The Mike Dee era has already seen an overwhelming volume of stupid things enacted by the Padres. Over the past few days, Gwynntelligence voted on a top ten list, delivered below. (To be fair, we will also be running a Best of the Mike Dee Era post in the near future.)
In addition, we have provided a ton of commentary on each item, justifying our individual rankings.
1. Bud Selig Plaza
2. Drafting Johnny Manziel
I guess we can start the debate on our drastic differences in the rankings. Starting with your #1, the drafting of Johnny Manziel, I just can’t see it as the biggest blunder of the entire era. It is what it is, a desperate attempt at getting into the headlines during a moribund season, while at the same time sacrificing a small chance at a useful player. What’s the most troubling to me about this is that at the point that they did this, the sports world at large, especially online, was sick of Johnny Football as a story. He had reached Tim Tebow levels of overexposure from traditional outlets like ESPN or sports talk radio. Any marketing department should have been able to check the pulse of the story to see that one more Johnny Manziel story wasn’t going to be met with excitement or interest from the fanbase, certainly not enough excitement or interest to sacrifice a real player that could potentially help the team, or at the least, create organizational depth. It would be like if I today posted a big long blog post about WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THOSE CHEATER PATRIOTS DEFLATING THE BALL?!?!?!? after weeks of ESPN, CNN, etc. overexposure of the story and expecting our readers to think I’m hip to what they’re interested in today. So, I see it as evidence of a tone deaf and incredibly unhip front office making a blunder, but definitely not the Dee era’s worst screw up.
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The thing that set the Manziel pick apart to me was that it actually has an effect on the product on the field. It’s a draft pick that could be useful, however unlikely that is for a late round pick. It also came at a time when the Padres were the baseball equivalent of Superman 64, and shouldn’t have been sacrificing any value at all. It’ll be awhile until we know how many players selected after Manziel make it to the Majors (allowing us to infer true lost value), but there are at least a few guys picked after him in that same round who have already had reasonable debuts at the minor league level: Nate Winfrey, Jordan Piche, Joshua Banuelos, Carter Burgess, Will Kengor, Billy Bereszniewicz, Tyler Dunnington, and Corey Walter. Hell, Will Kengor even got a call up to AAA at the end of last year:
BASE: Will Kengor called all the way up to AAA Toledo and gets the start at 2B today at Columbus. Follow live: http://t.co/g8LKRsUg3J
— Rock Athletics (@Rock_Athletics) September 1, 2014
So that’s my main justification: they literally pulled a PR stunt instead of picking an actual baseball player that could have actually helped their really shitty team in the long run.
It’s really a combination of a PR stunt (announcer contest) and poor roster construction (misprojecting the 2014 team), which are two items below on this list.
I think one thing we agree on is the egregiousness of the Bud Selig Plaza folly. When you screw up bad enough to get on the front page of the U-T sports page, you’ve really screwed up (could have been the front page of the paper, I can’t remember – THANKS BEER). At that point, the team totally blew, fans were already down on this front office, and then Mike Dee and the gang completely misreads the fanbase enough to make public pronouncements of the new Bud Selig Plaza thinking we’d eat it up. Whether it was a quid pro quo for an All Star Game is irrelevant to me. Arguably, we could separate as separate list items Bud Selig Plaza from Mike Dee’s disastrous Padres Social Hour appearance where he appeared out of touch, condescending and buffoonish all at once when he pronounced that the fanbase just didn’t realize how great Bud Selig was for San Diego baseball. During an already terrible season, the sheer confluence of anger in the fanbase and among San Diegans at large make this my clear #1. I still get a kick out of seeing @kevintheoman’s daily tweets to Mike Dee reminding him of #BSplaza. Even if there was an unwritten quid pro quo, the stories reported after San Diego was awarded the 2016 All Star Game gave credit to the #BSplaza for the award, totally undercutting any work the front office put in to get the bid done. From every possible angle, this was a failure of the Dee regime. Nothing hurt fan engagement more than this lightning rod of an issue in 2014.
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Yeah, putting Bud Selig Plaza in Petco Park would be like re-naming the buttons in the elevator where Ray Rice knocked out his wife “Roger Goodell Elevator Buttons”. I don’t even want to speculate what a Roger Goodell analogue to Mike Dee’s stubborn refusal on Social Hour to admit their wrong would look like, but it wouldn’t be pretty.
I’ve actually been planning some sort of stunt at Petco where I replace urinal cakes with Bud Selig face urinal cakes, as some sort of karmic restitution for Padres fans, but those things are more expensive to customize than you think.
That sounds like exactly what Kickstarter was created for. I could see those taking off in a ton of MLB markets around the country. Finally a way to monetize the blog! I’d eat extra asparagus before going to a Padres game to help unleash a real ammonia whopper onto the Selig urinal cake.
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If I made a fortune off urinal cakes, I’m afraid any child I have will turn out like Maris Crane. Please can we have this be the only Frasier reference that Gwynntelligence ever makes?
3. Bring back the brown
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Okay, in third we have Bring Back the Brown. I’m not sure how much we have to talk about how stupid this one is. Everyone already thinks it’s stupid we’re not brown.
I guess the one thing I can add here is that if the Padres introduce new jerseys under Ron Fowler and they aren’t brown, then that will easily be the #1 item on this list, passing Manziel and BSPlaza.
I think it’s clear that, as far as the fans are concerned, the team MUST return to brown. My biggest fear is that the team goes with something that only uses brown as a minor accent to appease the fans, which of course would only inflame fans. It would be DISASTROUS if the team announces new unis that aren’t brown. I try to see it from the team’s point of view as a business, and I can see the short term benefits of keeping blue uniforms. Contrary to public sentiment, I don’t think buying more brown gear convinces them to switch to brown. It only improves the team’s likely internal argument that the brown advocate will buy brown regardless of the official colors. Meanwhile, Joe Fan will buy whatever the current official colors are, and bing bam boom, two streams of revenue coming in. Then again, this totally ignores the intrinsic values of brand identity, fan satisfaction, external views of the blue uniform’s suckitude, etc.
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What makes beerfest so amazing to me is the utter laziness involved in not updating signage. I mean, obviously they thought about the economics of reducing the beer size, purchased new cup sizes, and so forth. Updating the sign? NAW!
Either it’s an incredible instance of simply missing something on the checklist of things that require updating when changing the beer size, laziness, or ignorance.
Or they thought they could get away with it for a half season, who knows.
Let’s both agree to not use the term Beergate to describe it, maybe something like The Fraudulent Misrepresentation of Beer Pricing Affair. I take special pride in this story since I broke the story, and got it into the hands of noted rabble rouser Matthew Hall at the Union Tribune. As we all remember, the Padres slashed craft beer size from 24 oz to 20 oz without changing the price, nor changing the signage that overtly said 24 oz. This went on for MONTHS. The Padres explanation was it was Delaware North, their contractor’s fault, and left it at that. I still honestly think that an enterprising attorney could have filed a big dollar lawsuit against the team as their actions were blatantly against state labeling laws, and likely awry of state ABC regulations. The Beer Pricing Affair encompassed so many fails: contractor management, gameday experience, concession management, marketing, public relations. It’s basically a Harvard Business School case ready made to be delivered to our nations’ universities.
5. Padres Internal Projections for 2014
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Oh yeah, remember when Mike Dee, Josh Byrnes, and Ron Fowler thought we could compete in 2014? Man that was funny (and also totally not funny as a fan).
We could also name this section #FinalPiece, since the acquisition of a platoon bat was basically the perfect microcosm of how a team coming off consecutive 76 win seasons planned on winning 77 games the next season. And when I say “planned”, of course, that isn’t what they actually thought they had planned, which is the whole problem here.
Luckily they canned the guy either in charge of setting those expectations, or the guy unable/not creative enough to convince ownership that those projections weren’t correct.
At the end of the day, they put out a shit product nearly identical to the consecutive seasons of shit product they had already put out there. That was stupid.
It was stupid, but something Bill Center said on Padres Social Hour last week got me thinking on this again. The whole thing with last season was that Josh Byrnes convinced ownership that the team was assembled and ready to compete, presumably based on their internal projections, which in retrospect were awfully rosy/wrong/terrible/horrendously awful. Here we are a year later, obviously more optimistic, but Josh Stein says their internal metrics show the team should compete with the Dodgers for the division, which you’d guess meant somewhere around 90 wins. I’m sure there are confidence intervals and statistical ranges of the probability of achieving certain levels of wins and other statistics gobbledy gook, but this year’s projection system can’t be that different from last year’s considering the analytics department is exactly the same. I’m not sure if they’re using the narrow upper limits of wins to brief Mike Dee with, or if their system is just fundamentally so different from the similar figures ZIPS, Steamer, Pecota are putting out. Or maybe I should remember that I skipped half my college stats classes because it was at 8 AM.
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Again, any projection system using a FIP measure for pitcher W.A.R. and a non-FIP Petco correction is going to underrate the Padres. That doesn’t mean the Padres’ protection system is correct, just that Steamer and ZIPS are wrong for now.
I think a lot of it is semantics now. “Can compete”, “should compete” are different than “as good as” or “as competitive as”.
6. 2015 Promotions Schedule
Next on the list, I think we’ve got the 2015 promotional schedule. On face, it’s not that big of a deal, right? I mean, these are just giveaway items. The real product is the newly improved product on the field, not the giveaway item. Last season I said that how the team proceeds in 2015 was pivotal in determining the future of this management team. I truly believe that many fans were on the precipice of completely losing interest in the team. In my imagination at the end of last season, I saw Dee bringing a three prong attack to go all out in 2015. Obviously, on the field, the team is much better, or at least more exciting to watch. Second, I thought stating a preference to switch to brown uniforms during the offseason, that they were working on designs and liaising with the commissioner’s office to facilitate the switch would be a grand slam PR-wise. Third, I thought they’d drop the hammer with the promotional items and go all out. Promotional items, like them or not, bring in the casual fans, the families looking for an affordable outing, the fans that go to 1 or 2 games per year. Maybe you up that to 3 or 4 games with an awesome promotional schedule. 2015 was going to be the capture the imagination of San Diego season, and so far, items 2 and 3 of my master plan have fallen flat. When comparing the Padres promotional lineup to other teams’, I think it’s fair to say they are among the least interesting, least liveliest, least imaginative giveaway items in Major League Baseball.
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It’s not even that the promotional lineup sucks – it really does, by the way – but that they specifically asked its bloggers to brainstorm ideas with them and then completely ignored that entire activity. In general, failing to do low-cost things like giving out a trinket every now and again means that you don’t care about your fans enough to give them the bare-minimum free crap. Because let’s be honest: for the same cost (in labor and time) it probably took to pay employees to do some stupid shit – for example, orchestrating the Frank Anthony PA replacement tryouts – the Padres could have a great giveaway. These things are cheap, even if they didn’t actually increase attendance, which they do.
Really, though, when you ask your fans for advice on great giveaways and then completely ignore that advice while simultaneously offering the worst promotional lineup in the league, you’re going to come out the other side looking both cheap and stupid.
I’m just glad Gwynntelligence wasn’t suckered into the position of introducing the new promotional items, like some other bloggers, and then having to backtrack and say “wait a second, this shit sucks!”. We’re the anti that.
7. Compadres Point Miscalibration.
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Now we’ve reached the point in the rankings where we really start to differ. This next item – the Compadres setup – I ranked 3rd while you didn’t even rank it. We’re probably approaching this from separate frames of mind, so let me expand my reasoning.
Bringing back the Compadres Club is a great idea on its own. It was popular when it existed and it fills some void for the current 2015 promotional lineup we just bitched about. Even if they’re just stupid trinkets, there’s still some long-term fan retention value at stake when offering these sort of things.
The reason it gets ranked 3 is because whoever configured the point values and the overall setup of the program is probably the same person responsible for half of the “you had one job” twitter follies.
Just as a quick recap from your excellent post about this from September:
- Auctions are impossible to win if you aren’t a multiple season ticket holder
- That causes inflationary pressure on all other items
- The only other items that don’t suffer the same fate as the auctions are items leftover from giveaway nights, which you may have attended in order to get these points to begin with.
Something tells me that the person who put this together would be unable to tell you why price controls fail or how printing money leads to inflation. In other words, they have someone configuring an economic structure with no knowledge of even the most basic economic theories.
I guess I didn’t have it ranked in the top 10 because it is truly an auxillary program to the core product. It’s definitely a screw up, and as any airline that runs a frequent flier program knows, loyalty programs like the Compadres Club is a complicated economy that requires forethought, planning and analysis, none of which Wayne Partello and the marketing gang invested into this cockamamie program. They used to have the Padres Social Clubhouse which rewarded social media engagement, Tweeting, Facebook liking, etc., which actually had a decent earn/burn structure, but then they shut it down and implemented this new, terrible system. Last year, there was talk of improving the program by readding the social media engagement module to the Compadres program, but to date, there has been no announcement, and I am not getting my hopes up.
8. Ticket Trade Removal
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Meanwhile, you’ve got Ticket Trade Removal ranked high (5th) and I don’t have it ranked.
I guess I understand the business side of this one and see it as more of a shrewd, if not nefarious, decision. More that than stupid, at least.
As I detailed earlier, I view 2015 as a Padres push year, not just on the field, but also a push year to market and get this product in front of as many people as possible. With the 2016 All Star Game, there is incentive to get people locked into season tickets this season so you can put the ASG sales pitch in next offseason to retain them. That, combined with the influx of exciting talent, is providing the sales staff with all kinds of leads. And then the team goes and totally guts the value of the 21 game package by removing flexible ticket trading. I’ve detailed how, economically speaking, there is negative value to committing up front the cost of a 21 game package and sacrificing flexibility, versus just buying day of game tickets on Stubhub for below face value. The flexibility of ticket trading was the majority of the value of season tickets, and in a crass effort to upsell new customers, the Padres are blowing an effort to lock in satisfied new customers. On top of that, the deception of the Padres website STILL stating that a “Core member benefit for all members” is flexible ticket trading is appalling, but not really out of character (The Beer Pricing Affair). Wayne Partello’s blowing off of the issue on Twitter reflected very poorly on the team. It’s probably a better strategy to put out fires rather than pour gasoline on them, Wayne.
9. Scheduling soccer at Petco during World Cup
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This one was just pure stupidity. Whoever was in charge of scheduling this soccer match didn’t even bother to investigate soccer’s wikipedia page to see that they were scheduling a soccer match during the World Cup semi-finals (technically, on the date of the third place game).
No one was going to attend. No one did attend because it was cancelled.
This was something I pointed out the day it was scheduled, like every other soccer fan would have. It’s a mind boggling mistake and I can’t believe the Padres didn’t have the hierarchy in place to validate the date before they scheduled it. Or, even more stupid, they had that hierarchy in place and thought people would actually go. Massive stupid points either way.
The soccer thing didn’t bother me, but I think that’s because I couldn’t have cared less about the soccer game. It was obviously poor planning, like even an incompetent blunderer should realize marketing a low level soccer game during soccer’s hugest event made no sense. In the pantheon of horrible decisions, this one is certainly horrible, but it doesn’t move the needle for me.
10. Turd polishing
After reviewing the Gwynntelligence numbers for 2014, I was surprised to see Marver’s Turd Polishing article sitting at #1 for most traffic. In all truth, I don’t see the big deal. I think for most teams, a big job of marketing is finding a way to sell a product that isn’t winning a championship that season. I’m sure Partello will talk strategies about diverting attention away from the field, pumping up off the field accomplishments, etc., all of which I’d just chalk up to prudent business. While it’s sad that the front office of San Diego has had so many years to practice and hone their techniques to the point that they’re presenting strategies to industry, for me, the progression of this offseason has lightened me up on this one.
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Again, I don’t think Wayne Partello is stupid for giving this talk. It’s probably good for his career – does he have any experience giving a lecture? – and a good opportunity to network.
What’s stupid is that the team is okay having its Chief Marketing Officer (or whatever his official title is) give the lecture. Why would you ever want your fans to know that you have tactics in place that you currently use to distract fans from the on-field product?
Sure, fans can probably guess that most teams do something like this. Likewise, most boyfriends or husbands can probably guess that most girlfriends or wives do, in fact, poop. But that doesn’t mean we have to know you poop, dammit!
(Side note: not all teams do this. I reached out to a few friends from high school and college who work in marketing departments across a few sports; all three said their current team does not do anything like this lecture states the Padres do.)
Also receiving votes: Rico Noel advocates for child abuse, ending the Western Metal first come first serve seating, PA announcer contest, On-deck Suite in-game advertising
There were definitely some deserving blunders that didn’t make the Top 10. My pet project of exposing marginal prospect Rico Noel as a child abuse advocate every time Bill Center or Dennis Lin points out his Winter Ball performances will continue. The fact that the Padres and their staff (Bill Center, paid Padres employee) continue to whitewash this and keep Noel in the system is a slap in the face to anyone that believes domestic violence should not be tolerated. It’s not just a blunder, it’s shameful. I also think the removal of the Western Metal Supply first come first serve seating was a slap in the face of anyone looking for an affordable time at the ballpark (coupled with the skyrocketing Park at the Park ticket prices), especially because the team has highlighted this unique benefit on Petco Park tours since the place opened. Man, there are just so many blunders: the National University sign, the awful On-deck Suite telecast reminding all of us how not rich we are, the PA Announcer circus, etc.
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The most egregious of these, in my opinion, was the PA announcer contest. Not only did it lead to months of jokes about the team holding tryouts for [insert position here], but it was completely classless to replace a franchise stalwart like Frank Anthony in such a public fashion, not to mention the fact that the contest bled into the regular season.
The on-deck suite was so stupid it was actually funny to watch. I feel like we didn’t meme that enough as fans. Probably because there was so much to meme and not enough time.
Honorable Mentions: National University sign, Swing for season tickets promo, #Bobbleheadgate, and the Fox Sports Tony Gwynn Statue encroachment.
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I feel like the honorable mentions would be the top four for any other franchise. I really can’t believe these didn’t get a single vote, but it’s tough when there’s so much to choose from and we limit ourselves to just ten.
I guess I get the financial aspect to the National University sign.
The Swing For Your Seats promo was the equivalent of a carnival booth, although it’s probably more stupid on the people who thought they had a legitimate opportunity to win this one that it was stupid on the Padres for offering it. At the very least, people got to go on the field and swing the bat, so it’s not that bad.
Bobbleheadgate would have made my list had they not partially rectified the situation by scheduling a concert in lieu of the bobble head, although the fact that their made it a Chase Headley bobble head after the trading deadline was pretty stupid to begin with.
The TG statue is stupid, but I’m not sure how much that’s Fox Sports versus the Padres. Yes, the Padres own a stake of the network, but this could at least be viewed as negligence as much as it was stupid.
Like I said, there was a lot of stupid to choose from. Pretty amazing these got no official votes.