648 days ago Mike Dee was let go as CEO and Team President of the San Diego Padres. The public still doesn’t know exactly why he was let go and the mainstream media has done a terrible job investigating the matter. While Padres fans on Twitter love asking Kevin Acee, the Union Tribune’s Padres beat writer, Why was Mike Dee fired? The other question is, Where is his replacement?
Before Dennis Lin became a writer for The Athletic, he had one more mailbag where I asked, who will be the Padres CEO? Lin answered that Erik Greupner, the Padres’ Chief Operations Officer, will most likely be promoted to the CEO role and that he’s acted in the CEO role in the past year. Lin responded back in January and no one has assumed the role of CEO yet.
I don’t believe Greupner has acted as the CEO since Dee left. If he has been the unofficial CEO, then he hasn’t done a good job in his role in a very crucial time. The Padres are not competing this year and probably the next and this should be the perfect time to show creativity, make tickets more affordable for fans and provide a better experience at the ballpark.
Recently, Ron Fowler went on Jesse Agler’s Beyond the Booth podcast, which revealed Fowler’s duties inside the Padres organization. When Agler asked about what is Fowler’s typical day like, Fowler said the following, “responding to texts from Wayne, typically in the morning letting me know of all the fun things that happened overnight….. Wayne is marketing. Erik in the operations area, sales and such has reports for me. CFO reports to me and baseball ops.” This is exactly what a CEO’s responsibilities are in any business. CEOs take reports from the CMO, COO and CFO of their company. Fowler would go on and say he still runs his beer distribution business while also being on committees for MLB. It would appear that Fowler is being stretched out and should have a team President that would be responsible for the San Diego Padres. A triangle of Fowler-Greupner-Partello is probably not the best way to run this franchise. This leadership has not shown any creativity in the past or shown they are able to schedule and plan giveaways or provide with a logical and affordable ticket package.
At best the Padres have shown that they are good at taking some suggestions from fans. After last year’s giveaway disaster, this year the Padres have provided several different bobble-head days, Trevor Hoffman Hall of Fame and Padres 1998 collectables. But fans have demanded bobble-head giveaways for years in the past and the Trevor Hoffman Hall of Fame giveaway is an easy giveaway idea this year since Hoffman is going to the Hall of Fame in 2018. Padres fans served up a softball to the Padres that they hit for a ground-rule double. These are good giveaways that Padres fans want but it’s easy to see that Padres are just listening to fans. Not much creativity involved when doing something you should have been doing all along, which is provide great giveaways for fans. Every other team in the MLB does it, why did it take so long for the Padres to get on board with better giveaways?
A good indicator of these giveaways being the ground-rule double I say they are and not the Home Run that the Padres were expecting, is taking a look at their attendance numbers. In 2017, the Padres attendance in their first 29 home games were 740,280. In 2018, that number rose to only 760,985. That’s only a 2.7% increase and averaging 714 more fans per game. That number should be in the thousands. Just to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the Padres and their giveaways, the Padres had a 4 consecutive game bobble-head giveaway back on Mother’s Day Weekend. That series was against the St. Louis Cardinals. In those 4 games, the Padres averaged 27,405 fans, with a high on a Saturday game of 32,715. The average number is barely selling out half the stadium. This was home game number 24 through 27. In 2017, home game number 24 through 26 was a series against the Chicago Cubs starting Monday on Memorial Day. The attendance of the first game of the series was 41,414. ON MEMORIAL DAY, WHICH IS A MONDAY. That is higher than the 2018 Saturday afternoon Trevor Hoffman giveaway game. The 2017 Cubs three-game series average attendance was 32,880, which again is higher. Even if I add the following Friday game, home game number 27, against the Rockies to have a set of 4 games in 2017, the 2017 average attendance is still higher, at 29,893, than the bobble-head giveaway weekend of 2018.
A CEO needs to forecast these decisions to expect better results. Why was this 4-game bobble-head giveaway on Mother’s Day weekend? Why was it when kids are still in school with one of these games (the first game of the series which was a Thursday), on a school night? Why have 4 consecutive bobble head nights? For me, it is difficult to attended 4 games in a month, let alone four consecutive games to get a collectable bobble-head. This giveaway proved that there was a lack of collaboration inside the Padres organization. These games should have been marketed better, the bobble-heads should have been spread out between several months and not just 4 straight days and a forward thinking leader should have thought of a potential low attendance on Mother’s Day weekend. Marketing has never been a strength of the Padres and I’m still surprised that Wayne Partello is still the Chief of Marketing.
Giveaways can be great but when they are mixed in with high-ticket prices, it would be difficult for a family of four to make it out to those games. That family of four may just be better off at home, watch the game, then go on a site like Craiglist or Ebay and buy the giveaway bobble-head just so their son or daughter can have it and they may save some money. Point is, since Dee left, the Padres haven’t even bothered to decrease their ticket prices. Ticket prices do not reflect the product that is on the field, which is watching a below .500 team for the past 2 seasons. That high priced ticket allows you entry into the much talked about over-priced food court and the over-priced and increasingly and obvious takeover of Constellation and AB-InBev beers. There are so many better options around Petco Park and other places in San Diego County to get good food and even better beers that I don’t need to go to Petco Park for that. The tickets should reflect the product on the field.
Even when the Padres tried to sell a ticket package, it was a complete joke. Last season the Padres offered the “5-Win Pass” back in June. The premise of this package was for the consumer of this package, starting in June, would be able to see 5 wins from the Padres and that was it. You would be able to see as many as 16 games but as few as 5 for only $99. If you only were able to see the Padres win 5 straight games, that would cost on average about $19.80. If the Padres would continue to lose and you were able to watch all 16 games in June, that would cost on average $6.19. There lies the problem. The Padres with this plan encouraged losing. Your average fan would want to go as many games as possible and that meant the Padres had to lose. You shouldn’t want your own hometown fans to turn on the team and encourage losing just so they can go to as many games as possible. The better solution would have been to offer the 16 games in June for $99.
The other problem with this plan was that Ron Fowler came out and said this was his idea. Not Greupner, not even Partello but Ron Fowler himself. How is it that the acting CEO in waiting or the Chief in Marketing are not coming out with these types of ideas? This is where the CEO should step in and say “Ron I know you have this idea but I have a better one. Why don’t we just make it for the month of June for $99?”. It is astonishing that Fowler has so much say on the business side of his organization instead of letting the people who work for him take the reigns. Creating an affordable unique ticket package is not that hard. Fowler even said that he took the idea from the Milwaukee Bucks, who had their own 10-win package. Currently there are 13 other teams that have their own affordable ticket package with some of those teams competing to be in the playoffs this year.
A CEO should be creative, innovative and of course a great leader. A good example of this is Larry Baer from the San Francisco Giants. Baer has been with the Giants since the early 90s. First becoming the executive vice president in 1992, then the COO in 1996, team President in 2008 and finally CEO in 2012. During his time with the Giants he help with the building of AT&T Park, is a key strategist and negotiator for the Giants and currently serves as the chairman for the Giants Development Services, which is currently developing Mission Rock. What is Mission Rock? Mission Rock is a development project at AT&T Park Lot A. The Giants hope to turn the 28-acre Lot A into 1,500 housing units, retail space and park space. Anchor Steam, a San Francisco brewery, planned to open a brewery at Mission Rock (since being bought by Sapporo last year, Anchor Steam Mission Rock plan has been put on hold.) Baer received overwhelming support for this project by getting 74 percent of the vote to pass Prop B back in November of 2015. Once completed, this project should leave an ever-lasting impression in the San Francisco community. It would provide low-income housing, jobs for many people in the area and revitalize the area around AT&T Park.
You may say, San Diego has plenty of office space and housing right outside Petco Park. Yes you’re right but that is not the point. The Giants are building this project not just for what it can do for the community today but what it can do for the Giants in the future. The Giants are creating easier access to the team for potential tenants who are going to live and work at Mission Rock. As the Giants help the community the community will root and help the Giants. This is the type of the leadership San Diego needs. Maybe the Padres don’t need to acquire assets but maybe inquire on certain projects around the community. Leadership like this can be beneficial for the team and the community. Having a competent team President that listens to more fan sugesstions, is active in the community, while also promoting and helping the image of the Padres is exactly what the Padres need right now.
Having Erik Greupner become the next CEO, leads me to believe that he would become a puppet for Ron Fowler. Mike Dee hired Greupner and Wayne Partello. There has to be some reason why Fowler wants them around and is very loyal to both. Greupner and Partello could be just yes men to Fowler and whatever Fowler says is what the Padres will do. That would mean what Greupner is currently doing in this role will continue. There will be no creativity, no collaboration and the only ones who suffer are the Padre fans. We all hope that the Padres on the field will turn the corner and become playoff bound soon but I don’t believe the Padres will truly find success until they have a steady, logical, forward-thinking leader at the top. Until then, the un-holy trinity of Fowler- Greupner- Partello needs to come to an end.