It’s been a terrible year to be a Padre fan.
The team is currently 33-44, are 4th in the NL West and have the 5th worst record in all of baseball. After back to back seasons in which the team finished 76-86, things came to a head earlier this week when the team fired General Manager Josh Byrnes after 2+ seasons where he went a combined 184-216 (.460), which is good enough for 5th best (and worst) in Padres history. It was only the second time the team fired their General Manager mid-season. The other was on June 9th, 1993 when Joe McIlvaine was let go and replaced by Randy Smith. This time Omar Minaya, Fred Uhlman Jr. and A.J. Hinch will take the reigns until the team finds a permanent replacement.
There has been a ton of crazy stuff happening lately. Byrnes and Padres President Mike Dee had separate interviews, on the same radio station, with the same host, in the same day. Both had very different things to say though. Tom Verducci wrote a scathing article about Padres ownership. Jon Heyman also had some harsh words for the group. Most people praised the Padres for parting ways with Byrnes.
Add to this the crazy rumor by Bob Nightengale on the return of “The Gunslinger” Kevin Towers. While it’s clearly an interesting story that will draw in the readers, the likelihood of it happening appears to be slim. Corey Brock lists a talented group of candidates in his latest article, notably absent? KT. Could it be because he’s still employed by the Diamondbacks? Perhaps. But when you see a list that includes the likes of Jason McLeod, David Forst, Mike Girsch, Thad Levine, Billy Eppler, Mike Hazen and Larry Beinfest, it’s really hard to take a potential Towers hiring seriously.
One constant complaint in all of this has been the owners lack of payroll. So let’s take a look at how this off-season played out compared to some other teams.
Top 10 Payroll increases (2013-2014)
|Team||2013 Payroll||2014 Payroll||Difference||2014 Record|
|$90,158,500 (17th)||$112,688,666 (11th)||+$22,530,166||32-47 (5th)|
|$112,431,770 (12th)||$134,704,437 (9th)||+$22,272,667||40-35 (1st)|
|$89,288,193 (18th)||$110,897,341 (14th)||+$21,609,148||38-37 (2nd)|
|$159,578,214 (3rd)||$180,052,723 (3rd)||+$20,474,509||34-41 (5th)|
|$75,449,071 (24th)||$95,832,071 (17th)||+$20,383,000||34-42 (3rd)|
|$24,328,538 (30th)||$44,544,174 (30th)||+$20,215,636||33-44 (5th)|
|7. Tampa Bay
|$57,030,272 (28th)||$77,062,891 (28th)||+$20,032,619||31-47 (5th)|
|8. Los Angeles
|$216,302,909 (2nd)||$235,295,219 (1st)||+$18,992,310||42-36 (2nd)|
|9. San Diego
|$71,689,900 (25th)||$90,094,196 (21st)||+18,404,296||33-44 (4th)|
|$91,793,333 (15th)||$107,406,623 (15th)||+$15,613,290||40-35 (2nd)|
Of those 10 teams, 4 currently sit in last place of their respective division with only 4 of the teams having a winning record. Apparently that was not money well spent for these particular teams.
Of the 6 GM’s from the list who currently have a losing record (with hire date):
AZ: Kevin Towers – September 22, 2010
PHI: Ruben Amaro Jr. – November 3, 2008
COL: Dan O’Dowd – September 20, 1999
HOU: Jeff Luhnow – December 7, 2011
TB: Andrew Friedman – November 3, 2005
SD: Josh Byrnes – October 26, 2011
Towers (2011), Amaro (2009, 2010, 2011), O’Dowd (2007, 2009) & Friedman (2008, 2010, 2011, 2013) have all made the playoffs. 42 days separated Byrnes and Luhnow as the newest hire among the group, however Luhnow has a clear plan in place, Byrnes did not.
Also of note, 4 of the teams reside in the National League West (Diamondbacks, Rockies, Dodgers & Padres), with the lone team not listed in the top 10 (Giants +$12,005,545) sitting in 1st place currently with the 3rd best record in all of baseball. Perhaps the Dodgers free spending ways forced the hand of the other teams?
The Rockies leapfrogged the most teams going from 24th to 17th, followed by the Diamondbacks (17th to 11th), Padres (25th to 21st) & Braves (18th to 14th) and the Nationals (12th to 9th) & Royals (22nd to 19th) rounding out the Top 5.
What I’m getting at is the Padres ownership increased payroll considerably this year for Byrnes. The league average was an increase of $8,833,063 and the Padres increased by an additional $9,571,233 OVER that number. It takes time to grow the payroll in a smart way and they seemed to be on that path. The team has gone from 30th in payroll ($55,244,700) in 2012 to 25th ($71,689,900) to 21st ($90,094,196) in 3 seasons. That’s a considerable jump every single year. Who knows, maybe they would have been around that magic $100 million threshold in 2015? Now the future is uncertain with a new GM coming to town.
Byrnes inherited a strong system: The Padres earned the top spot in Kevin Goldstein’s 2012 organizational rankings, 4 ½ months after Byrnes became GM. Jason Parkskept them third in 2013, but they fell to 11th earlier this year, as injuries (surprise, surprise) took a toll. They’ve sunk even lower thus far this season, Jason says, citing an iffy draft, injured and/or underperforming prospects, and “big questions” about their approach to player development.
The Padres will never be a top spender and it’s clear a good majority of the fans understand that building through the draft is crucial for this team. To hear from experts that there are “big questions” about their approach to player development is concerning.
Even with more money for the Major League team Byrnes invested poorly. Add to that, the farm system is considerably worse off than when he took over. I do still stand behind his Cameron Maybin, Cory Luebke and Jedd Gyorko extensions. He also landed on some solid trades, however he also made a lot of poor choices and left an offense, that was tough to watch at times, sit unchanged for essentially his entire tenure here.
People question whether or not 2.5 years is enough time. This team is in shambles from top to bottom and is clearly worse off than when Byrnes took over. That’s not a good thing. It was definitely time to move on.
I’m not one to be happy about someone losing their job, however I am looking forward to seeing what direction the new GM will be taking this team. Direction is clearly something they need.