The Firing Of Josh Byrnes

Josh Byrnes was hired by Jeff Moorad to be the General Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks on October 29, 2005. He was fired by the Diamondbacks on July 2, 2010. On December 3, 2010, Byrnes was hired by Jeff Moorad’s San Diego Padres as Vice President of Baseball Operations. On October 26, 2011 he was promoted to General Manager after Moorad allowed Jed Hoyer to leave for Chicago. Yesterday, on June 22, 2014, Josh Byrnes was fired by the Padres.

The Jeff Moorad era is officially over in San Diego.

I’ve not been a fan of Josh Byrnes’ tenure with the club. Some of that has been guilt by association, as he was Jeff Moorad’s boy from the beginning, and Jeff Moorad fought Tom Werner for worst owner in franchise history, and Moorad was never even officially the team’s controlling partner.

I was also quite a fan of Jed Hoyer and the team he assembled to rebuild this franchise from basically the ground up, and had Josh Byrnes not been available and not been Moorad’s boy, Jed and Jason McLeod and Jaron Madison might still be running this ball club. The Cubs may still be bad 3 seasons into the Jed Hoyer era, but at least they have a plan that you can see being executed, and there’s been a ton of young talent acquired that should pay massive dividends down the road.

Josh Byrnes’ Padres had no such plan. Yes, they drafted pretty well, and yes, many of the trades Byrnes made were net positives. However, in terms of building a roster capable of being anything more than mediocre, Byrnes was a huge failure. Often times it felt like he was settling for mediocre or hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

It was almost as if he never really believed he could build a winning team given the limitations put on him by ownership, and so he never really tried. In the off-season before the 2013 season, after a 76-86 record in 2012, he did virtually nothing. This past off-season, after another 76-86 season, he did more, and it was enough to get some hopes up, but by the time the season had actually started, it was obvious this roster was no better than the last two.

What bugged me about Byrnes more than anything was the way he spoke about the moves he made. It seems like it should be the moves themselves that bugged me, but they were generally defensible on their own. It was when he listed improved health and general upgrades as two of his top off-season priorities, and when he described Seth Smith as the final piece to the Padres offense. I created a tag in my posts, “Josh Byrnes Drives Me Nuts.” Seth Smith got a new nickname, The Final Piece. General Upgrades always gets a laugh.

I just always had this feeling that Josh Byrnes was never going to be the guy who built a sustainable successful franchise in San Diego. When he got more money to spend this off-season, he spent it on a reliever, an injured starting pitcher who will never actually pitch for the team, and on raises to players from the past two 76-86 teams. $20 million doesn’t get you that much these days, but it should probably get you more than that.

Ownership probably had unrealistic expectations for this team this year, but I think they would have settled for a small improvement over the past two seasons. When it became clear that wasn’t happening, Byrnes had to go. Bud Black and Phil Plantier may be next. The team can’t hit, and they seem to lack fire.

I’m torn on Bud Black. On the one hand, I think he’s fine. But he talks a lot about grinding, and there’s nothing fun or enjoyable about grinding. Who wants to watch a team grind through 162 games? Can he really inspire a team to greater heights? I’m not so sure.

What the Padres shouldn’t do now is ride the Kevin Towers bus to gunslinger station. What they absolutely should do is poach an Assistant General Manager from a successful franchise and let him or her do whatever is necessary to build a potential champion. They’re already being linked to some hot commodities from the A’s, Yankees, and Red Sox. There’s scuttlebutt about possibly bringing back McLeod. This is the right idea.

I personally am a fan of Mike Girsch, Assistant GM for the Cardinals. Nobody runs a better organization than the Cards, and he’s been there since 2007. If you want to build a winner, take from a winner. If you want to be the same old Padres, bring in a good ol’ boy.

The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays. Sometimes more than once. Follow me on Twitter.

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  • SDPads1

    “When he got more money to spend this off-season, he spent it on a
    reliever, an injured starting pitcher who will never actually pitch for
    the team, and on raises to players from the past two 76-86 teams.”

    Well said.

  • Thjbriggs

    Thank you so much for looking at the firing from a fair perspecitive!

  • ballybunion

    The two main Moorad hires, Garfinkel and Byrnes, are gone, but A.J. Hinch was also an original D’backs/Moorad hire, and even Omar Minaya came in two months before MLB tabled Moorad’s application. There might be a bit more churn coming.

    One thing that puzzles me is that Ron Fowler is painted as the owner, when he’s one of the minority owners and officially managing general partner, giving the ownership group a local face. No mention is made of the majority ownership, mainly The O’Malleys and Seidlers, both relatives of Peter O’Malley. Could Byrnes’ firing have happened without the majority owners’ approval?

    Peter O’Malley may, or may not, own a piece of that majority ownership group, but I’m guessing he has some influence with his sons and nephews. Only a fool would not take advantage of Peter O’malley’s experience, associations and connections, and I don’t think the kids and nephews are fools, but I have to wonder what role the majority owners, the O’Malleys, are playing.

  • Billy Lybarger

    My concern now Nathan is the front office having the fortitude to allow a proper tear down and rebuild of the organization. I am all for Mike Girsch coming into the fold, but will ownership, and now a seemingly more meddlesome Mike Dee, give him the reins and let him have a proper plan be put in place then executed?

    One could argue this team is closer than say the Astros were when they hired Jeff Luhnow away from the Cardinals. And Luhnow’s extreme makeover isn’t quite necessary given the Padres MLB and MiLB assets. However, an honest assessment from a prospective employee may not paint a very rosy picture.

    The big club has no first division positional player. The big club is without a top of the rotation starter, and anyone with any semblance of talent there should most likely be dealt by the deadline. Andrew Cashner is now turning back into the reliever most thought was his ceiling due to injuries that now look to be chronic. Kennedy should be traded, and the remaining pieces are all comparatively No. 5′s for most teams in the NL West. An opinion lie this would mean there is actually much to do, roster wise at the MLB level.

    Down on the farm, recent reviews have the organization dropping like a lead balloon. The top three prospects are having mixed results in the upper levels of the minors, and not one of the trio of Austin Hedges, Matt Wiser or Rymer Liriano have shown enough to move them up anyone’s top 100 list, let alone look like a sure fire first division guy. Injuries are decimating the once promising pitching staff, and to further the gloom, guys aren’t coming back healthy either. There may be something amiss with the development process, and a system overhaul will probably be recommended.

    So all this bad news could completely floor the front office. Mike Dee would be flabbergasted with how to sell a complete overhaul. The owners may not have the stomach for it, so they might not go with a guy that offers an honest assessment and a long term plan. I have a bad feeling we will see band-aids and bunting. No real rebuild, just more of a medicore attempt at keeping the faith and whatnot.

    Yay, Padres!