Within a 24 hour period this past week, the San Diego Padres traded for Blake Snell and Yu Darvish (and Victor Caratini) while signing a big free agent in Ha-Seong Kim. It was a whirlwind period in which the entire baseball stratosphere appeared to be amazed at the Padres’ willingness to put all their chips in and not just attempt to stand toe-to-toe with their hated foe, the Los Angeles Dodgers, but to try and win a World Series.
Padres General Manager A.J. Preller was the subject of many-a-meme depicting him as a mad man willing to do whatever it took to accomplish both goals. The media was all on-board with this take, and fans ate it up like crazy.
This is why Major League Baseball is in its current state.
Calm down Padres fans, the purpose of this article is not to bash the Padres or Preller in any way. They are doing great things and continue to build a team that seems poised to contend for years to come. From how they stocked their farm system, to the free agents they have signed, the Padres have done everything right in their quest to once again attain relevance. San Diego managed to do this while avoiding service time manipulation with stars like Fernando Tatís Jr. and Chris Paddack, and they underwent this roster reconstruction despite parting ways with young prospects like Ty France who were blocked from seeing meaningful playing time despite all their talent.
If you are a Padres fan you have every reason to be over-the-moon-happy with what Preller and that organization has done the last few years.
If you are a fan of any other MLB team you should be furious. Not at the Padres, but at your own team’s unwillingness to operate outside of self-created financial restraints.
It’s not the Padres fault that every other MLB team has decided to lie about their financials, to manipulate service time, and to operate under the idea that not meeting a ridiculously high Return on Investment means that you somehow lost money in a given year. Obviously, each and every team has its own set of circumstances, and some have been more willing to play to win than others, but at the end of the day, no team has been willing to do what the Padres have recently done.
What exactly did the Padres do that is so revolutionary? They built a team that is ready to win now and for years to come by prioritizing the players in that equation. Not only were they willing to spend money on free agents, but they have been willing to meet lofty salary demands and nuances within contracts that have made the Padres seem like a go-to destination for free agents or those with no-trade clauses.
The owners, led by Peter Seidler and Ron Fowler before him, have given Preller free reign to do what is needed for their team to become a contender. Add all of it together and you have a team that is operating how every MLB team should operate. They are spending money on their team and prioritizing their existence as an entertainment entity and a team competing in an athletic competition. They are doing all of this and still making money (in this sense the Padres have had missteps like every other MLB team and tried to push the false narrative that their finances were impacted by the Coronavirus to the point that they turned in a loss last year), which is how every single team competing at the MLB level should operate.
We know that MLB teams don’t operate that way. Whether we’re talking about the Seattle Mariners or the Chicago Cubs, we know that teams have spent the last 20+ years changing the system of MLB to one that doesn’t value a combination of winning, entertainment, and profitability but rather only values profitability.
The Padres aren’t doing anything special, sorry Padres fans. There isn’t a single noteworthy aspect to their approach to baseball or to Preller’s methods of building a contender. They are simply the exception to the rule, a team willing to spend money to make money and provide the entertainment and competition that people expect from an MLB franchise. The story remains not the Padres, but that the rest of MLB looks at what the Padres are doing and says, “Wow, they are really insane.”