Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated lays out why Kevin Towers should be Executive of the Year. On top of everything Heyman points out, Towers sent a needed message to Arizona's players when he shopped potential superstar Justin Upton last offseason. The Gunslinger believed a culture of entitlement had taken root within the Diamondbacks. One prominent Padres player who is close to Towers saw it that way, too, telling me last September that if Arizona had the same chemistry as those Padres, it, not San Diego, would've been leading the National League West.
Towers has slugged two home runs as a GM taking over a club, the first with the Padres. In both instances, he inherited a talented nucleus, made several deft moves and, if Arizona doesn't collapse, saw his team win the National League West.
Among the Padres who awaited Towers in November 1995 when he replaced Randy Smith were two future Hall of Famers in Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman, in-their-prime stars such as Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley, a promising manager in Bruce Bochy, and frontline, young starting pitchers such as Andy Ashby and Joey Hamilton, not to mention a raft of relievers who would combine with Hoffman to form the NL's top bullpen in ERA and win probability added, and a prize prospect, Derrek Lee (drafted by Reggie Waller) who would fetch ace Kevin Brown in a trade after the 1997 season. Sizing up his first Padres team and finding his first of many pigeons among fellow GMs -- the Royals' Herk Robinson, who gave him Wally Joyner for Bip Roberts -- Towers made several smart upgrades to the San Diego roster. The resulting journey took the Padres to the playoffs in 1996 and the World Series in 1998 and contributed to Petco Park getting built.
Towers looms as a formidable adversary for the Padres, in part, as I wrote in March, because his Diamondbacks bosses are giving him leeway that he says he never enjoyed in San Diego. He still has to show he can built a strong farm system, something he never did here, but he says he got off to a good start when he hired Ray Montgomery to oversee Arizona's drafts. (Montgomery turned down the Padres when they offered the same job to him after the 2009 season. Jed Hoyer says Montgomery, formerly of the Brewers, was a "tremendous" hire by Towers.)
Towers also has more money to spend than he usually did with the Padres. For all of Arizona's financial thickets, which include being in baseball's worst market for per capita income, Towers still had $15 million more to spend on his payroll than Hoyer did this year, plus enough money to sign the third and seventh players taken in the draft. The team's spectacular training site that opened this year in Scottsdale also gives Towers a recruiting tool.
The Padres, meantime, are headed to a defeat total that likely will begin with a nine. Their payroll begins with a four.