The Hangover: Ron Fowler Speaks (Again)

Before we get to Ron Fowler’s comments, let’s briefly discuss Jered Weaver‘s start to 2017. It’s been bad.

Weaver seems like a really good guy, with a sort of self-effacing sense of humor and candor that doesn’t often show in athletes, specifically when they’re down on their luck. But he’s been really bad. I’m not sure why anyone is particularly surprised by it, though, and maybe they aren’t. Last year Weaver posted a 7.50 DRA, worst in the whole darn league, and a full run worse than James freakin’ Shields. By Baseball Prospectus’ WARP calculation, he was worth negative (read: negative) 4.4 wins, a level of ineptitude rarely broached by WAR-based metrics.

Along with declining numbers across the board, Weaver’s fastball velocity has been in a much-publicized nosedive, dropping from the high 80s/low 90s a few years ago all the way down to the low-to-mid 80s now. There’s a good shot Joe Righthander, down at the local D3 Juco, throws harder than the 34-year-old Weaver does right now.

There was a very small chance that Weaver was going to be good this year, and slightly larger chance that he’d be okay, and a good chance he’d stink. I’m still convinced that the Padres signed him in part because he’s a good dude and in part because he wouldn’t impede the tank. And maybe, just maybe, he’d eat some innings and turn out to have a hint of trade value by July. But I’d be surprised if anyone in the baseball operations department had high expectations, given what we know about Weaver’s declining ability to get major-league hitters out.

And, for the record, Weaver’s actually been worse than expected. His DRA so far this year is 12.16—again, an almost impossibly high number. His BPro WARP is already -2.8, swiftly catching last year’s gaudy figure in just 35 innings and change. He’s allowed 14 home runs. It’s been bad, but everyone knows that, including Weaver, who has admitted as much in the press and on twitter on multiple occasions.

A good, sound organization handles this one way: They simply cut ties with Weaver when the time is right.

Let’s be honest, Weaver’s poor performance hardly matters in the context of the season, but there’s perhaps a level of suckitude that’s even too far for a rebuilding last-place club to endure. If that time is now, then this hypothetical smart organization cuts ties with Weaver now. If it’s after his next start, fine. If it’s in June, then it’s in June. Point is, they keep quiet about it, they keep the grumbling inside the Petco Park offices, and they simply act when the time comes, all with respect to a veteran who’s busting his ass despite an arm that just doesn’t work the way it used to.

The Padres handle it a different way: They have executive chairman Fowler call Weaver out in the media, a strange but consistent tactic that does nobody any good. Here’s the money quote:

We’ve had several performances from Jered that have been not very good, and Jered owns them,” Fowler said. “He’s very matter-of-fact in his quotes — he’s let the team down, he’s very disappointed in his performance. But are we going to let this continue? I think this is a short leash and we’ve got to make some decisions. He started last year very poorly and ended up (12-12) for a sub-.500 team. We’re hoping there’s something left, but the last several performances don’t give us much cause to be positive.

Why? Why is someone saying these things. Essentially giving Weaver a one-start ultimatum, in the media, is some high level of batshit crazy. Or, at least, most generously, totally unnecessary. We get it. Weaver’s been bad, embarrassingly bad, and it can’t persist throughout the summer. But if you don’t want Weaver to struggle on your team, don’t sign him. And if you don’t want him to continue to struggle on your team, get rid of him. Don’t talk about it on the radio. Bigger picture, Fowler really has no business discussing the minutiae of the baseball team at all in this kind of forum, as he’s shown time after time.

Either way, here’s what he could have said:

Well, it’s been a rough start for Jered, but the organization is behind him 100 percent. We think he’s going to turn it around.

Period. Next question. If you really wanted, you could even throw in a “if he doesn’t turn it around, we’ll address the situation then” barb. There’s really no reason to go any further, other than to make your organization look some combination of silly and petty. As Geoff Young said last year, it’s a good way to lose friends and irritate people.

Unlike last year with Shields, though, Fowler’s comments won’t effect whatever sliver of trade value Weaver retains, or take away any trade leverage for the Padres. A trade is pretty much off the table at this point, at least one that returns something of moderate interest. His comments only reaffirm that the organization doesn’t necessarily know how to act sometimes, and, as Young went on to discuss, possibly dissuade future free agents from putting San Diego at the top of their wish list.

Even if Fowler’s comments don’t have any tangible long or short term negative side effects, I still can’t find a good reason why you’d make them. It’s not like they’re going to make Weaver try any harder or find that extra five mph hidden up his right sleeve. All the comments do is take any blame away from Fowler, or the baseball ops staff, and place it squarely at the feet of Weaver. In the words of Bob ‘Bulldog’ Briscoe, that stinks and it’s total BS.

I don’t necessarily think the Padres are a bad organization, and I’m sure Fowler is a fine person and all. In fact, I’m probably higher on the baseball side than most, and I think they’ve done a good job over the last year or year and a half of consistently making sound baseball decisions. But the other side, the business/ownership side, has a long history of embarrassing snafus, all varying in egregiousness. Fowler’s radio commentary might not crack a top 5 list in the Padres snafu genre, but it remains an unnecessary and unwanted tradition for a team that doesn’t need the bad press.

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