The 5 Best Things of the Mike Dee Era

deenk

Since we did a “10 Stupidest Things of the Mike Dee Era” post, it’s only fair we produce its positive analogue: the 5 Best Things of the Mike Dee Era.

Again, Padres Jagoff and I discuss our thought process behind the rankings.

1. Padres Social Hour

2. Hiring A.J. Preller

Padres Jagoff

I think the public expectation would be to expect the hiring of AJ Preller to top the list after the exciting offseason, and don’t get me wrong, it is looking like a great hire, but I think it’s too early to anoint him #1 before we see the product of his work on the field and evaluate the results. At the same time, it’s easy to evaluate the work Jesse Agler has been doing with Padres Social Hour: it’s fantastic. It’s hard to imagine a televised Padres game now without the hour of content Agler and the Padres marketing team is putting together EVERYDAY OF THE SEASON. It’s also hard to imagine that just a few short years ago, we were treated to maybe half an hour of canned content. The social engagement that Padres Social Hour brings with it, whether it’s fielding questions from Twitter, bringing on guests that social media has been talking about, or bringing on Padres execs to face the public when controversy arises, makes it must watch television for me. Consider that Agler and Padres Social Hour is producing nearly 200 hours of content per year! It’s an incredible undertaking, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Jesse Agler take over play by play duties at some point when Uncle Teddy hangs up his microphone.

Change the Padres

What makes Social Hour so great, besides the show itself, is that it continues the Padres’ trend of increasing exposure and access to the team. This isn’t new, remember. The previous team president, Tom Garfinkel, was known for his accessibility both in person and through other mediums, however inauthentic I believe he was. And before him, Paul DePodesta ran a blog where he maintained regular dialogue about the team and answered blog comments.

Social Hour content is great, largely because it focuses on the product on the field. The guest list is extensive, perhaps excessively, which gives fans a wide variety of content every week. And fans get questions answered. Hard to complain.

Padres Jagoff

Honestly, last season, the hour of Padres Social Hour was a lot of times more entertaining than the game itself. I think that if you go in to it realizing that it is a wholly owned and paid for production of the Padres, and that they will spin stories to the benefit of the team and the team’s decisions, it is still an incredible achievement. This is doubly so when most sports talk radio in San Diego (ahem, Scott and BR) would rather talk Chargers in June than Padres baseball, leaving Padres fans starved for coverage of their team. Also, DePodesta’s blog was great, I miss it. I wish AJ Preller had at the very least, a blog that had nothing but pictures of terriers.

Change the Padres

I think the radio coverage of the team is, in no small part, due to the fact that the duos of Moores/Alderson and Moorad/Garfinkel ran the team into the ground from a PR standpoint. They stripped the team of anyone noteworthy and literally dealt their best player immediately following the only season in which they were competitive.

Anyway…I too have hiring AJ Preller ranked 2nd because we haven’t actually seen the team play yet. Maybe the team defense will be as bad as the sabermetricians suggest (although PECOTA disagrees with that narrative) or dealing the minor league depth will have a large effect on the team’s future. I wouldn’t bet against “hiring AJ Preller” being at the top of this list if we ran this ranking in February of next year. This is really just hedging my bets: we know Padres Social Hour is great while we think hiring A.J. Preller is great.

Padres Jagoff

Totally agree, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the 2016 iteration of this list have AJ Preller crowned champion. Let’s not forget that Alderson was combative and awful when on the radio, and Moorad was a sleepy zilch when he did interviews (and at life) – not exactly exciting radio for 1090 to carry. To Mike Dee and Wayne Partello’s credit, while they don’t really say anything all that enlightening or substantive (usually dodging questions with platitudes and promises of future studies), they at least do it with some panache to create more interesting radio.

3 (tied). Ending the FSSD/Time Warner Impasse

Change the Padres

We have a statistical tie for third. Why don’t we start with the one that you had ranked third in your personal rankings: ending the FSSD impasse with TIme Warner (among others).

Padres Jagoff

I’ll start by saying the whole Time Warner/FSSD thing never affected me personally. I had Cox, I had MLB.TV streaming on a jailbroken iPad to my TV, and now I have U-verse. But, as far as public spectacles go, the issues between FSSD (and by proxy the Padres) and Time Warner were a big one. Matthew Hall from the U-T made it a huge issue when he took his current job, and in every fan forum with team management and ownership, fans cried out that they couldn’t get Padres games on their cable. This is made worse when you consider that the Padres have a very limited exclusive television territory and need to maximize exposure to that small territory. I have no doubts that many of the hang ups between Time Warner and FSSD did not involve the Padres, they dealt with larger issues related to skyrocketing regional sports pricing on a national level, but I still believe Mike Dee can take credit for having the issues resolved under his watch.

Change the Padres

On the other side of the spectrum: I was firmly in the Time Warner camp and could not watch the Padres. This didn’t have too much of an effect – I was not about to watch that inauthentic product – but it certainly had an effect on people like my father. He went from being a season ticket holder for many years at Qualcomm, to attending many games a year at Petco, to not attending. You never want someone to reach that “not even watching” plateau, but he’s there. I’m not even sure he cares about the team this year, even after fixing so many issues. I’m not even sure I ever heard him complain about the team not being on TV either, they hit that low as a franchise. And I don’t think he’s alone, either, This was what TW said when the impasse ended: “I would not put this near the top in terms of complaints we get, but we did hear about it sometimes when we were out in the community“. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for how much people wanted to watch the team, which is a huge reason why you have to keep the team on TV. You have to be there the moment that fan decides they’ll give it another chance, because they’re not going to switch cable subscribers for something they don’t really care about at that moment in time.

Now how much credit can you give Mike Dee? I don’t know. I’m willing to say “more than zero” which is why I put it fifth.

3 (tied). All-Star Game 2016

Change the Padres

Same thing with the All-Star Game, which tied with FSSD Impasse Ending. How much credit can you really give them? We were going to get the All-Star Game at some point in time, so the reason I have it fourth is because I am surprised we got it so quickly. If that’s because of BSPlaza, that’s a total bummer, but it’s allowed to be both a positive (tied for 3rd on this list) and a negative (BSPlaza #1 on the stupid list).

The best part of the ASG is that WE ACTUALLY HAVE ALL-STARS ON THE PADRES for that game. I mean, we get one every year, technically, but haven’t seen one play in a game in three consecutive All-Star games. That’ll probably end in 2015, but it will DEFINITELY end in 2016. Way to break the streak!

Padres Jagoff

I think the credit goes to this ownership group being NOT JEFF MOORAD, who was never going to be awarded an ASG under Bud Selig’s watch. I see Bill Center’s revisionist statements about how previous ownerships said they “weren’t interested in getting the All Star Game” whereas he believes this ownership group got the ASG through “all of their hard work” and think that it’s an embarrassing example of how much Padres employee Bill Center is under his employers’ thumb sometimes. Especially if the explanation for no ASG is that Sandy Alderson made the foolish decision to trade the Padres All Star Game for the first World Baseball Classic final. I see the ASG as something that’s great for the city, that Mike Dee probably didn’t do that much more than Tom Garfinkel would have done if given the opportunity to bid and be awarded an ASG, but you have to give credit for things that happened under his watch.

I also think people that remember going to the 1992 All Star Game here that think tickets will be just as financially accessible are going to be sorely disappointed. The All Star Game is not accessible to the everyman, and when looking at ASG recent historical pricing, expect to spend upwards of $400 for tickets. As for me, I’ll enjoy the 2016 Futures Game.

Change the Padres

I think the demand in San Diego will be below what it was in Minneapolis or New York, where those astronomical prices were. I still imagine paying $300 or so, which is no small amount.

I’ll just conclude by saying that I’m glad Mike Dee actually got the All-Star Game application in. Tom Garfinkel never even filled out the paperwork.

Padres Jagoff

And I’ll still operate under the assumption that the Moorad group was told they would not be awarded an ASG until his ownership was confirmed by the League (which it wasn’t), hence no paperwork from Garfinkel.

5. Better marketing

Change the Padres

I don’t think anyone could disagree that the Padres are marketed better now than they have been in the past decade. I mean, just look at this ad from the middle of Garfinkel’s tenure:

Padres-Billboard

 

When you can’t even put a face on your ad, you’re in trouble. But, even worse, it turns out the Padres were purposefully avoiding marketing their players. As I said in my voiceofsandiego.org feature piece, the Garfinkel-led Padres “made a conscious decision to separate fans from the actual Padres so that when the franchise made its predetermined choice to jettison their best players, fans would support it.”

That has been shot to hell by the new marketing department. They had nothing to work with so far, but were still at least trying to market some of their guys – Cashner and Alonso, for example. I don’t think this is a negligible shift in policy by the front office.

Padres Jagoff

I guess I disagree wholeheartedly with this. I did not have improved Padres marketing in my top 5, nor would I have it in my top 25. I believe the marketing is worse since the Garfinkel era. I’ve never believed that it was Garfinkel that decided to jettison players or keep payroll low, I put that on Moorad. Garfinkel’s job was to spin gold out of the huge dump that Moorad gave him to sell to San Diego. Like I said on our Top 10 Dee Failures post, shining up a turd is an intrinsic part of most major sports teams’ marketing departments. I believe Garfinkel did try to separate fans from the actual Padres players, but that was an attempt to market the circumstances that were forced on him. At the same time, I think a lot of the Garfinkel era initiatives were great successes: Breakfast at the Park, Sunday Kids Days/Kids Giveaways, vast improvements to the ballpark experience, cheaper entry level tickets at the Park at the Park while also featuring some unique first come first serve seating options for walkup ticketholders (Western Metal Supply for instance), the introduction of the Padres Membership program that brought with it many more perks, activities and access to the team than the prior season ticketholder program. I think that Garfinkel took a terrible core product and found ways to create value for fans outside the scope of the on-field product and within the scope of what he could actually affect.

I’ve written so much about Padres marketing failures in the last couple years that it’s impossible for me to say things are better now on the marketing front.

Change the Padres

Having spoken to Tom Garfinkel on several occasions, and based on everything else we’ve ever heard about him, there’s no question that he actually thought their “moneyball” approach of putting 100% of his eggs in the farm system, and trade-cycling star players, was the best way to build a legitimate winner in San Diego. I can forward you many emails where he says this almost verbatim, completely dismissing any other method of building a team in San Diego.

He then gets zero credit for implementing a marketing strategy designed specifically to not market players. It was a bet on his part: he thought he could market the name on the front of the jersey as successfully as other teams market both the name on the front and back. That isn’t just conjecture either, based on Mike Dee’s interview where he said the team did indeed shy away from marketing players. Garfinkel’s bet failed, spectacularly, especially when you consider I made ‘name on the front’ not ‘team president for the name on the front’ part of my mantra to oust him. (One of many instances where Garf’s methodology and words were easily used against him).

I think you’re fooling yourself if you think that Partello and company have had more to market than Garfinkel had. Garf had Peavy, Adrian, Latos, and prime Headley. He marketed zero of them. Partello has had basically nothing to worth with – seriously, two of their best offensive players in recent memory both tested positive for PEDs (Grandal and Everth) – but he’s still at least tried with what he’s had.

I think this praise is as much about the Padres shifting away from the trade-cycling of star players in order to enable marketing individuals as much as it is about the marketing efforts themselves.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t get worse than that ad above.

Padres Jagoff

I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think marketing the players is one small part of the overall marketing strategy of a team. I’ll agree that the current regime does a better job of putting players out there in front of fans, whether it’s through charitable appearances, public appearances, the new caravan that was announced today, on TV and print ads, etc. But the rest of the entire marketing equation I still believe was done much more effectively by Tom Garfinkel. In the end, baseball is a form of entertainment competing for entertainment dollars. I think Garfinkel did a better job of making baseball accessible and interesting to a casual fan audience, which in the end, is the majority of fans. I think he understood the value in having low priced, entry level options to bring in casual fans and families, rather than the current regimes crass and reckless attempt to monetize everything to the Nth degree.

Also receiving votes: ballpark improvements

Padres Jagoff

I think when I heard ballpark improvements, I’m speaking pretty much only about the jumbotron. The existing Petco Park jumbotron was embarrassing. Out of town guests would make all kinds of jokes about it. It was one of those things where you might not realize it was that bad until you visit a new ballpark. For me, I saw plenty of Nationals Park, and then last summer saw Safeco Park’s humongous jumbotron – seriously, if the new display (I know it’s smaller) can capture a fraction of the awe I had when I saw the Seattle display, it’s a gamechanger. The lack of upgrades in the jumbotron were, in my opinion, a product of the previous ownership’s skinflintedness. It could have been upgraded at any time, it just needed the capital investment. In fact, in general, the Moorad group let much of Petco fall into neglect. Small upgrades like the painting of the concourses have made a big difference in making Petco Park an impeccable spot for baseball. Regardless of whether I believe Mike Dee’s talk about segregation of capital improvement spending from operations spending, it was still a critical management decision to identify and make capital improvements.

Change the Padres

I didn’t vote for ballpark improvements because they are actually required by law, through their contract with the city, to maintain Petco Park as a premier stadium in baseball. They had no choice but to make the improvements, and they were probably lucky to survive city audits up until that point.

In terms of what matters, I would vote this much higher citing a lot of what you just cited. But I can’t give any of that credit to Mike Dee; they were required to do this maintenance and these improvements.

Padres Jagoff

I have no doubt they were technically legally required to do so, but as a “premier stadium in baseball”, they were probably under the same legal obligation when Jeff Moorad and probably John Moores were still here mucking up the works. With their in-house legal team, I’m sure they could have argued to delay the upgrades longer if they wanted to (and had anyone in city leadership had called them on it), but Mike Dee bit the bullet and got it done. Finally.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s