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Moorad has major task before him: Heal the Padres' front office

Discussion in 'All Other San Diego Sports' started by wrbanwal, Mar 30, 2009.

  1. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

    Dec 27, 2005

    What sort of baseball front office and player evaluation staff has new Padres CEO and Vice Chairman Jeff Moorad inherited?

    A talented but dysfunctional one, based on what several Padres officials told friends with other ballclubs in recent tumultuous months.

    Somewhere along the way, 19 Tony Gwynn Way, home to Padres offices and, by extension, the scouting staff, became Dysfunction Junction.

    Officials from no fewer than three other clubs said Padres officials have complained of front office and player evaluation turmoil in recent months, creating the impression of considerable finger-pointing, frustration and angst, both during baseball's winter meetings in December and this spring training.

    “It's like the knives have come out,” an official from another club said last week.

    Moorad, who has extra clout because he eventually will assume controlling ownership of the club, is seen as a potentially unifying force.

    Renowned for his people skills, Moorad is a former player agent and Diamondbacks CEO whose sensibilities are attuned to a wide spectrum of baseball people – players, agents, scouts, statistical analysts and executives.

    Moorad took a step toward team-building last night, hosting Padres front-office staff, scouts, manager Bud Black, coaches and players at his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz., near Scottsdale.

    In Sandy Alderson, Moorad replaces a CEO whose four-year tenure coincided with many success stories, including several franchise-record investments in the farm system, franchise-record consecutive playoff berths in 2005-06 and a spate of lopsided, fruitful trades from 2005 to 2007.

    Alderson, a former Marine and an Ivy League-trained lawyer, might have seemed aloof to the public, but he was well-respected by many in the front office. Further, Alderson's concern for his entire front-office staff factored into his retaining all of those employees this past offseason during an economic recession that led many clubs to lay off even low-salary staff.

    But there is no denying that acrimony and frustration surfaced among Padres front-office staff and scouts in recent months, either summoned or revealed by a series of stressful events such as:

    – A complicated and expensive divorce between club Chairman John Moores and his wife of 44 years that played out through most of last year and created budgetary uncertainty for Alderson and staff.

    – A 99-defeat season despite a franchise record-high player payroll, followed by an economic downturn and anticipated plummet in season-ticket renewals that further encouraged Moores to slash the 2009 player payroll.

    – Hitting coach Wally Joyner's allegation in September that Grady Fuson, the director of the farm system, had undermined him by not informing him of his hitting discussions with Padres hitters.

    – The chaotic departure of a franchise icon, reliever Trevor Hoffman, who, after contractual negotiations broke down in November, labeled the front office's relations with players as “dysfunctional.”

    – Three months of shopping ace Jake Peavy's $63 million guaranteed contract on the trade market, done in a circus-like manner that brought scorn from Peavy's agent and would-be trade partners such as the Cubs and Braves.

    – The recent Baseball America ranking of the farm system as the second-worst in baseball, just one year after it was ranked 12th.

    – The pitching staff's repeated implosions in spring training this month, causing General Manager Kevin Towers to demand that his scouts search for power arms.

    No front office, scouting or analytical staff could have weathered that 12-month onslaught without some rents in the fabric.

    But the din from Padres staff and evaluators has reached many ears in the business. Familiar complaints resurfaced that the Padres, in the amateur draft, have undervalued athleticism, speed and power arms. The tiresome debate between the merits of statistical and scouting analysis bubbled forth. Easily heard, too, were opinions that the front office was too large and too expensive, and that, before 2008, Padres draftees got preferential treatment over foreign players such as Joakim Soria and Jose Ceda.

    Idle chatter? Or substantive issues?

    Three Padres insiders were asked what they thought – and promised anonymity for their answers.

    One said any dysfunction is temporary, likely overstated and wouldn't be a subject if the team could revert to its winning ways of 2004-07.

    Another said Alderson created an unwieldy executive structure that sowed confusion and turmoil when he had Executive Vice President Paul DePodesta report to him instead of to Towers, a longtime GM, upon Alderson's hiring of DePodesta in July 2006.

    “Paul is really a bright guy and a nice guy, but it's just been an impossible situation,” he said. “It was a train wreck waiting to happen. You have all these different groups reporting to Sandy, and it's created all this division. Grady's looking over his shoulder at DePo in the draft. It's hard to know who makes the decisions. At the end of the day, Sandy becomes GM.

    “I don't think there's a real bad guy in the bunch. It's a dysfunctional organization. It's dysfunctional by the way it's organized.”

    Another official said he believes that, under Alderson, the club's evaluation of players had tilted too far toward statistical analysis. He said many Padres scouts feel powerless.

    “Look, I believe the statistical information definitely has its place,” he said. “But the pendulum went too far. We're making decisions on almost 95 percent of what the numbers say and only 5 percent of what the evaluators see. We've been signing guys who our own scouts say are non-prospects.”

    A counterpoint to that view is that the Padres, with zero statistical input, guaranteed $5.5 million to foreign amateurs in 2008.

    And Moores, a self-described computer nerd, painted a different picture last March, gushing admiration for Alderson's emphasis on dispassionate, empirical analysis.

    “The days of having a bunch of guys who are former players in charge and saying things like, 'I like the way he throws,' or 'I like his confidence level,' I think those days are over,” Moores told The San Diego Union-Tribune then. “That stuff is important. You can't run the game with a bunch of quants from MIT. But you have to do both.”

    In that interview, Moores said, “Alderson is a guy who believes in a process, and he's done a very good job with it. Things are not done in an ad hoc manner here like they were before. They're measuring stuff that wasn't being measured before, and that goes all the way to the farm system, but also the big league level. We have some first-rate analysts that pore over numbers. We're in up to our eyeballs in numbers.”

    While Moores spoke, the Padres were coming off their fourth-consecutive winning season and their statistical analysts were projecting close to 90 wins and a first-place finish in 2008. But the Padres got off to a bad start, from which they never recovered.

    Alderson has said the club's statistical analysis of college hitters led to encouraging results, notably in last year's draft. Towers, a former scout, has singled out his statistical analysts as crucial to several fruitful moves.

    One goofy episode, though, can create overly negative views – such as when a Padres number-cruncher suggested in 2006 that manager Bruce Bochy bat pitcher Woody Williams second in his lineup.

    DePodesta worked two years as a scout for the Indians and he scouts some 100 amateur players a year, yet he still wrongly gets labeled by some as solely a “statistical analyst.” In fact, he draws on information from many sources before making recommendations. He also defers to Towers, contrary to some reports last winter.

    “Paul's an excellent strategic planner,” said player agent Scott Boras, who negotiated with DePodesta during the latter's 18-month tenure as GM of the Dodgers. “He also has great integrity and honesty.”

    One Padres insider summed it up this way: “When people say we are a dysfunctional organization, it wasn't just because of Sandy putting DePo between himself and Kevin. Kevin is the GM. He can take the information from DePo or not. We just got out of whack. We went away from scouting. Numbers don't tell you the story. You've got to watch players. You've got to lean on the scouts.”

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