Friday, October 30, 2009

Hazen interviews

Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen interviewed with the Padres for a front office job Thursday. Boston's director of player development since 2006, he's a former Padres minor leaguer and a Princeton alum. UPDATE: Hazen decided to stay with Boston.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

World Series connection

You might think 59 years is a long time.

To Jerry Coleman, it's just a blip between World Series involving the Yankees and the Phillies.

Win money from your friends by asking who won the Most Valuable Player award the last time the Yankees and Phillies met in the Fall Classic.

Not DiMaggio, Berra or Ford.

Not Rizzuto, Mize or Ashburn.

Not Raschi, Reynolds or Roberts.

They didn't stand a chance, not with Coleman, the skinny second-baseman known for his fielding prowess, knocking out the big hits for the Bronx Bombers.

Marilyn Monroe picked the wrong Yankee.

"Somebody had to carry the wand. Those turkeys and old-timers couldn't do it," Coleman cracked today.

He added: "It was 59 years ago. I was in my fifth career."

Harry Truman was president of the United States, the year was 1950 and the Cold War was rumbling in Korea.

Coleman was happy to be on a ballfield, instead of the cockpit of a divebomber. As a pilot, he had served in World War II, a role the Korean War would reprise.

Back to the baseball in the October sunlight. The Yankees won the Series in a sweep, outscoring the Phillies 11-5. The series opened at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, where the Yankees eked out victories by scores of 1-0 and 2-1. Games 3 and 4 drew crowds of 64,505 and 68,098 to Yankee Stadium.

Coleman had the only RBI in Game 1, off a sacrifice fly that scored Bobby Brown.

With his third hit of the afternoon, knocking home Gene Woodling with two outs in the ninth inning, he settled Game 3.

"It was a shot to left field where you could see the vapor trail coming off the ball," Coleman said, smiling.

"In the fourth game, I rested."

Players received a World Series bonus payment of $5,400 -- a sum that Coleman recalls a lot more clearly than the gift he got for being named MVP of the series.

"I think I got a plaque," he said. "My daughter has it. You'll have to check with her. I don't know what the hell it is."

The Padres aren't in the World Series, so when Coleman, one of their longtime broadcasters, tunes into the telecast Wednesday from his home in La Jolla, he'll be cheering for the Yankees to win their 27th World Series title.

"I'm rooting for them, period," he said. "The Phillies might have a little more pitching, I don't know."

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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moorad and Howser

Still appears Doogie Howser might become GM of the Padres. Here's what I was told about him: "Very bright. Hard worker. Very good listener. Has the administrative aspects down. Hasn't run a staff, so a challenge will be learning how to manage people. Baby face. Preppy look."

Howser apprenticed under another Boy Wonder, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, who did all Boy Wonders a favor by raising two World Series trophies not long after The Smartest Man in Baseball hired him as GM, not many years after Theo was handing out Padres game notes to the hacks who covered the team. My Howser source said of Doogie: "He's not a Theo Epstein, but who is?"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One of these weeks or months, I'll probably get around to my summing up of the Kevin Towers era. Towers became GM of the Padres in my second year on the beat, so there's a lot of ground to cover.

As for who will replace Towers as GM of your favorite baseball club -- beats me.

I have no idea who Jeff Moorad will hire as GM of the Padres.

Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer is a name I heard and reported the day Kevin Towers was officially fired -- and, in fact, the Padres asked for and received permission to interview him. Hoyer would appeal to children who are Padres fans. He appears to be 14 years old. Hey, it worked for Doogie Howser.

The Padres keep saying the next GM probably will not come from the Diamondbacks. Seems reasonable to me. The Diamondbacks lost 92 games last year, after at least one numbskull (hint: sportswriter from San Diego) picked them to win the National League West. Almost none of the folks calling the shots in Phoenix had anything do with Arizona winning the World Series in 2001. As for the club's promising youth movement of recent years, that owed a lot to scouting director Mike Rizzo, who left the franchise in July 2006.

Moorad used to work for the Diamondbacks. Commissioner Bud Selig, when he isn't frowning about other stuff, frowns on one club raiding another club's staff, so that may prevent Moorad from hiring a Diamondbacks official to become GM.

It's obvious that Moorad thinks highly of Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes, the former Red Sox assistant GM that he hired him into the job. Moorad gave Byrnes a contract whose length -- eight years -- made every other GM green with envy. Bright green. Would Moorad attempt to hire Byrnes again? Not if either Selig or Arizona's managing partner, Ken Kendrick, would raise a stink.

Remember, without Selig's help, Moorad would not be a minority owner of the Padres.

Just for kicks, let's talk about someone else who works for the Diamondbacks and used to work for Moorad. No, not Jerry DiPoto -- who's been linked to GM openings in the past -- or Peter Woodfork.


Rather, A.J. Hinch, the team's manager.

The obstacles to Moorad hiring someone from the Diamondbacks might make Hinch irrelevant to the GM search. Moorad might have someone else in mind, anyway.

So, let's be clear: I'm not implying that Moorad will hire Hinch as his GM.

But if mutual respect and compatibility alone were the deciding factors, I believe that Hinch would be either among the top candidates or the top candidate, presumably alongside Byrnes. As for the "raiding" obstacle, an American League official suggested to me last week that if Moorad really wanted Byrnes, Hinch or DiPoto, he and the Diamondbacks could try to work out some sort of compensation.

For what it's worth, Brynes seems to really like Hinch. In May, he moved Hinch from the farm director post into the manager's job, then extended his contract through 2012. It was an odd move because Hinch hadn't managed at any level.

The early returns were awful. Not that Hinch was largely to blame. The team stunk, period. But Hinch was learning on the job, and the perception among some Diamondbacks players was that Hinch was a puppet of Byrnes.

I had a theory about why Byrnes empowered Hinch to the extent that he did -- it had the side effect of being a preemptive strike, sending Moorad the message that Hinch was off limits.

I ran that theory by Hinch in June, and he chuckled.

"I'm flattered by that theory," Hinch said before a game at Petco Park. He smiled and added: "Not that I give it any credence."

I asked him about Moorad.

"I've known Jeff for 15 years," Hinch said in June. "He has a tremendous baseball mind, both on the business side and the baseball side. I'm happy for Jeff to get this type of opportunity with the Padres. It's good for our league. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Jeff and the way he's built his fingerprint in this game. Now, I'm going to try to do everything I can to make his life miserable over the next four years."

In the same chat, Hinch also praised Moorad's "vision," his ability to "see the big picture," his "patience" and his "heart."

Does Moorad hold Hinch in similar regard? I've been told that he does.

Will Moorad try to hire him? I haven't the slightest clue.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday notes

* Kevin Towers seems to like Padres CEO Jeff Moorad's description of him as a "gunslinger." Towers worked "gunslinger" into his new e-mail address.

*At "itmightbedangerous.blogspot.com," Padres executive Paul DePodesta wrote a touching piece on Towers. DePodesta landed a cool job with the Padres after the Dodgers fired him as their GM, and he expects Towers to bounce back as well. For my part, I expect that Towers will enjoy his next gig, either as a GM or a special assistant. Down the road, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on ESPN or Fox as a pundit.

* On the day he fired Towers, Moorad talked of wanting a GM who is a "strategic planner." Funny, that's how agent Scott Boras described DePodesta for a story I wrote in March. http://tinyurl.com/d9o6ce Once Boras used that description, I had a vision of DePodesta playing Stratego. A few major league scouts, by the way, tell me they saw a lot of DePodesta on the scouting trail this year.

* Am hearing Padres scout Chris Gwynn has a shot at becoming the club's farm director, which would cap a big year for the Gwynns.

* Not surprising that Towers, in his final press conference as Padres GM, singled out David Eckstein for praise. Towers pushed hard to sign Eckstein. And after the deal got done, he rebuffed in-house suggestions that Travis Denker get the job instead.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Who's next?

Jed Hoyer, assistant GM of the Red Sox, is among the names I've heard today for the Padres' GM job. UPDATE: The Padres asked for and received permission to interview Hoyer.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Towers on way out

Kevin Towers is not returning as general manager of the Padres, according to a major league source. The club will make the announcement on Saturday, when both CEO Jeff Moorad and Towers are to address reporters.

Towers, who is guaranteed well over $1 million next year, has been GM of the Padres since November 1995. On his watch, the club won four National League West titles and an NL pennant.

It's not clear who will replace Towers. But Padres executive Paul DePodesta, a former GM of the Dodgers, is in favor with Moorad and club president Tom Garfinkel, according to sources. DePodesta is likely to survive the front-office purge -- but it's unlikely he'll assume the GM job. His contract has two more years on it, with a salary comparable to that of many GMs.

Towers got a sense he was in trouble two weeks ago, when the club told him it was beginning a search for a new GM.

As of now, Towers doesn't appear likely to move into a GM job before or during the 2010 season. Instead, he's more likely to work as a scout for one of the many GMs that he considers a friend.

The shakeup in San Diego could extend to several baseball officials hired by Towers, including farm system overseer Grady Fuson and scouting director Bill Gayton. It's not expected that Gayton will remain as scouting director, although he might stay within the franchise. Both Fuson and Gayton have a year left on their contracts.

A Padres scout on the rise within the organization is Chris Gwynn, a client of Moorad's when Moorad was a player agent. When Moorad was a Diamondbacks executive, Gwynn was interviewed for the club's director of scouting job.

Moorad hired Garfinkel from the Diamondbacks, but don't look for him to hire another Diamondbacks official into the GM job.

Towers update

Corey Brock of MLB.com has an interesting update on Kevin Towers, via a quote from Padres CEO Jeff Moorad. "We're continuing our evaluation and assessment of multiple parts of the organization, baseball included. At this point, Kevin is our general manager, and is under contract through the 2010 season."

Doesn't sound like a glowing endorsement of Towers, does it?

Moorad is being consistent, for whatever that's worth. All along, he's said that he'll wait until the end of the season to complete his evaluation of Towers and the rest of the baseball front office. Check my blog post on Aug. 31, and you'll see a similar comment. At that time, Moorad also said Towers would have final say-so on personnel decisions within baseball operations.

If Moorad wants a new GM, it wouldn't be shocking, just because that happens so often in major league baseball and other industries. A new boss takes over and eventually brings in his own people.

Whatever happens, Moorad and Towers have shown they can work well together, judging by the many good moves the Padres have made since Moorad became CEO in late March. For what it's worth, the two have strengths that seem to fit. Few CEOs have more contacts within baseball than Moorad, a former player agent who is comfortable in either the clubhouse or the executive suites and knows how agents think. Towers is an information junkie, and Moorad's vast network of baseball sources could only help when the Padres gather information on potential trade prospects or draftees. Towers, for his part, is among the betters GMs at brokering trades. I quoted Moorad in March that he considers Towers unsurpassed at "the art of the deal."

Moorad also thought enough of Towers to interview him for Arizona's GM opening four years ago. It wasn't a mere chat. For nearly four hours, Towers met with Moorad and other Diamondbacks executives at a resort in Phoenix. In the end, Josh Byrnes got the job. That couldn't have been easy for Towers, who presumably wouldn't have interviewed with a division rival unless he thought he had the job.

Towers, the GM with the longest tenure, is guaranteed well over $1 million next year. That puts him in the upper echelon of GM incomes. Moorad hired Byrnes for a whole lot less than $1 million per year.

I highly doubt that Moorad wants a puppet for a GM. I'd be stunned if Moorad envisions himself as a de facto GM. Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch, who is close to Moorad, said in June that Moorad is a big-picture guy who "has a long-term vision" and "knows what he doesn't know."