Monday, October 26, 2009

An era begins

Talked to the Smartest Man in Baseball today. Like a proud papa, he vouched for the Doogster.

"You're catching a rising star," he said this afternoon from his Red Sox office, and it was kind of sad to hear that raspy voice not screaming at me like in the old days.

"He's a new-style GM," he continued. "To be sure, he's not the old scout in a windbreaker. He's new age, new wave, new school."

Later today at Petco Park, Jeff Moorad introduced Howser as his GM and, sure enough, he looked new to me.

The contract runs four years with a club option for 2014. I'm hearing the front office purge soon will resume, with an announcement as soon as Tuesday about restructuring, but let's not dampen Howser's arrival.

He was impressive today. And he's got a sense of humor, putting him ahead of some lumps of coal who read this site. I told him that he looks so young that I dubbed him Doogie Howser, the teen-age M.D. "Yeah, I heard about that," he said, smiling, sort of, and wouldn't you know, his dad and grandpop were doctors but the Doogster only had eyes for baseball.

He said: "I'm 35 years old. Thirty-five, it seems like that's become the average for a GM."

Thirty-five being the new 25, the Doogster has more energy to burn than one of Obama's green power plants, so while everyone else is eating breakfast in San Diego, he'll be working to improve your favorite baseball club.

"He's not as young as his face suggests, but he also has one of the great attributes of youth -- enormous energy," said the Smartest Man in Baseball, who got past cancer and is a workaholic himself. "He came in as an hourly intern and worked his way up the ladder."

Moorad said Howser often toiled until 4 a.m. on Yawkey Way, making a name for himself among the brainiacs and go-getters in Boston's front office.

"I liked being able to hire someone out of the Red Sox organization," he said, noting that the Doogster has two World Series rings. "There's an argument that they've got three or four future GMs working in their front office. We think we got the best of that group. And I'm excited to have someone who has, indeed, been mentored by Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino."

Moorad's infatuation with the Red Sox goes back to his hiring of another Theo Epstein aide, Josh Byrnes, as GM of the Diamondbacks in November 2005. So far, the Byrnes era qualifies as a C-minus, but give the Snakes an A for tricking me into picking them first last March.

Howser was a Red Sox fan while growing up in New Hampshire, making him familiar with whining fans and World Series droughts. I asked him when the Padres will break their own little curse.

"Hopefully, it won't take 86 years," he said. "It's at 40 and I hope we don't have 46 more years (to wait)."

A writer from Boston, grateful to be far from Sox fans mourning the team's quick ouster from the playoffs, asked the Doogster if he looks forward to fleecing his mentor Theo in a trade, and I mentioned that the Gunslinger had already done that in the Mirabelli deal. Wasn't able to ferret out whether the Doogster advocated that move. "I was asleep," he said. "I think it was like 2 a.m." So, that's how the Gunslinger does it, striking while everyone's groggy. I reminded Howser he's supposed to be working at 2 a.m. if the Padres are ever to win a World Series.

Here are some of the other bases covered today:

* Howser put himself "head and shoulders" above the other GM candidates, Moorad said, by compiling a detailed analysis of the Padres baseball talent, including a breakdown of how he envisioned the front office working. He needed a binder for the treatise, which runs some 50 pages.

* Previously he'd interviewed for GM jobs with the Pirates and Nationals, which explains why Padres look like the '27 Yankees to him. "I think I'm incredibly lucky to have a lot of pieces in already," he said.

* Moorad, outdoing himself, used the phrase "at the end of the day" at least five times. He pointed out to me afterward that he hadn't used the phrase "strategic thinker" or "strategic planner" throughout the news conference and interviews afterward. I asked him when the strategic plan calls for the Padres to win their first World Series. "I'll let you know in a couple of months," Moorad said. "Until there's a victory parade in San Diego, we won't rest."

* New England is stuffed with smart people and makes a mean clam chowder but Howser said: "There is no magic formula that I learned in Boston. There is no special sauce. It comes down to great scouting."

* Rest assured that the Doogster's spell-binding binder includes several paragraphs about fitting the ballplayer talent to Petco Park, something the Gunslinger never mastered, although he was getting better at it. "It's really important to dominate your home games," Howser said, too classy to mention that his new employer, using its first-round pick in 2005, opted for Cesar Carrillo over super-fast center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, whose exploits helped Boston win it all two years ago.

* The Doogster will be limited in bringing over his pals from the Red Sox. Before Randy Smith left the Padres to become GM of the Tigers in November 1995, the Smartest Man in Baseball made him agree that he wouldn't select any Padres minor leaguers in the Rule V draft for a year. Smith also wasn't allowed to hire any Padres personnel for a year, a rule that he got around when the contracts of two Padres scouts expired before he went to Detroit. Today, The Smartest Man in Baseball declined comment when I asked him if he tied Howser's hands similarly. "I say that in part because I'm not sure what limitations there may be," he said. Brain drains can have a huge impact on a club. Padres majority owner John Moores was remiss in not restricting The Smartest Man in Baseball after he sacked him early this decade. The Padres ended up losing a lot of talented people to Boston, including the scout who persuaded Jake Peavy to forgo a scholarship to Auburn, Mark Wasinger, and Jason McLeod, who's excelled as Boston's scouting director and now might have interest in returning to San Diego.

* I'm still hearing that Bill Gayton will not return as scouting director of the Padres, that Grady Fuson may not survive as the farm system's overseer and that Padres scout Chris Gwynn is on the rise within the franchise.

* Both Moorad and the Doogster like the Padres' increased emphasis on speed and athleticism, notably in the 2009 amateur draft, and Moorad said it showed up at Petco Park this year. "To take nothing away from teams that have been built here in the past, we feel that the second half of last season, when the club demonstrated some more athleticism and speed, perhaps was a glimpse of the future, and the kind of clubs that ought to be built here going forward." Moorad said. "To be sure, it was a theme of our discussions. Jed brought it up day one, and Jed consistently expressed his belief that that was an inherent advantage that we have at Petco, and we ought to be taking advantage of it every day."

* Why Howser instead of another year for the Gunslinger? "A fresh set of eyes and analysis," Moorad said today.

* Does the Doogster have final say on player moves? "He certainly has the ability to motivate the final decisions," Moorad said, topping himself once again.


  1. Who is the smartest man in baseball?

  2. Once again Tom, thanks for the Blog! Keep digging, what's next?

  3. Weird blog. A bunch of inside jokes...

  4. Until you stop using all of these nicknames...especially Doogie Howser...I will stop reading your blog. Its a painful read.

  5. I've never heard the moniker "The Smartest Man In Baseball" but if you're a Padres fan I think it was a pretty explicit reference since Tom said that the "SMIB" felt like a proud poppa talking about Jed Hoyer.

    Doogie Howser was a crappy show but it's an appropriate reference given how young JH looks and how talented he's alleged to be.

    Lighten up people.