This year? Next year? Three years? Until that same vision can be shared across the organization, it will be tough to unite.
  3. Take experiments and risk, even with chance of failure: The Padres seem to have no trouble with this one. Wil Myers at first base. Managing the bullpen all by itself will be an experiment in risk. Yet the question might be more in relation to some of their younger prospects; who to bring up, when to bring them up and how much to play them. How long do you trust Cory Spangenberg at second base if he starts slow? For Preller in particular this one applies. Last off-season he seemed to have a deal trigger finger, then held on to big trade pieces for the deadline. Can he make up his mind when now he has been burned by a few acquisitions?
  4. Allowing Others to Act: This one Green seems on the right track as well. By visiting with his veterans, he showed that he understands how they need to be the ones to lead others and not to rob players of their individuality. The Padres have a mix of older veterans like James Shields and Matt Kemp, contrasted with young players like Spangenberg and Travis Jankowski. How those groups mesh will be key to their success now and in the future.
  5. Trust in your people. I believe this message is the key to the Padres. I mentioned in the opening how A.J. Preller has consistently been shopping out former Padres and giving them too much time to perform. Jedd Gyorko is one example, as well as Dale Thayer out of the bullpen. Will Preller be able to know when to sit by certain players through a slump and when it is indeed time to go? Last year Matt Kemp struggled in the first half but had a terrific second half. With Andrew Cashner in a contract year, it will be interesting to see his course this season even rumors about him being shopped persist even as this article is being posted. Will Preller show trust in the man once traded for Anthony Rizzo or will be traded for a lower trade piece because he hasn’t developed on the course he was projected? Only time will tell.

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Andy Green will be a vital component of the Padres success in 2016, and Ned Yost after several losing seasons as manager was vindicated in the past two seasons. GM Dayton Moore built the Royals over years before finally being rewarded with the current team he has assembled that still has a 2-3 year window given their current contracts. Will Padres ownership give Preller and Green the same patience to build and develop a winner or will public opinion win the day? There are always leadership lessons to be learned – soon enough we will start seeing how those lessons are put into action.