Jed Hoyer and A.J. Smith had a lengthy chat recently, the two San Diego GMs meeting before a game at Petco Park. Hoyer is from New England, still roots for fellow Wesleyan University (Conn.) alums Bill Belichick (Patriots) and Eric Mangini (Browns) but says he's a Chargers fan.
"I rooted for them last year and I hope to continue," he said, adding that it's important to San Diego's sports culture that both the Padres and Chargers do well.
Hoyer said Smith has done an "awesome job" of building the Chargers into a "perennial contender."
Looks to me that Hoyer is starting out his GM tenure like Smith did -- impressively. At the season's one-third mark, here's a quick review of the Doogster's key player acquisitions and a grade for each.
* Jon Garland. He's 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA after 11 starts and 67 innings. One-year contract. Not much else to say. A+
* Yorvit Torrealba. Has a .362 on-base percentage and gets high marks for handling a pitching staff that leads the league in ERA. Like Garland, the catcher signed a budget friendly one-year deal. A
* Jerry Hairston Jr. Hit two decisive home runs against the Cardinals and a grand slam in Monday's rout of the Mets. All three homers came at Petco Park, where his pull power plays. Defensively, he's not great but has softened the absence of shortstop Everth Cabrera. The .289 OBP lowers his grade. B+
* Matt Stairs. I wasn't wild about this signing because I think veteran left-handed hitters in decline are extra vulnerable at Petco, as hitting there might lengthen swings that tend to be long already because of age and rust. Stairs has 18 Ks in 42 at-bats and a .271 OBP. Has done some good things, both as a pinch-hitter and a mentor. C-
I've seen comments from Hoyer that he takes little credit for the team's fast start, instead praising the Gunslinger. Nice touch. I'm on record that Hoyer's staffing decisions within the baseball front office brought in or promoted people who get high marks for people skills and work ethic. We'll see how they mesh. I like that he boosted the number of scouts, especially within Southern California, where the Padres have underachieved. In time, I'll be interested to see if he has the ability to coax extra dollars out of the man who hired him -- CEO Jeff Moorad -- if that's what the Padres need to sign impact draftees or major league free agents, or retain Adrian Gonzalez (more on him on another day). I'm not saying that Moorad will be miserly, but part of a GM's job is going to the mat for a budget-stretching gamble when it's needed. Hoyer's mentor in Boston, Theo Epstein, was able to get his superiors on board when it meant spending big bucks for certain amateurs or pros who cost more than the general marketplace had valued them. It didn't always work out, but without Epstein's logic-driven pitches to his bosses, I doubt The Matrix would've had as much success as it's had on his watch.