The San Diego Padres ended their 2013 campaign on September 29 losing to San Francisco to end at 76-86 and in 3rd in the NL West.
It also marked the day that newly christened CEO Mike Dee could begin reshaping the business he was now in control of after replacing Tom Garfinkel in mid-season. Mike Dee, the former CEO of the Miami Dolphins (who is now run by Tom Garfinkel, don’t worry, the Miami connections won’t end there), was part of the front office the last time the Padres made the World Series. He’s come back to San Diego with a similar goal in mind.
“On the field, our philosophy is right. This is a group that not only wants to win, but wants to win championships. I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t kick the tires hard.”
First things first, the front office announced that the entire Bud Black coaching staff would return in 2014. While the news wasn’t overly surprising, it is unusual for a team that has missed the amount of post-seasons in a row that the Padres had to hang on to that coaching staff. Nevertheless, they are here, with the common argument being that the coaching staff has not been provided the players to legitimately compete.
On November 5th it was announced that Petco Park would host the 1st Round of the tennis Davis Cup. Mike Dee, no stranger to putting unorthodox events in baseball stadiums (while working for the Red Sox he helped bring Bruce Springsteen to Fenway Park), the Davis Cup court was placed in left field with a clay surface.
The Winter transactions got off to a slow start with a handful of minor moves (trading Dean Anna to NY, Clayton Richard electing FA, to name a few).
Then came November 20th, when the Padres would make their first free agency splash in signing Josh Johnson. At 1 yr, $8 million, the Padres have made a gamble that the oft-injured Josh Johnson can regain his Cy Young ability. For his part, Johnson is banking on doing just that in pitcher-friendly San Diego and help solidify a young pitching staff that will carry with it expectation that’s been unfamiliar to San Diego for the past few years. The move was viewed positively across the board. It was a substantially better start to the off-season than a year prior.
On December 3rd, “The Final Piece” Seth Smith was acquired for Luke Gregerson, all but destroying the good will the Josh Johnson signing had fostered. Confusion in why the team would give up arguably their most effective closer for what amounted to a platoon 5th OF in an OF full of platoon OF’ers remains a question. Presumably another move was coming though one never did materialize. Though in looking back it was likely Josh Byrnes believing that Seth Smith was “the final piece” that set people off more than the trade itself.
At the Winter Meetings in December the Padres were quiet though they did complete a trade with Houston that, while not flashy, was interesting. The Astros, holding the 1st pick in the Rule 5 draft, traded a “player-to-be-named-later” to San Diego for Anthony Bass. That PTBNL ended up being Astros Rule 5 draft pick Patrick Schuster. Again, not flashy, but a clever way to move up a draft board.
The Padres ended the calendar year by announcing the signing of former Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit to a 2-year deal. Benoit, expected to handle the 8th inning, bolstered the Padres bullpen, something that clearly was a focus of the offseason.
Of course 2014 began with news that would make baseball transactions seem unbelievably insignificant. On a day that San Diego sports fans were riding high having just seen the Chargers defeat Cincinnati in the AFC Wild Card round, news came out that Jerry Coleman, the voice of the Padres, had passed away. The news was a stomach punch and frankly is still hard to imagine. A beautiful memorial service was held at Petco Park honoring the man who was as ubiquitous to the Padres as Tony Gwynn.
A few days later the Padres finished a trade with Tampa Bay sending Logan Forsythe to the Rays for super-reliever Alex Torres (in total it was a 7 player trade). It has become a dangerous game dealing with Tampa Bay as they consistently win trade after trade but the initial reviews were overwhelmingly positive as most pointed out the high ceiling of Torres whereas Forsythe was beginning to seem like an infielder without a home.
The Padres off the field continue to confound fans with moves that didn’t appear to be necessary. In January they relieved public address announcer Frank Anthony of his duties and announced open tryouts. Our own Padres Trail was there to give it a go (sadly he did not make the semi-finals).
Still unexplained in anyway that makes sense was the firing of Andy Masur. Andy Masur was immensely popular with fans and extremely good at his job. He’s been replaced by Jesse Agler, former host of The Finsiders, some Dolphins web series. The reasoning for Masur’s departure seemed disingenuous, having to do with incorporating social media into the broadcast.
Finally, just this week it was announced that Time Warner Cable and Fox Sports San Diego have finally agreed to a carrier deal, enabling all of San Diego County the ability to watch Padres baseball. It was a black eye for a long time that didn’t appear to have a resolution in sight. Until one day when there was.
Padres pitchers and catchers reported yesterday, effectively ending the Winter offseason. On the field and off, the Padres were busy. But busy winters don’t always translate to successful seasons. The time for projecting is nearly over. Bring on Opening Day.