Daily Dose: Plug finally pulled on Lidge

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Charlie Manuel made things official Thursday, announcing that Brad Lidge will try to get back on track in “low-stress” situations while Ryan Madson takes over at closer. Manuel showed incredible patience with Lidge, allowing him to go 0-7 with 10 blown saves and a 7.11 ERA in 51 innings before losing his job. That also means that he’ll probably be quick to give Lidge another chance in the ninth inning if he pitches well.
In the meantime Madson will have tons of fantasy value down the stretch. He’s been one of the NL’s elite setup men since shifting to the bullpen full time in 2007, posting ERAs of 3.05, 3.05, and 3.10. He should have little trouble getting the job done one inning later than usual, but if Madson struggles or needs any days off Brett Myers will likely be asked to be step in now that he’s off the disabled list and looking healthy.
While the defending champs take advantage of their five-game lead in the NL East to get the bullpen right for October, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Eric Young Jr. went 2-for-3 with a walk and two steals Thursday, finally showing off the blazing speed that enabled him to swipe an amazing 80 bases per 150 games in the minors. Young’s father played 15 seasons in the majors, retiring just three years ago after hitting .283/.359/.390 with 465 steals over 1,730 games. Junior is a similar player, hitting .293/.385/.416 in the minors while showing modest power.
Young’s long-term position remains unclear, as he played almost exclusively second base until shifting to center field literally a few weeks ago, and was back in the infield Thursday for the Rockies. However, he’s batted at least .290 in each of the last four seasons and has always shown good patience, giving him the on-base skills needed to thrive without much pop. If he plays, his speed makes him a big fantasy asset.
* Luke Hochevar turned heads in July by racking up 22 strikeouts versus zero walks over a two-start stretch, but has gone 0-6 with an 8.12 ERA in eight starts since then. At this point back-to-back strong starts look like the clear aberration for a guy who’s 12-22 with a 5.61 ERA overall, but the former No. 1 overall pick got a little reason for optimism this week after discovering that he’s been tipping pitches. We’ll see.
AL Quick Hits: Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder) said Wednesday that he hopes to begin playing catch in January, but his future with the Yankees remains uncertain … Jarrod Washburn returned to the rotation Thursday, allowing three runs in five innings … Gil Meche (shoulder) is unlikely to pitch again this year after going 6-10 with a 5.09 ERA in 23 starts … As expected, Carlos Pena underwent surgery Thursday on his broken fingers and won’t resume baseball activities for several months … Brian Bannister is seeking a second opinion on his injured shoulder, which likely isn’t good news … In his final start before being shut down for the season, Brett Cecil tossed six innings of two-run ball Thursday to finish at 7-4 with a 5.30 ERA … Switch-hitter Carlos Guillen (shoulder) will be limited to batting from the left side of the plate for the remainder of the year … David Robertson (elbow) has been shut down for two weeks, but hopes to come back in October … Alex Gordon homered Thursday as the last-place Royals swept the first-place Tigers.
NL Quick Hits: Joe Blanton was knocked around for eight runs Thursday, snapping a streak of 11 straight Quality Starts … Garrett Atkins went deep at home Thursday for the first time since April … Mark DeRosa said Wednesday that he’ll need offseason surgery to fix a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist … Troy Tulowitzki missed his third straight game with back stiffness Thursday and Ian Stewart also sat out with a back problem of his own … Adam Rosales went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Thursday and is now hitting below .200 in 216 at-bats … Ian Desmond homered, doubled, and knocked in four runs Thursday in his first career start, making quite a first impression with the Nationals … Lance Berkman homered Thursday night for the first time in 33 games dating back to July 9 … Brian McCann snapped his 0-for-17 slump Thursday with four hits … Jose Contreras exited Thursday’s start after straining his quadriceps running out a ground ball.

The Padres owners try to explain why they aren’t spending money

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There was an interesting article in the San Diego Union-Tribune over the weekend about the Padres, their owners and their finances.

The article purports to be a rare look into the finances of a big league club. And yes, the owners opened their books, to a degree, to the writer of the story, talked about the team’s financial position, its debt and its approach to team payroll, past, present and future. The upshot: the team has had lots of debt, has had to do a lot of work to get out of that situation and now, with some restructuring out of the way, the club looks forward to spending more on players. Eventually. Like, maybe in 2020 or 2021.

On the one hand, yes, it’s actually got some good information in there! Some details about team finances you don’t often see. Which is totally cool as far as that goes. The problem is that the article doesn’t go nearly as far as it may seem and, in the end, is just a far more elaborate than usual excuse from a team about its failure to spend money.

The tell here comes from what is not mentioned as opposed to what is. For example, while it talks about how much is being spent on various things — baseball salaries, operating, marketing, etc. — nowhere does it talk about the owners’ own take. Rather, it leaves you with the impression that the owners haven’t seen a dime from the team in the several years that they’ve owned it. Color me extraordinarily skeptical about that. As we’ve seen with other clubs — most notably the Marlins, but most do it — broad categories such as “baseball operations” or “non baseball operations” often include substantial payments to owners in less-than-obvious line items. Payments to LLCs and partnerships for “consulting” or “management fees” or what have you. Do the Padres have similar expenditures? We can’t tell from this article, but it’s telling to me that they have spent about as much on front office/miscellaneous baseball ops stuff as player salaries over the past several years. A lot of that has been at building a strong minor league development system, but I’m guessing not all.

Similarly, there is an awfully large portion of the article aimed at telling the tale of the clubs’ massive debt and its restructuring. Yes, debt service can be a killer for liquidity, but it doesn’t really talk too much about the debt for its own sake. Such as the fact that (a) the current owners knew full-well of the debt they were inheriting from the previous owner, John Moores, when they bought the team; and (b) that by assuming the debt, their purchase price for the team was lowered, as it always will be in transactions that involve a lot of debt-assumption. The current owners have had the team since 2012. I don’t recall them telling the public then that there would be a near decade’s worth of swimming against the current of debt before they started paying for players. That’s never been in the season ticket brochure.

It’s also worth noting that, for as much as the debt restructuring is talked up in the story, it is saving the Padres only $8 million a year. They’ve been at least $60 million below the luxury tax threshold for several years now. It’s more than the club’s debt keeping them from spending money. It’s largely been a choice.

Again, none of which is to say that the article is not interesting in its own right. It certainly is. There is certainly more information here than one typically sees in an article about a team’s finances. But it is just partial information. Moreover, it seems to be aimed at justifying another year or two of non-contention to fans without satisfactorily explaining all of the many years of non-contention which preceded it. The Padres famously went all-in and spent some money on players in 2015. Why did that make sense then if this debt problem has been there all along? Why did they give Eric Hosmer over $100 million last year? The article wants to portray ownership as sober and responsible and prudent and use that to explain why the Padres have stunk on ice for a good long time, but it is not very convincing in communicating some consistent, rational thread from ownership.

That all of this comes at a time when clubs are being criticized for not spending money is no accident, I suspect. As such, I am choosing to read the piece for some interesting information it conveys while understanding that it has a pretty significant P.R. component to it as well.