Wednesday, August 06, 2014

My San Diego Padres-2014 Edition and AJ Preller

The Padres are about to make franchise history in the next hour when they turn over the keys to the GM office to AJ Preller, most recently with the Texas Rangers as their assistant GM.

I first moved to San Diego, 32 years ago. My first game was Tony Gwynn's first game as a Padre. I was there for his first hit.

Although the team had been a perennial loser since their inception in 1969, the 1982 season which I had landed in the middle of, gave all of us San Diegans, new and old, a reason for optimism.

Sure enough, two years later the Padres were National League champions and it seemed like players like Gwynn and Garvey, to single out a couple, had taken the Padres from worst to first and that good times were ahead.

14 years later, a starved San Diego fan base welcomed one more National League championship.

Once again, Tony Gwynn was the star, as he was most of his 20 seasons here in San Diego and he was joined by Finley, Cammy and an aspiring star by the name of Hoffman, who will be following Tony to the Hall of Fame very soon.

16 years later, we are buried in the standings once again and will win nothing.

So today, the Padres decided on a new man to take them to places where they long to be.

Preller could be the man. He is brash, bold and I am told suffers no fools.

I like him already.

OK, I have a reason to like him.

Preller is a 1995 graduate of Walt Whitman High School in South Huntington, New York, the same school that I graduated from.

In 2008, I was a founder of the school's Hall of Fame which honors distinguished graduates.

Preller was selected by the Hall of Fame committee in 2012 to join that honored group.

So I want Preller to succeed.

What do I think needs to be done first?

I hope that Preller takes the final 2 plus months of the 2014 season to determine who will become 2015 Padres.

This team needs a complete overhaul, especially the offense.

Almost the entire team, except for Seth Smith, has grossly underperformed this season.

Some players, most noticeably Alonso seems to have received a wake-up call the past several games and it is good to see.

I don't see a single player on the team, with the exception of a few pitchers who would be untouchable.

Of course, Preller will be saddled with team spending constraints and bad contracts. One that comes to mind is Gyrko and his deal probably pushed the previous GM out the door.

The Padres aren't the Dodgers or the Yankees. They give away their TV games for peanuts and although they draw decently at attractive Petco Park, a building which lives due to the success of that 1998 championship season, they don't draw 50,000 a night. And they never will, since capacity is capped at just over 42,000.

But Preller is called a maverick. Billy Eppler, who applied for this job and is the Yankees assistant GM, was considered the safe choice.

Preller was the bull in the china shop. He had his enemies, but they admitted the man loved baseball and was an untiring worker with a keen eye for talent.

It is reported that he has a 5 year deal, so the Padres ownership is making the boldest move in their recent history.

It comes down to whether Preller will be given enough funds and enough independence to put his stamp on this team.

If he does, the 37 year old who went from high school to Cornell and theninto a career in baseball, putting in endless hours of being an organization man with little to no chance for glory.

In fact the first time I heard of this guy Preller, it was when I was alerted that he had made the Hall of Fame.

Now, he is in my town and taking the reins of my team (of course the Yankees have my heart, but the teams rarely compete against each other--except for that 1998 season when one of the best Yankee teams outclassed one of the best Padres teams in four games.

You can only tell so much from the initial press conference and interviews--so I will reserve judgment until the 2015 season is underway.

Here are my first impressions of the man.

I like that right off the bat, Preller thanked his parents, still living in New York, for believing in him and his passion for the game of baseball.

He wants to bring a winner to San Diego, but he is not the first to say that.

As Bud Black should be judged (and for some unknown reason he has a built in house pass), Preller will be judged on whether the 2015 Padres are significantly better than this pathetic 2014 squad.

Preller says he wants to win a World Series. I would settle for getting back in the playoffs annually.

He talks a great game. Will he deliver on the promise.

Will he bring in his own staff? Will he be allowed to? That in itself will be a telling question.

So my message to my classmate--is congratulations and good luck!

I will be watching your every move.

And wishing you the greatest success.

All Padres fans are cheering with me.

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