Padres mailbag: Money, Manny, many more answers

Three weeks until spring training seems like a perfect time to do a mailbag.

Also, it seems there are lingering questions about the Padres and their process.

So here goes, against (someone else’s) better judgment.

I appreciate that wise counsel. But some of the best things in life come when you do something that is not recommended.

I think much of it was expected.

Now, let’s put this backlash in perspective. Certainly, in a community known as Padres Twitter and in other segments of the fandom, there was much backlash. Believe it or not, there were also people who found the article informative and some who even approved of what ownership is doing. I am neither minimizing nor belittling what backlash there was; I am only providing perspective.

That said, I think a certain level of the animus was disconcerting to the Padres. I can’t say for certain, so I guess I am playing psychologist here, which may or may not be worse than playing a journalist.

But anyway, here is one of the things Peter Seidler said to me Monday morning:

“You absolutely have my word there will come a time not far from now where we spend money around our core players to construct what (A.J.) Preller believes is a championship-level team.”

It’s not the first time he’s said such a thing. It was just the first time he said so after my two articles — on the team’s finances and ownership’s excuses/explanations being invalid after a while.

Because they’ve said so, and because they have put their money where their mouth is before.

Between the folly of ’15 and international signings in ’16, they have spent about $160 million. Plus they signed Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer. Those are real things. You can disagree with the wisdom of those expenditures, but they are real.

That is not to say they have done enough or that fans shouldn’t be downright angry. But it seems the assertion in many parts is that they haven’t tried.

Maybe the biggest root of their recent problems is that they’ve actually failed.

Probably the level that has been reported the White Sox were in at — and which his agent denied — which is about $25 million a year.

I wish I could tell you. They wish they could tell you.

They expect a lot to fall in place after Manny Machado signs.

Educated guess: David Bote.

I think so.

Logan Allen and/or Chris Paddack.

Issue with Paddack is an innings limit this season, but he will pitch in the majors sooner than later.

Ever? Yes, they could rise to that on occasion.

Generally? No.

I do expect them to be competitive. I base that on what they have said and the script they are following (Houston, KC, Cleveland, even Colorado and Milwaukee).

Literally, according to spotrac, the MLB average in 2018 was $139.3 million. But the top four teams had an average payroll of $206.75 million, which throws the average out of whack. So even including slots 5-8 (average of $174.75 million), the average of the 26 teams not called the Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers or Cubs is about $129 million.

I expect the Padres to be at least near that every year very soon.

Maybe sit down.

Because I can’t give you an answer that doesn’t include intangibles.

And while I can speak to those intangibles being off the charts, the Padres were surprised at his precipitous drop-off in ’18. In order for his intangibles to actually matter in the long run, he certainly needs to be more like the player he was from 2011-17.

They believe Myers is a better outfielder than first baseman, and no one in the organization has said to me they think Josh Naylor is a bona fide championship-level player. He’s their 15th-ranked prospect. I believe they think more highly of certain players outsiders have ranked lower than him. (This is not a slight to Naylor; simply a caution sign about overvaluing prospects.)

You could look to a columnist and/or a radio host, both of which I was in a previous life.

I want to make clear that the questions I ask should attempt to hold them accountable. And I do ask plenty of questions and write plenty of things that point out shortcomings. I also write far more analysis than most beat writers. But that is as far as I can push my role.

Those who know me know I’m not a big hugger.

Plus, this girl comes in for the hugs a lot.

Penny
Penny. From the Kevin Acee offseason collection

But thank you.

They believe that fan experience is part of their responsibility and their appeal. The numbers indicate they are not wrong about it appealing to a number of people. Of the 13 teams that did not have attendance declines in 2018, they are one of three that had a losing record. The other two were the Angels and Phillies, who finished 80-82.

Of course, the Padres know they eventually have to marry a good team with a good ballpark.

Also, one thing I remember from my unfortunate two years following the Chargers’ “attempt” to stay in San Diego was that several industry experts said it was important to maintain/improve a stadium virtually every offseason. The teams that don’t do so end up crying about their ballpark being outdated after 20 years. See Braves, et al.

Both.

They absolutely sense the frustration. And I believe Ron Fowler has used the term “vocal minority” in radio interviews before.

You’re welcome.

I think that could be the way it is structured, a la Hosmer.

What might keep them from doing it? The price. Also, maybe Manny Machado isn’t the kind of guy they want. No one is saying he’s Matt Kemp. (And maybe with Hosmer and Kinsler in the clubhouse, Kemp wouldn’t have been what he was in San Diego.) But there are plenty of people in baseball who think Machado is not a good guy.

Disclaimer: You asked. I answered. Don’t need to be a great guy to be a great player.

Also, by the way, I am fine with you putting quotes around “book opening.” They opened a portion of their books to me. I explained I was unable to share all I saw, and there were things I didn’t see. I referred to it as them opening their books because it certainly was more than any previous Padres owner has done and more than any owner I know of has volunteered for public consumption.

My choice was to not share what I knew or to share what I knew. I decided to share.

No, I have not. That doesn’t mean he’s not still on the radar. It means they turned their attention to younger players they think have higher ceilings (and are, of course, cheaper).

Soon? Excellent question.

I can only play psychologist once in a mailbag. It’s exhausting.

I assume you mean if they stop being one soon and have a period of success.

I couldn’t say. No one could.

But one important facet of their current “process” is to build a sustained winner. That has not been the case here at any point. There have been five playoff appearances in 50 years, in part because the spending model of some seasons was deemed unsustainable by previous owners.

Forgive me if I am wrong, but I assume you are essentially saying there is no reason to pay to see this team. If that is the case, I won’t argue. There are certainly plenty of reasons to refuse to give them a dime until they come through on their promises, if the only reason you go to games is to see a winning team.

If I was wrong, and you really are searching for reasons, I can list some guys I like to watch up close. I’ll go alphabetical.

Jose Castillo. Austin Hedges. Eric Hosmer playing first base. Travis Jankowski playing outfield and running the bases. Hunter Renfroe. Franmil Reyes. Matt Strahm. Fernando Tatis Jr. Luis Urias. (It’s a partial list.)

Essentially, if you are a fan who wants to see first-hand the development of what might be some special players, I’d suggest going to some games (or at least watching on TV). And if you are also someone who appreciates a good game experience, I’d rank Petco near the top of all ballparks in terms of what it provides nightly (outside the game).

Again, plenty of reasons to boycott. Also plenty of reasons to buy in a little.

I don’t think it’s weird.

But, man, my boss, Ron Fowler, is livid about it.

Truth is, I love that view.

PNC Park
View from PNC Park press box on May 17, 2018. Kevin Acee ballparks collection

PNC Park is nothing all that special inside, but the setting and view make it Top 5 in my book. With my love of ballparks and how many photos I take of them on the road, I will probably have a new one of someplace else at some point this season.

I can’t wait to see. I’d be shocked, as all signs point to not.

At this point, they can safely say he has never played above Double-A and they’d like to see him rake in Triple-A for a while. It will be more difficult for them to say that if he crushes in the Cactus League, but they probably still will say that.

The reality is putting him in the minors for a couple weeks could save several million in the long term, and it likely isn’t going to cost the Padres a pennant.

kevin.acee@sduniontribune.com

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