Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gunslinger's triumph

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.


  1. Tom,

    I very much enjoy reading your blog and tweets. You have the most insightful analyses. And you are the only journalist/ commentator who is really critical of the padres.

    Maybe you can help me with a math problem I am having. The padres revenues over the last five years has always been >$100-120,000,000 (maybe more according to Forbes- it is easy to quickly come up with that number without Forbes' help) and the payroll 'starts with a 4 or 5' that leaves significant chunk of change in some bank account and not on the field. While the past is painful enough let's look at 2012-

    Payroll $50-55,000,000 if the powers-that-be live up to their words.

    TV: $30,000,000
    Other revenues: >$100,000,000

    Difference: >$80,000,000.


    I look forward to your insights on this issue.

    Best regards, Worldserious

  2. Worldserious:

    Thanks for your interest. I likely will write about Padres finances here again, although I may wait until after the NFL season. For now, a few tidbits:

    Towers has said total revenues for the Padres in 2009 were about $150 million.

    Forbes found the SDP the most profitable team in MLB last year. The Padres say Forbes was way off base, laughably so.

    The Padres pay about $17 million per year to service the ballpark debt.

    The Padres say it's more expensive to maintain Petco Park than outsiders realize.

    I've written that others in MLB outside of SDP expressed amazement at the $500 million-plus sales price for the club agreed to in 2009. John Moores negotiated that price with Jeff Moorad, and Bud Selig signed off on the deal. Some pretty savvy folks were shocked that the number was that high.


  3. Tom,

    I was pretty sure my numbers were conservative. This is really, really ugly and the SD press has failed its readers and the citizens of SD.

    A couple of questions/observations:
    1) Isn't San Diego a lot richer than Detroit and their payroll is at least 2X higher! What's up with that?
    2) I contend from how the padres' payroll has played out the last 5-7 years that Moores' divorce is/was nearly as contentious and debilitating as the McCourt mess and I have not seen any comparison in the press. Also Selig has been a hypocrite (I was going to write inconsistent but that is too mild a term) in how he has handled the two cases- not that McCourt should have been treated any differently. Moores has gotten away with the equivalent of a theft on a grand scale!

    I am 59 years old and I love baseball. I was 7 years old when my father took me to my first game- in 1959 at Tiger Stadium- Paul Foytack was pitching. And it pains me to watch this play out year after year after year with no end in sight. And no culpability.

    Again, I look forward to your reply AND your future article on the padres' finances.


    p.s. Do you have an email I could continue this discussion with you?