Padres opt to show Towers the door

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Kevin Towers, the longest tenured GM in baseball, will be let go after 14 years running the show in San Diego, Padres CEO Jeff Moorad confimed Friday night.
The long rumored move will come following a second straight losing season. The Padres have improved from 63-99 in 2008 to 74-85 so far this year, but the second-half surge did Towers no good. The writing had been on the wall since the moment Moorad took control of the team earlier this season.
Despite typically modest payrolls, the Padres won four division titles during Towers’ stay. However, they also finished in fourth or fifth place nine times and lost 95 games on three occasions.
Towers should still be remembered rather fondly in San Diego for the Adrian Gonzalez/Chris Young fleecing of the Rangers. His trades for Phil Nevin, Ryan Klesko and Woody Williams were also big successes, though those teams at the beginning of the decade were failures anyway. His ability to put together quality bullpens, that were always very cheap outside of Trevor Hoffman, had to be one factor that gave Moores pause before he decided to let him go.
But, in the end, player development problems doomed Towers. In my Restoring the Rosters series in August, I ranked the Padres 28th in talent signed. Of the 28 first- and supplemental first-round picks to come on board during Towers’ tenure, only one, Khalil Greene, has turned into a quality major leaguer. Now, it’s still too early to judge those last 10, all of whom have been drafted since 2007, and Tim Stauffer is recently showing signs of life, but that’s an abysmal track record.
The Padres need some new blood, so they’ll look outside of the organization for a successor. Jerry DiPoto and Peter Woodfork, both of whom worked with Moorad in Arizona, seem like logical choices. DiPoto has been a hot name the last couple of years anyway, and he should be considered the favorite for the job,

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.