Kevin Kiermaier has won Gold Gloves in each of the last two seasons and even won the Platinum Glove in 2015, given to the best overall defensive player in each league. But even Gold and Platinum Glove winners make mistakes, as Kiermaier has shown over the last few days.
On Monday, in the opener of a four-game series against the Royals, Kiermaier attempted to corral a sharp grounder hit up the middle by Lorenzo Cain with a runner on second base in the top of the third inning of a 1-1 game. Kiermaier charged in on the ball to attempt to throw out Alcides Escobar at home, but the ball sneaked under his glove and rolled nearly all the way to the warning track. Cain circled the bases and scored standing up, giving the Royals a 3-1 lead.
The same thing happened to Kiermaier on Thursday afternoon in the series finale against the Royals. With the Royals already leading 4-0 in the top of the eighth, Jorge Bonifacio was on second base when Whit Merrifield hit a sharp grounder up the middle. Kiermaier again charged the ball but it sneaked under his glove and rolled all the way to the center field fence. Merrifield scored standing up, extending the Royals’ lead to 6-0. Kiermaier could only crouch in the outfield and put his face in his hands in shame.
The Padres fired manager Andy Green on Saturday, per an official team release. Bench coach Rod Barajas will step into the position for the remaining eight games of the 2019 season.
Executive Vice President and GM A.J. Preller gave a statement in the wake of Green’s dismissal:
I want to thank Andy for his tireless work and dedication to the Padres over the last four seasons. This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we felt was necessary at this time to take our organization to the next level and expedite the process of bringing a championship to San Diego. Our search for a new manager will begin immediately.
In additional comments made to reporters, Preller added that the decision had not been made based on the Padres’ current win-loss record (a fourth-place 69-85 in the NL West), but rather on the lack of response coming from the team.
“Looking at the performance, looking at it from an improvement standing, we haven’t seen the team respond in the last few months,” Preller said. “When you get to the point where you’re questioning where things are headed … we have to make that call.”
Since his hiring in October 2015, Green has faced considerable challenges on the Padres’ long and winding path to postseason contention. He shepherded San Diego through four consecutive losing seasons, drawing a career 274-366 record as the club extended their streak to 13 seasons without a playoff appearance. And, despite some definite strides in the right direction — including an eight-year, $144 million pact with Eric Hosmer, a 10-year, $300 million pact with superstar Manny Machado, and the development of top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. — lingering injuries and inexplicable slumps from key players stalled the rebuild longer than the Padres would have liked.
For now, they’ll prepare to roll the dice with a new skipper in 2020, though any potential candidates have yet to be identified for the role. It won’t come cheap, either, as Green inked a four-year extension back in 2017 — one that should have seen him through the team’s 2021 campaign.