No team has plummeted into the abyss as quickly and as shockingly as the San Diego Padres, who have gone from contending for three consecutive seasons (including back-to-back NL West titles in 2005 and 2006) to dueling with the Washington Generals, er, Nationals, for the title of baseball's worst team in 2008.
The '08 Padres have been sabotaged by poor personnel decisions, underperforming players, injuries, a string of disastrous drafts and, most noticeably, a change in philosophy as general manager Kevin Towers' autonomy has eroded with CEO Sandy Alderson and special assistant Paul DePodesta taking more control of baseball decisions.
|It's a long season for Greg Maddux and the Padres. (Getty Images)|
Owner John Moores and soon-to-be-ex-wife Becky are locked in an ugly divorce, and there are strong indications that the player payroll -- $73 million this season -- will be chopped significantly in '09.
That might all be related to the divorce. It almost certainly is related to the fact that the Padres' attendance in this, only the fifth season of Petco Park, is down 12 percent from last year.
The Padres intended to trade both outfielder Brian Giles and pitcher Greg Maddux in what sources say would have been pure salary-dump deals with no significant talent coming back. Maddux would have only accepted a deal to the Dodgers, whom the Padres spoke to, but the clubs could not agree on the finances. Giles, also with no-trade powers, vetoed a deal to Boston.
Meanwhile, in another curious (to say the least) development, Padres officials had told Giles that they expected to pick up his $9 million option for next year. But during the chain of events that led to the aborted deal with the Red Sox last week, Giles was told that the club picking up the option was no longer a sure thing.
How the Moores divorce proceedings play out bears close watching. California is a community property state -- meaning, the spouses get a 50/50 split of the couple's assets, and the messier and more expensive it gets, the more the baseball club could stand to take a beating, short of a sale. There is no pre-nuptial agreement -- and even if there were, they were married in 1963, long before the Padres came into the picture.
Sources close to the club say each of the Moores wants to keep the Padres, a competition that should be more riveting than anything that happens to an overmatched club on the field in the near future. Example: According to court documents, John agreed to give Becky exclusive use of the managing partner's Petco Park box in April, May, June and July this summer -- but the couple has fought over use of the box since.
Becky has retained a divorce attorney known to be exceptionally litigious, while John is employing high-powered lawyer Robert Nachshin, who has represented, among others, Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield, boxer Oscar De La Hoya, Disney CEO Robert Igor and rapper Snoop Dogg.
Banished from the owner's box for the first four months of '08, John Moores mostly has been an absentee owner this season, handing Alderson the keys to the car -- which has quickly fallen into disrepair.
With not much on the way from the farm system and an impending payroll deduction, no quick fixes are in sight. One NL executive this week said, "The only thing it appears they can do is to either overpay for a couple of big (free agents), or trade Jake Peavy for a bunch of prospects. What else can they do?"
Overpaying -- or even paying market value -- for free agents is almost certainly out of the question under Moores, because once he parlayed the success of the Kevin Brown-Ken Caminiti-Tony Gwynn '98 Padres into inducing San Diegans to vote for a new ballpark, he never has spent as much as promised.