SAN DIEGO — Padres Chairman and lead investor Peter Seidler said he noticed the hints of dysfunction as the team stood neck and neck with the Giants all the way back in June. He saw the communication issues left to fester and sensed broader cracks as late-season losses mounted.
He stayed silent, at least publicly. Until now.
Seidler addressed wide-ranging questions about the organization, the general manager leading it, the relationship status with the clubhouse and much more during a 25-minute discussion Wednesday — shortly after the team fired manager Jayce Tingler a mere 222 games into the job.
“A lot of things didn’t go well,” Seidler said. “These decisions are only partially about wins and losses. It’s about, how did the organization function? Even in June, some of the things where our organization wasn’t operating like a fine-tuned automobile was evident, even then.”
Two things seemed clear as Seidler talked.
Communication issues and the inability for everyone to stay on the same page with decision-making soured things too often and, sometimes, too deeply. The other: He remains firmly entrenched behind general manger A.J. Preller.
“My trust level with A.J. is as high as it can be,” Seidler said. “I look at the step by step and methodical way he’s built our baseball organization. I see it getting stronger by the year. From a performance standpoint, we obviously took a step back this season. But last season we won our first postseason series in decades.
“I fully believe the chapter that is written in 2022 will be thoroughly different than the chapter we wrote this year.”
When it was suggested that a vocal portion of the Padres fan base will receive that vote of unwavering support as if their property taxes had doubled, Seidler said you can’t leave context on the dugout steps.
“These are the same fans that wanted to build a statue of A.J. last year, so it goes back to the rough year,” Seidler said of Preller, who has not guided the Padres to a .500 record in his six 162-game seasons. “Our fans care and our organization cares. There’s frustration everywhere when you finished like we did. It’s unacceptable for an organization with the talent and ability we have to finish like that.
“But there’s no reason being impulsive about things. Our organization doesn’t operate that way. We’re going to work deliberately to make sure what happened this year never happens in this organization again.”
It’s easy to view a managerial change as low-hanging fruit, especially for a team that struggled through a wide range of issues with veteran players left fumbling for answers about why and how things unraveled so spectacularly.
Seidler said the franchise dug far deeper to uproot problems.
“We’ve got a new head of scouting, a new head of player development and a new manager coming,” said Seidler, not mentioning the firing of pitching coach Larry Rothschild and a restart with many or all big league coaching positions. “We’ve made some substantial changes.
“We’ve done more than just tinkering here, because we believed it was necessary.”
Communication misfires became amplified.
“We let molehills become mountains,” Seidler said. “Without a doubt we’ll correct that going forward. If there’s a problem, we’ll address it and kill it then. We let issues become bigger. We have to own that, starting with me. If things aren’t going well, I’ve got to look in the mirror and address it.
“Next year, when a decision is made, we need to make sure everyone’s on board. Whether a guy is No. 6 in the lineup or No. 7, there’s no arguing about that. When decisions are made, we move forward together.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported a widening gulf between some veterans and the front office. Seidler said he, along with Preller, welcome discussion and debate with the players stepping on the field each day.
Seidler contended raw discourse is a sign of health, rather than the opposite.
“What I saw between the dugout and the front office was healthy and honest all year,” he said. “There’s never two passionate human beings who agree on everything. You don’t want that. I like the honesty, frankly. I didn’t see that as much of a weakness.
“One of the things I like about this organization is the passion.”
Circling back to Preller, Seidler was pressed on whether the GM has been too reliant and limited in decision-making because of his tendencies to hire or sign those with ties to his former club in Texas.
That includes the unproven Tingler, who never played in the majors.
“I think it’s a false narrative from the standpoint that he knows that organization well and knows from personal experience and confidence standpoint,” Seidler said. “If you look at his direct reports and many other positions, it’s a group from a lot of different places.
“(Senior advisor) Logan White came from the Dodgers. (Special assistant) Dave Post came (from the Astros). There are many other examples. I’ve never seen a yes man in the group.
“We have key Texas people in our organization who have been outstanding. The threshold, though, is who is the best to help us win.”
Will the roster require full-blow recalibration or fixes along the edges?
“That’s a question for A.J.,” Seidler said. “I have the information I need and more. I also have a very close and trusting relationship with A.J. in every way. He’ll determine roster construction.
“We have a great core of very good to superstar players. I would not expect us to do much with that core, if anything.”
It would seem obvious the Padres would prioritize hiring a manger with proven experience at the big-league level. Seidler, however, refused to commit to anything that limited the search.
“We’re looking for the right person to lead the dugout, not someone with a particular age or history, height or weight, or any of the superficial things,” he said. “Experience matters. It’s additive in a position of leadership, without a doubt. A.J. recognizes that, as do I.
“But I’m not going to predict the profile or demographic of the person we hire before we get into that. The ‘thin guy’ didn’t do it, so we need to get the heavier guy. We’re not going to be behave like that. We’re going to get the right guy.”
“It’s too early in our process to promise what the person is going to look like on paper.”
Amid the issues the Padres uncomfortably unearthed in 2021, Seidler vowed one thing has not changed.
“I haven’t lost an ounce of confidence in what we’re doing here,” he said.
What will be most telling: A year from now, will Seidler be saying the same thing?
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