A Tale Of Two Seasons

Back in February, in the inaugural month of Padres Public, my third post to the site since our launch was a comparison piece about the offseasons of the Padres and the Cleveland Indians called A Tale Of Two Offseasons. Being a Cleveland area resident, I noted the similarities in the franchises, from market size to revenue to the inability of sports teams to win championships for the two cities as a whole.

I then described the completely different paths the two baseball franchises had taken in preparing their teams for the 2013 season. The Padres had made a few minor moves, but nothing major, the biggest being the addition of Tyson Ross via trade from Oakland. The Indians had made so many moves that in the end I missed some of the more important ones in my post.

The point of my post wasn’t to say that the Indians were going to be good and the Padres bad, or even that the Indians would finish with a better record than the Padres. I simply thought the aggressive moves the Indians made, both in terms of roster changes and additions to payroll, would put them in a better place to succeed than the Padres in 2013. As I said at the time, “the Indians located the holes in their roster and filled them with some of the best available options… (while) the Padres publicly identified holes in their roster entering the offseason and then decided they weren’t really holes.”

As it turned out, things worked out exactly like you’d think they would when given those two philosophically different examples, except usually those examples are given with the value of hindsight. The Indians rode their aggressive moves to a 92-70 record and a home playoff game, while the Padres went from 76-86 in 2012 to a 76-86 record in 2013. I hate to say I told you so, and I won’t, since I didn’t really.

No, the Indians didn’t make it past the Wild Card game, though a 1-game playoff is always a complete crapshoot. It could also be argued that they weren’t quite as good as their record, as they finished 3 games ahead of their pythagorean record. Even more, some of their bigger acquisitions weren’t really the difference makers in their season, it was big and unpredictable seasons from smaller acquisitions like Yan Gomes, Ryan Raburn, and Scott Kazmir as well as solid seasons by holdover starting pitchers Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber (of the Ryan Ludwick trade), and Ubaldo Jimenez that really made the difference in their season.

These things are all true. Offseason additions Brett Myers, Mark Reynolds, and Trevor Bauer were all non-factors. Big contract grabbers Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn were both fine, but neither lived up to the expectations of their salary. However, these examples miss the point. The difference between the Indians and Padres was always about style.

What the offseason moves showed me then and then what a season’s worth of baseball confirmed was that the Indians were clearly interested in winning in 2013 while the Padres weren’t.  I wasn’t a fan of the Padres’ strategy of standing pat then, and I’m not a fan of it now. As it turned out, standing pat last winter led to standing pat during the season. If you see holes, fill them as best you can. A partially filled hole is better than an unfilled one.

As we have entered the offseason heading into the 2014 season, the Padres have money to spend, with payroll expected to rise 20%, surpassing $80 million for the first time in franchise history. As it stands now, if no significant changes are made to the team, it will cost roughly $70 million. There will have to be additions to get over that payroll hump, but more than that, there will need to be additions and some subtractions to get this team where the Indians went in 2013: contention.

The team might be headed in the right direction on its own, but it still needs to be directed further to achieve its goals. If they want to win in 2014, the first step is for the front office to act like that’s the goal. If not, we can’t expect anything more than another stand pat season.

The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays. Follow me on Twitter.

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.

  • USMC53

    Great post, and thanks for calling attention to the “Tale of Two Offseasons” post from back in the Spring. I hadn’t read it yet, and it’s great, too.
    Totally agree; ownership needs to show that they’re committed to winning. I can sit here and rationalize standing pat with what we have (i.e., “If CQ stays healthy for a whole season, he’s a legit middle-of-the-order threat, so let’s hold what we’ve got and see how it plays out now that he’s had surgery, etc., etc…”), but the writing is on the wall: What we have isn’t good enough. Fowler, show us you’re committed to challenging the Dodgers (or at least the Reds and Pirates).

  • Sac Bunt Melvin

    Good stuff. To nitpick, and it’s especially unfair since this isn’t so much a “season in review” piece, I feel the Padres missing Everth Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal, and to a lesser extent Cameron Maybin deserves mentioning.

    • Nathan Veale

      Except Grandal was already expecting to miss time, Maybin had a known pre-existing injury, and Everth wasn’t a known commodity coming into the year. It’s a GM’s job to protect against these kind of scenarios by building depth. That’s one of the things the Indians did especially well this year. They were supposed to be counting on guys like Reynolds, Myers, and Bauer, but they didn’t really need them because they’d picked up players like Gomes, Raburn, and Kazmir.

      • Sac Bunt Melvin

        I actually had something in my original comment about the importance of depth and that being the team’s responsibility, but took it out for simplicity.

  • Bielsa Widow

    “Living up to the expectations of their salary” is the sort of thinking that keeps the Padres, and their fans, stuck in neutral. In baseball, you don’t get what you pay for, you get what you overpay for.

    It’s why everyone’s so concerned about the second number in Headley’s future deal even though there’s no clear replacement in place, either at second (with Gyorko moving back to third) or in the middle of the order.