Saturday, October 3, 2009

One Down, One To Go

  • Padres fire GM Kevin Towers:

Numerous reports are saying that the Padres have fired longtime GM Kevin Towers.

Towers has been the Padres GM since 1995 and has had what could only be classified as reasonable success on the field. Teams could do worse than four division titles and one World Series appearance over a GM's tenure. (Teams have done worse over certain tenures.) Towers endured payroll fluctuations; teardowns; rebuilding projects; new owners; and heavyhanded bosses. The most impressive thing he accomplished was a simple one: he survived.

Towers is the epitome of the faceless executive whose clubs had success when he was allowed to spend money. Aside from that, he dealt with the repeated financially motivated dismantling of what had once been good and/or respectable clubs----and he survived.

He was just sort of there, unnoticed until he made some gaffe that became the subject of ridicule. Towers was nearly fired in the midst of the Padres pennant-winning season of 1998 when he claimed the lofty contract of shot reliever Randy Myers off waivers from the Blue Jays to prevent him from ending up with the Braves, and the Blue Jays simply gave Myers----and his contract with over $12 million remaining----to the Padres. Towers never distinguished himself as an executive save for that one admirable aspect----he survived.

The Padres of the past several seasons were generally the best of a weak lot in the NL West. They won back-to-back division titles in 2005 and 2006 and were quickly dispatched in the first round of the playoffs. Towers's ability to hold onto his job couldn't have been more evident as when a notorious micormanaging boss and facilitator of inter-office turf wars, Sandy Alderson took over as club CEO in 2005. Alderson's modus operandi is to run things from his own office with various minions implementing his demands each from a different fiefdom.

Like a King or dictator who takes credit when things go well and allocates blame when they don't, Alderson peppered his dialogue with slick language designed to say nothing at all. Towers's cohort in running the Padres was respected manager Bruce Bochy, but Bochy was resistant to the stat based theories espoused by Alderson and his flunky Paul DePodesta. By mutual decision, Bochy left to join the San Francisco Giants after the 2006 season. If Alderson (and presumably Towers) had his way, the GM would've preceded him by a year.

Towers was widely expected to be hired by the now-Padres owner Jeff Moorad to be the GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks when Moorad ran that organization. The reorganization of the Padres was marginalizing Towers and Alderson wanted someone who would do as he was told in the GM office. Moorad instead hired Josh Byrnes as his GM and Towers was left with the choice: stay in San Diego; get with the program; go along to get along; and deal with the Alderson way of running things or leave.

He chose to stay.

In other words, he survived.

This move is somewhat surprising in that Moorad had gone out of his way to keep a majority of the dysfunctional Padres front office intact after the departure of Alderson. The delegation of duties of DePodesta and VP of scouting Grady Fuson has made things function more agreeably in San Diego and Towers had been praised repeatedly by the new owner. Another surprising decision, given this turn of events, was the contract extension doled out to overmatched manager Bud Black. One would think that if this was a possibility that Moorad wouldn't hamstring whomever replaces Towers by force-feeding a manager on the new GM.

Therein lies a concern for Padres fans.

If Moorad is keeping the manager, that could be an indication that he intends to promote someone from within the current Padres hierarchy to take over for Towers. If that someone is DePodesta, then the Padres are in deep, deep trouble judging from the way he took a Dodgers team that was on the verge of a championship and, in 20 months, demolished the roster with a series of ill-thought-out trades and alienated and fired the soon-to-be Manager of the Year in the National League, Jim Tracy. Padres fans had better hope that the widely respected assistant GM in Arizona, Jerry DiPoto is the choice. Then again, anyone would be a better option than DePodesta.

Things could be much worse in San Diego. They've outplayed expectations and have some impressive young talent if they don't make the colossal mistake of installing DePodesta as Towers's replacement.

As for Towers, he'll get a job as an assistant somewhere and maybe eventually another chance as a GM. He's able to do the job as an empty suit; that's more than can be said for a large chunk of GMs and would-be GMs in the game today.

Towers is the first of the "survivor" style GMs to go. He's lasted this long through sheer luck and instinct and his luck ran out. Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi is expected to be the next of these GMs----hard to pigeonhole as incompetent, but probably not qualified to run a club effectively---to go as soon as the season's over. There are worse things to put on one's resume than the following two words: he survived. Towers and Ricciardi can take solace in that. For what it's worth.

  • Ghosts of Philip Humber, Julio Valera and Salamon Torres:

Questions surround Tigers manager Jim Leyland's decision to start rookie Alfredo Figaro in today's game against the White Sox----a game that, if the Tigers lose would possibly put them in a flat-footed tie with the Twins if the Twins beat Zack Greinke and the Royals. The argument for Figaro sort of makes sense; the club rightfully doesn't want to push 20-year-old rookie Rick Porcello by using him on short rest.*

*Just because I'm adamantly opposed to the Joba Rules/JOBA RUINATION of Joba Chamberlain, that doesn't mean I'm for abusing the youngsters for the sake of one game.

But this decision has the potential to explode directly in Leyland's face. Teams have made similar ill-fated choices with young pitchers before. The Mets did so in pennant races with Philip Humber two years ago; and with Julio Valera in 1990----both to nightmarish results. Valera in fact was forced upon manager Bud Harrelson to start in place of veteran Ron Darling and the leaders on the club, specifically John Franco, went berserk. The Giants started a frightened rookie, Salomon Torres, in the final game of the 1993 season against the Dodgers as they battled down to the wire with the Braves for the NL West title. Torres got shelled, the Giants were eliminated and the pitcher was so traumatized that he meandered through three different organizations and retired for five years before returning and forging a respectable career as a reliever that ended last year.

In looking at Figaro's numbers, there's not much to go on in his brief Major League trial and he's been solid enough in the minors, but this is a disaster in the making. I've never seen him pitch, so I don't know, but judging from history, I'd start Armando Galarraga rather than Figaro in such a big game. At least Galarraga's a veteran who won't be spooked by the gravity of the situation as Figaro might.

  • Jerry Manuel's bizarre lineup decisions continue:

We won't even get into questioning why I was watching the Mets play the Astros last night. A team of psychiatrists currently treating my consigliere for her own issues (talking to a doll/alter ego is worse than my meager bouts of psychopathy) wouldn't be able to snap me out of whatever ails me.

That said, would someone please take a moment to explain to me the point of Fernando Tatis still being in the starting lineup for the Mets at first base? Are the Mets hoping to see something over the last three days that they haven't seen before from a soon-to-be 35-year-old journeyman who won't be back in a Mets uniform?

Wouldn't last night have been a golden opportunity to have a look at Daniel Murphy against one of league's tougher lefties, Wandy Rodriguez? How's Murphy ever going to develop against lefties if he never plays against lefties? Tough lefties? And what about Nick Evans? Evans should've been playing every day for all of September either at first base or in the outfied. What more do the Mets need to see from Angel Pagan that they don't already know? Evans has been plastered to the bench for a team that has few prospects as it is; why wasn't he playing just to get a gauge on whether he can be a contributor next season?

Does Manuel think winning one or two more games is going to gloss over his record this year? If the decision to replace him with Bobby Valentine has been made, last night's win won't change the outcome one way or the other. Tatis's name in the lineup made no sense and instead of bolstering Manuel's chances of returning, it only added another reason to the list of why he needs to go.

  • Viewer Mail 10.3.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE a strategy for keeping me quiet:

You mean all we have to do to render you speechless is to say "" Wow. That was easy! I'll remember that.

Don't read too much into it. It was the delivery more than it was the content that shut me up. I'm much older now and more able to counteract such tactics.

1 comment:

She-Fan said...

I did have to laugh when you said on Twitter, "Why are you watching these meaningless games? Why do you CARE?" And then you admit that you've been watching (and analyzing) every Mets game. Oh, like those are meaningful? You're as hooked as I am, Prince. Don't deny it!