The Padres’ structure works for Fowler, may not work for the Padres

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I LOVE business. This passion for business and how they operate started back in high school when I took Econ. The simple principles of supply and demand and opportunity cost was only part of why I liked that class. My Econ teacher also had a lot to say about life in general. He would say “Life is about making choices”. Whether that is in life or in business this statement is true. You want people at the top of your organization making good choices. I wanted to learn more about business operations, so there was only one thing to do: go to business school. I earned a Bachelor’s in Business Management by learning about business structures and how different businesses operate. I learned how companies like Apple, Google, Yahoo and other Silicon Valley companies maintain their success, and how they try to find the right people to lead them in the right direction. As I would sit in my 9am business class, I would often try to compare and contrast how the Padres are constructed. I would think about the Padres’ business structure and what it will take for them to be successful.

With any business you start at the top. You recognize who is your President or CEO. This person implements the organization’s plan to be successful. The CEO can come up with various creative ways to execute this plan. If you read the last thing I wrote for Gwynntelligence, you would know that I am calling for the Padres to hire a CEO for the team. It is necessary for the team to have one, unless you enjoy Ron Fowler implementing his vision for the team. Hiring a CEO would mean a different voice in the organization and not just Fowler’s. Teams generally have an owner and/or Chairman, which is Fowler’s official title with the Padres. A common structure is to have a CEO/ team president, as well as a group of Vice Presidents that would help execute the team’s goals and plan. The Padres have chosen to not have that person in the organizational structure at the moment. It’s all Fowler.

Last week, we had the pleasure of listening to Ron Fowler come on the Ben and Woods Show on the Mighty1090. It’s always a treat to listen to Fowler speak on the radio or on a podcast. He, unknowingly, reveals a lot about his role within the Padres. The information Fowler spews out range from that he needs a shortstop, to who reports to him on a daily basis. Last Wednesday, Fowler revealed how he “wanted Hosmer here very badly” and how “Andy will be back and AJ will be back”. The latter is not very surprising. Fowler would be very reluctant to part ways with a manager he just extended. But when he talks about AJ Preller, he said “we structured our General Manager position in a different way, so we can take advantage of his skills and put some administrative people around him”. Then follows with “I think we have a good structure in place”. Now this is interesting. It would be foolish not to take advantage of Preller’s strength of being excellent in scouting but that just makes him a Scouting Director. Preller has not assembled a successful baseball team and trading for Bryan Mitchell to take a roster spot on the Major League team in 2018 was a disaster. Preller has not proven himself as a General Manager. For Fowler, he must like that he can influence people in baseball operations that can bring him a shortstop and Eric Hosmer. So of course Fowler thinks this a good structure.

When you think of the San Diego Padres you have to think of them as any other business. They have marketing, accounting, sales, HR, etc. Some of these departments are highlighted more for a baseball team, like marketing and sales. You also have to add baseball operations and ballpark operations to this list for a baseball team. You often need collaborations within these departments for a successful promotion to work or selling a specific ticket package. I would like to think that baseball operations is a solo division that cannot and should not be influence by anyone on the outside, like a CEO or anyone in marketing. So when Fowler, a man that has ZERO baseball experience and is just a guy that sign checks, says “I wanted Hosmer here very badly” you can’t deny that Fowler has some influence on baseball operations. This is a problem when Preller has no one else to report to and has to go to directly to Fowler. You may say that’s the reason Mike Dee wanted to hire Preller in the first place. AJ Preller would have no problem reporting directly to Dee. Dee also had no business interfering in baseball operations. A CEO, a team President, an owner should not be able to influence baseball operations, especially if they have no idea what they are talking about.

Here are some examples how some other teams function in Baseball operations and the who-reports-to-who area. When the Arizona Diamondbacks hired Mike Hazen back in 2016, it was noted from the very beginning that Hazen “will have the final say over baseball matters in Arizona and report to Hall”. Derrick Hall is the CEO for the Diamondbacks. Currently the Giants will hire a new General Manager and Brian Sabean, President of Baseball Operations, will hire the new GM but the GM will report to the CEO Larry Baer. You also have GMs that report to their President of Baseball Operations like the Cubs with Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstien or the Dodgers with Farhan Zaidi and Andrew Friedman. The Angels have Billy Eppler report directly to owner Arte Moreno. Arte Moreno has been known to be very hands on with his baseball team and I’m not sure if he has influence on baseball operations. With that said Angels have been pretty mediocre recently while teams like the Giants, Cubs and Dodgers have found success with their own baseball operations structures. The people in baseball operations within those successful organizations have a plan and they stick to that plan with zero or very little influence from the outside.

There’s clearly a mix on who GMs in Major League Baseball report to. Ideally for the Padres, they should have a buffer between Fowler and Preller. A team president that doesn’t try to influence baseball operations would, maybe, probably, be a good thing in the short-term and long-term for the Padres. Short-term, there wouldn’t be a need to fulfill an owners expectations to try to win 90-plus games next year or try to be above .500. So you don’t have to trade prospects or try to sign a player you don’t have to sign. This would correlate to the long-term, of seeing a prospect’s development and having baseball people make the decisions for the roster moving forward.

I’ve only lived in the Padres era where the owners of the Padres have influenced baseball operations. Moores influenced in getting a certain draft pick, Moorad would put heavy constraints on baseball operations that made the Padres a small-market club, and now the current ownership has been very open on their vision for the Padres. Padre fans already know where that leads and it leads to no where. Ownership can’t get out of their own way. Fowler should hire someone that takes the responsibilities of having to talk to Preller on a everyday basis. Fowler needs to realize that his top down approach is very old school thinking. Modern businesses centralize where each department comes up with their own ideas that conform with the guidelines set by the CEO. That’s how businesses become much more creative than what the Padres are at the moment.

The Padres’ business structure is a reflection of Fowler. Fowler has to be able to know everything that goes on in the organization and has to have a hand in everything. That is why this structure fits Fowler but it is not modern for the Padres in order for them to get the next level. Fowler should bring in someone that can modernize the San Diego Padres. As my Econ teacher said, life is about making choices and for Fowler that choice is obvious. It’s going to be up to Fowler to finally step down and let someone else take the reigns.

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