Shut Up, Ron Fowler!

Padres chairman Ron Fowler, aka the San Diego Beer Baron, aka the Sultan of Suds, grants Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times an audience.

I like Bill Shaikin. He was on top of the Dodgers ownership change last year. And because a few of the parties denied in that sale expressed interest in the sale of the Padres, he became a valuable source of information on that process.

And, believe it or not, I like Ron Fowler. He’s kept the beer flowing into San Diego for many years. When I was younger and didn’t know any better, I drank that crap.

But, as you’ll hopefully see by the end of this, Ron Fowler really needs to just shut up. And have a craft beer.

Padres’ new owners remaking the franchise the San Diego way

Though four are related to former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, the team’s new owners are taking an approach different from that of the L.A. team.

The soccer players, dressed in black shirts and black shorts, lined up in front of the visiting dugout at Petco Park. These were the Xolos, the Tijuana-based champions of the top Mexican league. The San Diego Padres had graciously invited the Xolos to train at Petco, a nod to the regional appeal of the soccer team, but first the mayor had something to say.

“Thank you for giving us a championship,” San Diego Mayor Bob Filner said, raising his palms toward the sky as he drew out the next two words for effect. “Some day, maybe the Padres will. Some day, the Chargers might.”

This is starting out great. The mayor of San Diego thinks that Tijuana is part of his city. I’m starting to have second thoughts about voting for this guy. And then I remember who his opponent was. Go, Filner, go!

The Dodgers were sold last year, and the new owners were greeted like conquering heroes. The Padres were sold last year, and the new owners quickly learned the mayor is not the only one in town tired of bad baseball and broken promises.

The new owners have a brand name to sell, one that stands for excellence in baseball, on and off the field. Of the five primary owners, two are sons of former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, and two are nephews.

But the boys aren’t pitching the O’Malley name as a way to sell San Diego on new and improved ownership. The owner out front is Ron Fowler, prominent in sports, business and philanthropy here for three decades.

“We’ve all spent all our lives up in L.A.,” said Peter Seidler, nephew of Peter O’Malley and grandson of Walter O’Malley, the Hall of Fame owner who moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn.

That is not a badge of honor around here.

“The city views itself as the anti-L.A.,” Fowler said, “whether that’s good or bad.”

Believe me, Ron, that’s a good thing. Because we are. We’re just one major military base closure away* from being lumped in with Orange County as Los Angeles Junior.

*My running joke is Camp Pendleton is there so the Marines can protect San Diego from a Los Angeles invasion.

What is bad, at least arguably, is that the Padres’ new owners must compete with the Dodgers’ new owners, and their apparently endless supply of money.

“We’re not going to just idly throw money at it,” Fowler said. “That’s not San Diego.”

Now we’re starting to get into the meat of the problem here.

You should quit while you’re ahead, Ron.

It is one thing to say the Padres cannot match the Dodgers’ financial resources, quite another to suggest it is a civic virtue not to do so.

“They’re not looking for flash and dash here,” Fowler said. “They have seen it over the years. They have seen fire sales. What I think the people are looking for is a consistent, winning tradition — that hasn’t been here in quite some time — and to do it in a judicious, reasonable manner.

“Every now and then, we’ll surprise people with a move that might seem improbable.”

Like that trade you said Josh Byrnes was working on back in early January? The one that “…would have blown the socks off people…“? Whatever happened to that, by the way?

This might seem improbable: The Padres are ahead of the Dodgers in the National League West. The winning percentage of each team under its new owners, including last year and through Friday: Padres .520; Dodgers .486.

“We said we thought we had a better team in terms of position players than anybody else did,” Fowler said. “I think we’ve demonstrated that.

“The whole world knows we need some pitching. We are going to do what we need to do there.”

Well, if the whole world didn’t know that, they do now…

Oh, wait!

See? I told you to quit while you were ahead!

They ought to, for the sake of long-suffering Padres fans. The Padres might be happy they were outbid last winter on pitchers Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson, but at some point they have to get somebody, just as a show of faith.

I’ve said time and time again that I didn’t think either of those guys were worth the money they got. But Shaikin’s right. They have to show us they’re at least willing to take a chance.

The Padres signed outfielder Carlos Quentin and closer Huston Street to extensions last summer, but they signed no new players last winter. Fowler announced in May that the Padres would offer third baseman Chase Headley the largest contract in club history, but Headley immediately said he had told the Padres he did not want to negotiate during the season.

“No one told us Headley did not want to talk about it,” said Fowler, adding that he was fine with Headley’s position and that the team did not plan to trade its third baseman. “I would be shocked if Headley were not here in August.”

The Padres’ payroll jumped from $55 million to $70 million in the first year of new ownership, ranking 25th among the 30 major league teams. The team ranked last or next to last in three of the previous four seasons; Fowler said he would like to see the Padres’ payroll settle in at about 20th, give or take a couple of spots either way.

Anybody else think it’s a little strange to see a Los Angeles Times columnist getting an interview with Ron Fowler, and not someone local?

Then again, when I think about his options for local writers, I can understand why.

*****

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  • Change the Padres

    What’s incredible to me isn’t the content of what Fowler says, but that he’s saying anything at all. Because for as little as the new owners said at their introductory press conference(s) last year, Ron Fowler explicitly said (numerous times) that they “want the focus to be on the team, not on the ownership group”. The more he doesn’t take your advice and simply shut-up, the more he continues to contradict himself.

    • Finally! We agree on something!

      • Change the Padres

        By the way, here’s a link to Jeff Moorad stating they were going to add pitching at the 2010 deadline: http://www.aolnews.com/2010/06/28/jeff-moorad-padres-have-money-to-spend-will-look-for-starting/

        “I think there may be an interest on our part in acquiring another starting pitcher, remembering that our No. 1 starter (Chris Young) has been on the disabled list for virtually the entire season.”

      • GoldenBoy

        Pitching was the biggest reason for our success in 2010. It was offensive help that we needed. And we made a much bigger splash than the Giants at the deadline. I remember that many Giants fans were angry that they didn’t make the strong moves we made. Remember our acquisitions of Tejada and Ludwick? At the time those were considered strong moves, and we didn’t give up much in return. It can be easy to criticize Moorad, but this example is a very very unfair criticism.

      • Change the Padres

        The Giants added two relievers at the deadline: Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez. They then traded for Fontenot and Jose Guillen post-deadline, and claimed Cody Ross off waivers. This after they brought up their top offensive prospect in early June (Posey) and top pitching prospect in late June / early July (Madison Bumgarner). They weren’t sitting idly. You don’t think another capable starter (in Correia’s stead, for example) wins us the division in 2010?

      • GoldenBoy

        Those trades & waiver claims certainly helped the Giants, but none of them were perceived as high impact moves at the time. The Padres did have a stellar contribution by Tim Stauffer during late Aug. & the month of Sep (1.85 ERA). But as I recall, our offense was completely dormant during many of those games (baseball is a highly unpredictable game). Without a doubt, the biggest contributions for the Giants were their prospect call-ups (Posey & Bumgarner, as you mentioned). This is exactly why the Padres shouldn’t be trading any of their prospects right now. Sure, I’d be all about them spending some money, but trading away prospects would negatively affect our future. And let’s face it, the 2014 Padres and beyond are looking pretty good. If I were Byrnes I would trade for Jake Peavy, pay the entirety of his expensive 1 1/2 year contract, and only trade a very low level prospect. This team can’t be trading any of their top 30 prospects this season, if you ask me. Or they could go the “acquire mediocre player, turn him into good player for a few months” route that the Giants did in 2010 and we are also masters at. Overpaying with prospects for hyped mediocrity (Nolasco, Garza) is not a smart baseball move for the 2013 Pads.

      • Geoff Hancock

        Nowhere in that article does he say the team is definitely going to add starting pitching. Even in what you quote the thought it that there’s “interest.” And, at the time of that article, the starters ERA was ranked 1st in MLB. Hardly a situation of need. Offense was needed in 2010. The pitching was fine.

        “Shopping and buying aren’t the same thing, but San Diego will see what the market will bear.”

      • Change the Padres

        I don’t think anyone in baseball has ever said something along the lines of “we’re definitely going to add such and such”. That’s an absurd standard to have if that’s the standard you’re going to set for what is/is not a misleading statement.

        And the starters’ ERA ranked #1 because of the ballpark, not because the Padres had the best staff in the game. Only two starters had an ERA+ over 100. They could have used another starter; if they had gotten one, like the owner explicitly said they had interest in doing, they probably win the division.

      • Well, the harmony that came with agreement was short-lived, because you managed to do the same thing you always do, Marver. And that’s take someone else’s quote from a number of years ago out of context and try to apply it to the topic at hand.

      • Change the Padres

        You used my tweet on what Moorad said on-air in 2010, but what he said that I had readily available to link to, which was literally the same exact thing, was “out of context”? Okay?

  • ChrisD

    I had the same thought about the local media. Where are they? It’s pretty rough. Has anybody in San Diego on the print side gotten an interview with Ron Fowler since last August? At this point, I’d include Corey Brock in that world. It’s just so bizarre. Mostly following #PPLive thru Twitter. But I heard Darren Smith talk about this article and tried to track it down. It really concerns me to have the LA Times taking on these stories. Seems like Darren is one of a handful of really journalists left here, and he spends most of his time saying he’s not one! There are others, Parris, Zeigler, etc. But just such a weird climate. Anyway, I had pretty low expectations for the Pads this year so it’s hard for me to be too upset about the results to this point. Even though the I’d love to have seen them go out and sign a pitcher or two, most of the guys on the market some were advocating for (E Jackson, D Haren, etc) have flamed out. Hopefully they can add somebody. Arietta would be fine by me. They just need some live arms. (And some writers willing to ask tough questions)

    • Paris was let go by the UT.

      • ChrisD

        I know. I think that’s part of the issue. Mostly just making the point that the handful of good journalists there are in this town are increasingly out of the “print” business. I expect Parris will find his way onto the radio or something the way that guys like Ben Higgins and Craig Elsten have. And they’ve done great from my perspective. But it’s hard for me to believe that Ron Fowler gave the LA Times an interview before the UT. Padres ownership has been here for coming close to a year now, and they still haven’t done anything remotely close to a feature story like the one the LA Times did in the San Diego “paper”.

      • The last time Fowler spoke to the U-T it didn’t go well: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/may/01/headley-fowler-contract-offer/
        Perhaps the U-T hasn’t asked for a comment again? I don’t know.

      • ChrisD

        Yeah, who know the reason. I just find it difficult to believe that the Padres haven’t pushed harder for it. And that the UT hasn’t done it on their own. It’s certainly seemed like an unusual transfer of ownership, but it’s understandable if everybody was a bit gun shy coming off of the Moorad Era. Speaking of Chase, I’d love to test the theory of whether or not he’s willing to negotiate during the season right before the trade deadline. I wouldn’t do it in the paper this time. But now seems like the perfect time to present him with a 4/60 offer. Put his mind and bank account at ease, and get back to being the best all-around 3B in the NL. Richest Padre contact, but also a reasonable one.

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