The People v. A.J. Preller

In case you weren’t paying attention, a General Manager was suspended 30 days by Major League Baseball, and it wasn’t Dave Stewart for taking over an on-the-rise Diamondbacks team and running them into the ground. Ineptness is generally fine with Major League Baseball. Were it not, our beloved Padres would have been forced to fold a long time ago.

No, it was our own AJ Preller, suspended for the 2nd time as an employee of a baseball franchise, this time for failing to disclose required medical information when trading all-star starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz to the Red Sox for top prospect Anderson Espinoza.

It’s a really crazy situation. According to multiple reports, Preller, whose suspension begins today, pissed off just about everyone he made a trade with this year. It went so far that the Padres had to take back Colin Rea from the Marlins after he partially tore his UCL ligament in his first start after being traded, with the Padres having to send intriguing prospect Luis Castillo back to the Marlins to make things right.

The White Sox were also upset with the medical information disclosed during the James Shields trade, but despite the tire fire he’s been in their uniform, they sought no compensation and did not formally complain to the league about the trade. They’re stuck with him, but the Padres are paying most of his salary already, and Erik Johnson, the guy they sent back in the trade, almost instantly evaporated into the ether never to be seen again. Maybe he’s pitching for the Padres in the Upside Down.

It seems only the Red Sox tattled to the league like the whiny babies they are, which led to the investigation into the Padres record-keeping, which led to the 30 day suspension, which has now led to a variety of hot takes from Padres fans and from around the baseball world.

The takes. My God, the takes. People have gotten so worked up that, after taking a 4 month leave of absence, I have to returned to writing. I had no intention to blog again anytime soon, what with the Padres tanking, me barely watching, and you barely paying attention, but there has been so much nonsense spewed about this situation that I could no longer stay silent, could not just continue limiting myself to just 140 perfectly crafted characters at a time. I had to come back to take on the hot takes, to battle the bloviating, to be the arbiter on reasonable thinking.

Full disclosures before I begin: I am not immune to hot taking. This June, the Padres drafted Cal Quantrill with the 8th overall selection, then Hudson Potts (nee Sanchez) with the 24th pick, and then Eric Lauer with the very next pick. And I was angry on the internet. I thought it was one of the worst allocations of resources since resource allocation had begun to be tracked by Elias. As the draft went along and other picks were selected, and then after the draft when those players were signed, I was not only not angry but was actually pretty happy with the results of the Padres draft, and since then I’ve been pleased with this draft class’s progress in their short stints in the minor league system.

I also understand that people, myself included, use Twitter and the internet as a way to talk things through as they form their opinions. I do not want to blame anyone personally for the hot takes. Hot takes happen to everyone. I am here to do battle with the takes themselves. Let us begin.

Take: Come on. It was just an honest mistake, guys.

You are a Padres loyalist and your gut reaction is to defend the Padres and their actions. You may even be on the coaching staff. Yes, there are no written rules in the CBA as to what should and should not be reported to the MLB medical database. Yes, Drew Pomeranz, Colin Rea, and James Shields all made all their scheduled starts with the Padres, and Pomeranz in particular has continued to make all his scheduled starts since being traded. Yes, the Padres hired their new trainer late in the off-season.

On the other hand, every team the Padres traded with this season felt like they were withholding medical details that should have been reported. The Padres admittedly kept two sets of files, one with a detailed report of all treatments received by each player, and one with just the bare bones data of players on the disabled list. When making trades, teams don’t do physicals, it’s not logistically possible. They rely on the honesty of their trading partner to let them know of any medical issues a player may be dealing with.

The Padres were intentionally gaming that system, likely hoping that withholding that information would either help allow them to make more beneficial trades and/or keep secret any medical tactics they were experimenting with in order to maintain their players’ health. There is no other reasonable explanation. If you believe this was a simple paperwork error, you might also believe that Donald Trump can’t release his tax returns because he’s under audit.

Take: Yeah, the Padres cheated. Good! They need to be taking chances like this.

You are also a Padres loyalist, but you’re frustrated, and you’ll do just about anything to win a damn World Series. Bend the rules? Break the rules! Just don’t get caught, and if you do get caught, you’re just glad they’re trying, unlike the previous regimes who never spent any money, never drafted anybody good, and never won anything.

Yes, one reason the Padres hired AJ Preller was because he is aggressive and willing to take risks. Yes, most teams are probably doing something that is outside the rules. Yes, the Red Sox just got busted for signing international prospects to package deals. That doesn’t excuse the Padres. You may be okay with cheating, or at least pushing the boundaries, but when you get caught it can be a big problem for the organization.

Preller was suspended 30 days. That is essentially unprecedented punishment for a General Manager. While he is not missing time during a busy time of the year for his position, this is absolutely a big deal. Major League Baseball is sending a message that this kind of intentional deceit will not be tolerated.

The Padres will be under a microscope going forward. General Managers need the trust of the other GM’s to make deals happen. While the Padres will likely still be able to make trades going forward, teams will also likely be more reluctant to make a trade unless they are sure they are getting both the full story on a player and also aren’t giving the Padres too much back in return. This suspension will have lasting effects.

Take: If they cheated, why do they get to keep Anderson Espinoza? How is that fair?

You are a Red Sox fan, and you are probably a Patriots fan, and you should just keep your mouth shut and move along. Tom Werner especially should shut the hell up, and maybe just go straight to hell. After what Werner did to the Padres, that he’s still allowed to own sports franchises is a gift he does not deserve.

The reason the Red Sox do not deserve any compensation is because they kept Drew Pomeranz, have continued to use Drew Pomeranz, and will still own the rights to Drew Pomeranz’s services through the 2018 season. They desperately needed starting pitching, so they bought themselves a controllable all-star, and while they may have been right to have concerns about the Padres medical reporting, what they didn’t want was to lose their new, uninjured starting pitcher, because they very much needed him.

While Pomeranz may not have been everything the Red Sox hoped for, they were the ones who chose to trade for a pitcher with just 3 months of all-star caliber pitching performance. They took a risk and bought high on a pitcher with a limited track record, hoping his good run would continue. That is on them. Yes, the Padres were cheating. No, you do not get to keep the item and get your money back. This isn’t MeUndies.

Take: AJ Preller should be fired.

This take believes that AJ Preller’s offense is so great that he cannot be allowed to continue running a baseball team, or that it is so great that he will not be able to continue to effectively run a baseball team. Here’s the problem: we’re talking about record-keeping, not steroids, gambling, or even hacking.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that important. As long as the Padres do not continue to skirt the rules on medical reporting, there is no reason why this can’t just go away eventually. If, in the course of further investigating that may or may not occur, other cheating comes to light, then we can talk about firing Preller and President of Baseball Operations Mike Dee (who should be fired for other reasons). Until then the Padres should keep their heads down, continue the rebuilding process, and allow AJ Preller to do his job, perhaps with more oversight from their inept President of Baseball Operations.

The overarching theme of what I’m saying is that yes the Padres cheated, yes they screwed up, yes they deserve to be punished, yes they were punished severely, and yes the Red Sox and their fans are ridiculous assholes.

A couple more quick thoughts before I wrap this up:

  • It’s been reported that the Red Sox conducted an MRI on a healthy Drew Pomeranz and found the issue the Padres were hiding from them. First, do the Red Sox really do MRI’s on pitchers who aren’t expected to miss a start? The Padres certainly don’t. It’s unlikely the Padres were aware of what they were treating Pomeranz for. What they likely knew was that he was experiencing a small amount of soreness and prescribed a preventive anti-inflammatory as a precaution. Also, wouldn’t it be nice if the Padres did more MRI’s on minor issues? Sometimes they wait weeks to do them on major issues.
  • Isn’t it fun to watch the national press forced to pay attention to the Padres, either with a weird angle or with little basic knowledge of what’s actually happening with the team? There’s Buster Olney, who I think is usually fair but clearly isn’t a fan of AJ Preller. There’s Deadspin, who focused entirely on Preller’s failed first season with the team and ignored his so far successful pivot to a rebuild. There’s Jeff Passan, who obviously doesn’t care about the Padres but had to write something. There’s even a guy who works for Sports Illustrated wondering if the Red Sox can sue the Padres. Really? At least we have San Diego native Jorge Arangure running Vice Sports to keep his folks in line.

What do you think? Am I being unfair to any of these hot takes? Would it be worth losing Preller if we also got to bounce Dee and bring in a real President of Baseball Operations who actually had some experience running a baseball franchise? Can the Seidler family please buy out Ron Fowler already? Wouldn’t it be nice if we still had Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod running things? Thanks for nothing, Jeff Moorad.

Finally, before I finish, I would just like to take a second to offer my sincerest and deepest condolences to Yangervis Solarte, his three daughters, and the rest of their family and friends for the loss of Solarte’s wife, Yuliette, who passed away on Saturday after a battle with cancer. My thoughts are with Yangervis during this tragic and difficult time. Yuliette Solarte was 31.

Follow me on Twitter, where I will take full responsibility for choosing to drink this Pumpkin Spice Hard Cider that was given to me. I didn’t have to accept it, I certainly didn’t have to drink it, and I do not deserve compensation for doing so, even though it came in a mixed six-pack that we supposed to be all beer. I’m not a ridiculous asshole.

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  • ballybunion

    One little correction: the Padres don’t HAVE a “President of Baseball Operations”. A.J. Preller is the General Manager and Vice President in charge of all baseball operations. He answers directly to the Team’s President and CEO, Mike Dee.

    Second little correction: Preller is the VP in charge, so he got the suspension. Buster Olney’s report didn’t mention anybody by name, just “front office people” (plural!), and his sources provided different names, so he didn’t use any.

    My take is that this was a group effort, including Mike Dee who was reported to be in all the meetings, and that Ron Fowler, who is upset with Preller, is still totally in the dark about how Mike Dee operates. I seems to me that the Padres are badly in need of a front office overhaul, with elimination of the CEO position, and a separation of the VP of baseball operations from the GM job, with the GM, Preller, answering to the VP of baseball operations, a senior baseball guy.

    The team president should have no oversight of the baseball end of the franchise except setting budgets as directed by the owner-partner who is designated managing general partner. Ron Fowler should be replaced in that job with another ownership partner, preferably one of the Seidler or O’Malley kids, the faction that owns the controlling interest in the ballclub.

    People keep saying Fowler agreed to be managing partner for five years, and he’s begun the fifth year already. My hope is that a change is made this off-season, with either Tom Seidler or Kevin O’Malley, co-owners of the Visalia Rawhide, taking over. It’s now time for both Fowler and Dee to go, and for Peter O’Malley’s “next generation” sons and nephews to step up.

  • Billy Lybarger

    I too fall into the “hot take trap.” And from time to time regret my takes, but usually use them to form an opinion over time. I smiled often at this piece as it seems we have all moved away for similar reasons and similar motivations. Dustin starting the Now Brewing section was a nice respite from my retreat.

    I know look forward to returning in earnest, and the only way I see that happening is the front office supporting AJ’s rebuild and letting him continue on the path he has set. I am not delusional in thinking next season will be competitive, but it should be enough to keep interest. I certainly don’t want to step backwards from here.

    Good stuff as usual, though Nathan.
    Looking forward to more next year.

  • CallingOutBS

    As a Sox fan I think the SD front office is in need of an overhaul as well. It looks like you guys have FINALLY gotten that wish. If it makes you feel any better the Pomeranz deal didn’t help us any and I’ve never heard of the “prospect” we threw you. Then again, Will Middlebrooks ended up on your team. I remember feeling bad for you over that since we knew he was over here in Boston. The uniform situation resembles the front office situation, no stability and flipping off the fans and their wishes, as well as constant “rebuilding” that is by design, a park that should have Gwynn in the name and not some corporate lease which will eventually not get renewed and take away even more identity.