June 23, 2014
A note to my readers: I realize it has been some time since I contributed here. After a prolonged work search, I recently moved a long distance (from Florida to North Dakota), and have been getting adjusted to my new calling up here. But all is well and good.
And now, for the big news: The Padres have fired Josh Byrnes. The baseball commentariat is atwitter, with Jon Heyman suggesting it was a bad move. His reasoning? Byrnes is a “good baseball man,” and that nobody should be surprised that the Padres are this bad (see the full article here).
Granted, Byrnes did make some good moves: he got Tyson Ross for two 4-A players and outfielder Seth Smith (thus far the team’s MVP) from the A’s for reliever Luke Gregerson.
But he also made a number of costly moves that have set the team back:
- He extended sophomore second baseman Jedd Gyorko for five years; Gyorko has batted a pitiful .162 this year.
- In 2012, Byrnes extended Carlos Quentin through 2015, guaranteeing him $26 million. Quentin has missed over 40% of his team’s games since then, and this year, he is batting .192.
- He put $8 million on Josh Johnson. While this was a low-risk/high reward deal, it is clear that the Padre’s biggest need coming into 2014 was for a premium bat. Aside from Smith, this is basically the same team that entered this season with consecutive 76-86 seasons.
But Byrnes’ biggest faux pas was the risky trade he made shortly after he became general manager: he traded up-and-coming starter Mat Latos to Cincinnati for four players, two of whom are no longer with the team. The other two, catcher Yasmani Grandal and first baseman Yonder Alonso, have played terribly this year: Grandal has batted .191 with a .281 OBP, and so lost the starting job to Rene Rivera, and Alonso just went on the disabled list after batting .210 in 229 at-bats. Even though Latos missed the first two months of the season, this deal is looking to be a steal for the Reds.
Coming into the season, the Padres had an outside chance of contending; assuming that their solid pitching remained solid (it generally has), and that their average hitters hit at their normal levels. They have not; in fact, the team has collectively batted .215 with a .275 OBP. That is pitiful.
Bottom line: a “good baseball guy” doesn’t put that kind of team on the field. Period.
Going forward, the Padres do have some intriguing options. One is to bring back former GM Kevin Towers. Towers was in San Diego 1995-2009, which included four playoff appearances and one World Series. He currently serves in the same capacity for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but that team recently named Tony LaRussa its president, with the intent that he will clean house. Another option is Omar Minaya, who already works for the Padres and was previously general manager for the New York Mets (2005-2010).
At the end of the day, a move needed to be made. The Padres are 32-43, and as those who are paying attention know, they should have been better than this. Yes, their payroll as last in the division, but management increased it over 20% this offseason from 2013, when they finished 76-86. So surely they should be playing better than they are now.
And yes, injuries have hurt them. But this excuse is only going to go so far when the team batting average is .215.
It’s difficult to blame manager Bud Black; he was dealt a bad hand of players to begin with, and the one responsible for dealing him that bad hand was Josh Byrnes.