How do the San Diego Padres turn their fortunes around? Truly developing a winning culture is a process, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Padres’ general manager A.J. Preller recently told Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune, “…the biggest thing just continues to be getting players to the big leagues and having them develop. As long as those guys are performing well and we’re continuing to create a winning culture at the big-league level, I think that’s really where our focus is.”
Derek Jeter, chief executive officer for the Florida Marlins, also weighed in recently on the importance of “developing a winning culture throughout the organization” in an interview with Marc Lancaster of sportingnews.com. In an article in Sports Illustrated in March in 2016, Tom Verducci identified the Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates as having that winning culture, with the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers and New York Mets close to achieving that goal.
Obviously a “winning culture” should be the goal of every organization in baseball or any other sport. No organization will publicly opt for a losing culture. But what is a winning culture? According to a foxsports.com article, “…teams will often talk about trying to create a ‘culture of winning,’ especially on teams laden with young players. But is that just GM cliché-speak or is it an actual phenomenon. In the past, I’ve found little evidence to suggest that it’s real…”
Is Preller just indulging in “GM cliché-speak” or has the organization actually made the necessary steps to build that winning culture throughout the entire system? The St. Louis Cardinals have long been identified as an organization dedicated to the latter. The franchise teaches the “Cardinal Way” throughout the organization, emphasizing consistency.
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And now, Theo Epstein (president of baseball operations for Chicago) has codified the “Cubs Way” in a “document that standardizes the organization’s philosophy that applies to everyone, from Epstein himself to the star first baseman, minor league scout, ticket office attendees and front-office summer interns,” writes Frank Kalman, managing editor of Talent Economy.
For the Padres to develop a winning culture, the team has to start with a unifying philosophy, but the organization has lurched from philosophy to philosophy thanks to changes in ownership as well as front office personnel. Winning games certainly helps, but the Padres have a .463 winning percentage since the team’s inception in 1969. Teams must also be successful drafting and developing homegrown players. However, talent alone doesn’t create a winning culture.
Obviously, Preller can’t just snap his fingers and create that “winning culture,” especially in light of the San Diego Padres’ history. He can’t just talk about it either. It will take a concerted effort by everyone involved in the organization from rookie ball to the major leagues.