It's always amateur hour in San Diego, from Fire Sales to Roseanne Barr's crotch-grabbing national anthem to owner John Moores' extramarital affair and subsequent ugly divorce turning beautiful Petco Park into a tawdry parlor housing a cheap team.
Nobody in the game is more adept at turning good fortune into an unsightly mess than the Padres. CEO Jeff Moorad's firing of longtime general manager Kevin Towers sends every indication that it's happening again.
One step forward, three steps back.
"This year, Kevin did what I've gotten used to seeing over the years," Moorad said Saturday at a news briefing to formally announce the sacking in San Diego. "Pulling a rabbit out of the hat. He's done a terrific job of molding the team and doing it on the fly."
So, he's being fired, why?
"We got to a point where we felt the appropriate thing was to either extend his contract or cut ties," Moorad said.
At the time of Towers' firing, the Padres, since July 28, were 36-23, the fourth-best record in the majors and the second-best in the National League. Not that the next step was the World Series. Towers a couple of weeks ago excitedly spoke of possibly even contending in 2010 which, I thought, was overly optimistic -- but a heck of an advancement from where the club was a year ago.
Which was, frankly, wretched. The Padres lost 99 games in 2008 but, worse than that, were unwatchable even on their good days. They were slow, unathletic and boring.
It was the result of payroll slashing -- something that figures into the Padres' history Moores more than World Series -- and a dysfunctional front office split by philosophical differences.
When a group led by Moorad agreed this spring to purchase the Padres from Moores, president Sandy Alderson quietly left and, judging by the personnel moves that followed, the handcuffs were removed from Towers. He was back to operating at a greater degree of autonomy than he had at anytime in '08.
The results have been evident over these past six weeks. In removing this club from the sewer, cleaning it up and making it presentable, Towers has performed some of his best work yet.
He added athleticism, acquiring outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. (from Milwaukee) and promoting Will Venable. Now the Padres actually have outfielders who can cover ground in their own home park. (And a cat-quick Rule V shortstop, Everth Cabrera, who at times is electric).
He fixed a terrible bullpen in short order acquiring, among others, Luke Gregerson (St. Louis) and Edward Mujica (Cleveland). He obtained three young pitchers from Oakland for journeyman Scott Hairston.
And in trading Peavy to the White Sox, he not only induced the Sox to pay every penny of the remaining $52 million owed the pitcher over the next few years, he also got four pitchers back in the deal.
Now Moorad wants a man with more of a "strategic approach."
Maybe this will work out. Maybe Moorad will come out of this looking like a genius.
I will say this: It is close to humanly impossible for him to come out of it looking worse than Moores, a phony whose bait-and-switch tactics to get a sweetheart deal on a new ballpark worked out far better for him than for San Diego fans.
There is a case to be made for sweeping changes in part of the Padres' baseball operations. Both amateur scouting and player development have been poor for much of the past decade and, for that, Towers bears some responsibility.
But given his body of work over the past 14 years -- heck, his body of work over the past eight months -- what Towers deserved was a "thank you" and a contract extension, not a firing.
Instead, Moorad admitted on Saturday that he's already interviewed three potential GM candidates.
Three! While Towers was still working for him.
Yeah. Stay classy, San Diego.