“The San Diego Padres signed James Shields.”
Up until last night, I thought that phrase was more likely to describe the Padres’ 2019 offseason than the present one. We had been down this road before: the Padres pursuing a free agent in February whose asking price had descended below their predicted value prior to the offseason. Just never successfully on someone whose asking price was a multiple of the franchise’s total payroll in 2010.
The Padres are an improved team with James Shields. How improved will be debated over the remainder of this offseason on talk sports radio, in the local papers, in national columns, and on the podcast at this very site.
Less talked about, but more important long-term, is the fact that this is officially a new era in Padres history.
That’s not just because the Padres have a new core signed for at least four years – Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, James Shields – or because they’re likely to compete for their first playoff berth since Barack Obama was a household name. It’s because the Padres actually have an ownership group showing interest in producing a product on the field that can win.
Over the first two years of the Fowler/Seidler ownership, their interest in fielding a winning product can be described as tepid, at best. For as useful as Joaquin Benoit is and for all the hoopla surrounding the Josh Johnson signing last offseason, before signing James Shields the Padres ranked dead last in free agent spending under the Fowler/Seidler group. Now, they’re up to 20th:
Not to mention the fact that Shields’ deal is officially the largest contract for a free agent addition in franchise history, basically quadrupling the deal given to Joaquin Benoit. (In consecutive offseasons, we’ve been able to shove Orlando Hudson further into the annals of Padres history. Major win.)
During those two years and up until last night, when Shields’ signing rudely interrupted my first viewing of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, the Fowler/Seidler ownership group was part of an era encompassing Moores’ final payroll-slashing seasons as Padres owner and the Moorad years. The Fowler/Seidler ownership group was simply a continuation of that era, destined to be lumped together with disdain in another dark chapter of Padres history.
Not anymore. This is the Fowler/Seidler Era. Maybe the Preller Era, when it’s all said and done. I don’t care about the name, really, but it’s now clear that this ownership group and general manager don’t belong in the same breath as Jeff Moorad, John Moores, Tom Garfinkel, or Sandy Alderson.
What does this mean? Mainly, that media which covers the Padres, including the online community, can reduce our focus on things happening off-the-field, and start focusing on things happening on-the-field. Debating whether Fowler is better than, or just a continuation of, Moorad is officially out. Debating whether Solarte or Middlebrooks or Spangenberg will start the season at third is in.
It’s over, people. At the risk of jinxing everything: the worst is behind us.
Drink up. May I suggest a Fowler-distributed beer?