No Replacement For Mike Dee

Mike Dee was fired today, which was equal parts surprising and inevitable. But this isn’t about Mike Dee, business man—this isn’t even really about Mike Dee at all.

The question now becomes (at least for people, like me, who geek out on baseball stuff more than the business side): how does this effect baseball operations for the Padres? There’s a decent argument that the Padres need some figurehead in baseball ops, someone like Theo Epstein or Chris Antonetti. Dee was sort of playing that role for the Padres, although not in the overarching way Epstein and Antonetti are in Chicago and Cleveland, respectively. A.J. Preller’s (and staff) been driving decision-making on a micro level, but ultimately he reported to Dee, and it’s possible that Dee played a significant role in the team’s long-term approach to the baseball side. Preller’s made a number of good moves over the last year, but he’s young, inexperienced (as a general manager), and still serving the final days of a month long league-mandated suspension for keeping shady medical records.

Someone like Alex Anthopolous (Craig Elsten mentioned him) might make sense, or Ben Cherington, or Jed Hoyer (also via Craig, and a long shot), or Tony La Russa (wait, no). Surely, there are numerous other names that would work, names that would provide a stabilizing presence in baseball ops while adding knowledge and experience to the organization. Names that would work as a sort of guiding force to Preller, keeping him out of trouble in Latin America while assisting in trade negotiations with skeptical rival GMs.

Pass.

At this point, it’s time to stick with Preller, who’s done a good job of rebuilding after a disastrous 2015—part of which was surely mandated by Dee and ownership (2015, that is). In fact, you’ve gotta go back a number of months before you run into a really categorically bad move made by the Padres. Most of Preller’s moves have been spectacular, really, from Drew Pomeranz (both getting him and dealing him) to the Andrew Cashner deal to the Craig Kimbrel deal (the second one, particularly) to shedding James Shields and Matt Kemp (at a cost, but still). Beyond transactions, the Padres most recent draft went well, by most reports, and they spent big on international talent in July after timing the market well. And, maybe most important, player development is on a roll. Recent draftees like Cal Quantrill (5.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio) and Eric Lauer (2.03 ERA, 4.11 K:BB) performed well after signing, plus Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe lived up to the hype, Austin Hedges hit, Michael Gettys made strides in Lake Elsinore, Luis Urias batted .330, and Chris Paddack was approaching a sub-zero ERA before Tommy John.

Preller’s still a wild card, no doubt. It’s uncertain how other teams will deal with him going forward, it’s uncertain if he’s going to follow the rules, and it’s uncertain if, in the end, he’ll be able to put everything together and turn the Padres into a winning organization. But the early returns are positive, particularity if you chalk up 2015’s failed spending spree to an overexcited rookie GM and an impatient ownership group. There’s a chance that Preller is just really good at this—good at finding young players and good at putting together a cohesive player development staff and good at finding (and rehabilitating) low-cost major-league contributors (like Pomeranz or Melvin Upton or even Jon Jay). The simple realization that a rebuild was necessary—rather than doubling down on a failed win-now experiment—is a feather in Preller’s (bucket) hat.

Hiring [insert name here] to take over baseball ops is going to take decision-making power away from Preller. It’s probably going to result in some personnel changes and some org-wide philosophical changes, and it’s going to reduce Preller to a glorified director of international scouting. Maybe that’s the end game for Preller, if this whole GM thing doesn’t work out. But I’m certainly not ready to give up on it yet, particularly for an organization that changes executives like a blogger changes his socks. It’s time to hold off on the reset button for a change. The Padres hired Preller to run baseball operations two years ago, and as risky as it might be, now isn’t the time to backpedal on that move (especially with Dee no longer clouding the picture). It’s time to take a chance on Preller, to take a calculated risk, to believe that what you’re doing is going to work, no safety nets needed.

You are encouraged to comment using an exisitng Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. Upvote comments you find helpful, and only downvote comments that do not belong. The downvote is not a 'disagree' button.

  • ballybunion

    Mike Dee was the President and CEO, and I don’t think there’s a need for the latter. John Moores was CEO as the owner, and when he fell out of love with baseball, he installed Sandy Alderson, who did a terrible job, first driving out Bruce Bochy, then Trevor Hoffman. Alderson left when Jeff Moorad took over. It seems the CEO job is for owners and those the owner delegates owner-power to.

    The Padres have had Presidents who were strictly business managers, so maybe the figurehead should be a team president who is rarely seen or heard, who has an executive VP for business ops and an executive VP for baseball ops. A good portion of the criticism of Dee wasn’t the baseball meddling, but the business end – season tickets, pricing, promotions, advertising, etc. A well-organized person good at PR is needed there, but in no way connected to the baseball end.

    Preller, COULD be the Executive VP of Baseball Ops (he’s now officially GM and VP of Baseball Ops), but a veteran baseball man who’s not uncomfortable with the public, and can keep Preller operating within the rules, would be better. It wouldn’t be a demotion for Preller, he already answered to Dee and Ron Fowler as executive chairman, so anwering to the Prez and Exec VP of Baseball Ops would be the same thing. That means the exec chairman should be replaced with the prez, with Peter Seidler as Managing Partner (his official title) representing the controlling, majority ownership.

    If you think I’m suggesting Ron Fowler be eased out, you’re right. Peter Seidler represents the majority owners and should be the guy setting the tone for the club president and two exec VPs, all of whom he hires. If other GMs don’t care to deal directly with Preller, he can lean on the Assistant GM, Josh Stein. The important thing is that the Exec VP of Baseball Ops serves as the public face (a job Preller is uncomfortable with) and just supervises Preller, but doesn’t run Baseball Ops.

    Then again, if either Tom Seidler or Kevin O’Malley (or both) get tired of running the Visalia Rawhide and decide to take a bigger role with the Padres, forget everything I wrote above.

    • That’s weird that Tom Seidler is still listed as President of the Rawhide. I thought he gave that up. He’s Padres ownership’s point man on military outreach. He spoke a little about it to us at that Social Summit in August.
      (I know this reply is two weeks late, but we’ve had some issues with the website that are fixed now.)

      • ballybunion

        It could be that the Rawhide site isn’t updated, or Tom is still nominally the President with Kevin O’Malley actually in charge, or Tom Seidler is doing both jobs, gradually getting familiar with the Padres ahead of an executive job. I think Seidler Equity holds a chunk of Top Of The Third Inc., owner of the Rawhide, and I keep wondering if/when it gets sold and both Tom Seidler and Kevin O’Malley move to the Padres fulltime. It’s been nearly five years, and I’m anxious to see what Peter O’Malley calls “the next generation” completely take over the Padres.