The San Diego Padres had high hopes heading into the 2019 season after signing Manny Machado to a $300 million deal and promoting uber prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. Maybe they didn’t think they’d be a playoff team, but they’d at least stay in the hunt until August.
After starting 11-5 and entering the All-Star break at 45-45, that looked possible, but a slow second half left them in the basement of the NL West at 70-92. That was still a four-win improvement over 2018 but not enough for owner Ron Fowler.
“If we don’t win in 2020, heads will roll,” Fowler told reporters on Monday, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Mine will be the first one.
“We had expectations that were higher than that,” he said later. “And we played .500 baseball up to the All-Star Game, and we played (25-47) after that. We might have been the worst team in baseball after the break. I haven’t checked. It’s embarrassing.”
Fowler already dismissed manager Andy Green with eight games left in the season, so general manager A.J. Preller could be the next one on the chopping block if things don’t pick up quickly. With one of the top farm systems in baseball, the Padres still have a bright future, but it’s reasonable to expect them to do better next season.
What went wrong for the Padres in 2019?
The story of the 2019 Padres cannot be told without looking at Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers, two of their four most expensive players who are owed another $170.5 million. The two former Kansas City Royals were expected to carry the middle of the lineup but combined to produce just 0.1 WAR.
Despite homers flying out of ballparks at a record rate, Myers saw his lowest power numbers in four years while also hitting just .239. Hosmer wasn't much better at with a .310 on-base percentage and .425 slugging percentage, while struggling mightily on defense.
Fowler called both hitters out by name, which would be surprising if he hadn’t been so candid in the past about the team’s struggles. The good news for Fowler is that despite setting some money on fire, the Padres are still set up well for the future.
Tatis looks every bit like the superstar scouts thought he’d be and then some. Chris Paddack is a budding ace, while Manny Machado had an acceptable first season at the hot corner. Former top prospects Francisco Mejía and Luis Urías look like potential All-Stars, and there’s still a promising group of pitchers about to hit the majors.
What exactly did Fowler mean by his own head rolling?
Fowler’s frustration is easy to understand, but the puzzling thing about his quote to local reporters is what he means by “heads will roll ... mine will be first.”
It’s easy to fire a coach or manager or even eat money to deal a player who’s overstayed his welcome, as they’re reportedly trying to do with Myers. But there’s nobody left if the owner fires himself. Perhaps it’s just a sign of frustration after seven years running the team without a winning record.
“We sucked,” Fowler said. “It was a cathartic process to just sit down and say it was the worst 2 1/2 months of ownership for me. It was embarrassing for me. We sucked. There were some days, quite honestly, I didn’t want to get out of bed.”
If Fowler ended up wanting to sell the Padres, he could make a pretty penny. The Royals sold in August for $1 billion — actually $25 million under their Forbes valuation — while the Padres rank 17th in baseball at a $1.35 billion valuation.
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