The San Diego Padres fired their manager on Saturday, the season having reached a place where hope is lost and they may wonder if they’ll ever get themselves sorted out. Annually, this is called “September.” Sometimes, “August.” If not, “July.”
Anyway, the point is, the Padres are finishing up their ninth consecutive losing season, the latest being wholly unhandsome and not entirely unexpected. They were, again, terrible, particularly in the second half. And while most seem to adore the Padres’ next-gen prospects, the wait can be painful, so for a lot of years in a row there’s been a lot of effort put toward how many games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers they’ll be come lost-hope day. A lot. Again.
What’s great is now they can hire the guy who will guide and mold and wean and coarsen and mentor that next group of fine young men coming to save San Diego baseball. What’s not great is that was Andy Green’s assignment, beginning four years ago, and here we are, all that weaning later.
If the first task after a failed endeavor — and GM A.J. Preller could argue the endeavor is fine, even if the season wasn’t — is to identify the cause, it’s probably that these organizational reconditionings take too damned long, cost too many seasons, bury too many good people and aren’t reliable anyway.
The Padres might soon be fine. Wonderful players are near. Or so they appear to be both wonderful and near. Then, if ownership were comfortable enough with tomorrow to sign Eric Hosmer for $144 million two offseasons ago (the return so far is 1.5 WAR) and Manny Machado for $300 million a year later (3.0 WAR), then we might be looking at a run for Gerrit Cole or Zack Wheeler or Hyun-Jin Ryu in the coming winter. Thinking along with the Padres is a sure way to find yourself in Peoria, Arizona, for a press conference one morning, thinking to yourself, “How did I get here?” And, “When’s Preller gonna tuck in his shirt?”
That the Padres cut Green loose with still two years on his contract means they decided they’d stalled under Green or, just maybe, they’d identified someone they believed to be more qualified and hoped not to miss the chance at him. Could be both. The coming weeks could open another six or more managerial jobs (New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, various others), meaning new candidates and also competition for whomever else might be good at this.
Bruce Bochy, beloved in San Diego, will be free from San Francisco, an outcome that throughout summer seemed less like an official retirement than Bochy being a gracious guest. Perhaps the Padres, who gifted Bochy a fishing pole back in July, would strike before the trout season ends.
Maybe the Padres seek Joe Maddon, who, as of Saturday, had neither a place in the postseason nor a contract for next season. In addition to having won with the Cubs, remember he won with the Tampa Bay Rays, who not so long ago became something from nothing.
Maybe Preller has seen enough of Mike Shildt in St. Louis and Brian Snitker in Atlanta to appreciate the semi-continuity that comes with the next man up. Rod Barajas, who has managed in the minor leagues and was the Padres’ bench coach, will finish the season as the club’s interim manager.
Or, there is a man out there, a sturdy personality Preller views as a fit for what is — Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Chris Paddack — and for what he really, really hopes will be — pitchers MacKenzie Gore, Luis Patino and Adrian Morejon, outfielder Taylor Trammell, shortstop CJ Abrams. And maybe he will be the perfect guy for the imperfect franchise, for the inevitably imperfect future, for the imperfect process that is to produce, if nothing else, hope.
Then, with any luck at all, he’ll make a difference, and the Padres can get September back.
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