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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.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 4, Angels 3: I know I wake up kinda early, but the fact that people were still tweeting about this game from Angel Stadium when I woke up tells ya that it was something of a marathon. Fourteen innings with starting pitchers pinch-hitting and all of that kind of zaniness. Not terribly dramatic, though, as it was tied in the third inning and no one scored again until the 12th. The teams traded runs that frame — Aroldis Chapman blew the save — and then played two more. In the 14th Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela, who hit a sac fly to give New York their temporary 12th inning lead, singled home the go-ahead run. Thanks to all of their injuries the Yankees lineup was so anonymous that a split squad lineup for a mid-March trip to Sarasota looked at it and said “damn,” but the Bombers have won six of seven anyway.

As for the Angels:

I don’t know about “all around,” Brad, given that y’all lost, but it’s good to see that fan-pleasing media savvy you cultivated in Detroit has not abandoned you now that you’re in Anaheim.

Mets 5, Phillies 1: Everyone was talking about Bryce Harper getting ejected last night. I know he’s a big star and stuff, but a player getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes is one of the least exciting things around. No one ever gets ejected for interesting things like, I dunno, dancing like Jarvis Cocker after taking a walk or something.

That would be dope.

Anyway, Steven Matz bounced back from his nightmare outing last week to allow only one run on three hits over six innings. Jeff McNeil homered. Peter Alonso was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, which is one of the tougher ways to knock one in. The Phillies have lost four of five.

Diamondbacks 12, Pirates 4: Pittsburgh took a 4-1 lead into the seventh and then disaster struck. The Dbacks put up 11 runs in the seventh and eighth, which was bad enough, but it got worse. Pirates pitcher Nick Burdi appeared to seriously injure his arm, crumpling to the mound and doubling over in tears after throwing a fastball. This really sucks for a kid who had Tommy John surgery back in 2017 and now, no doubt, has something seriously wrong with his elbow or bicep. The Pirates will likely update today.

As for the Dbacks, Christian Walker hit a two-run homer, Eduardo Escobar homered and and finished with three RBI. It was the Dbacks’ ninth comeback win of the year. They’ve won 12 games overall.

White Sox 12, Orioles 2: José Abreu went 3-for-6 with a homer and five RBI. James McCann went deep for a three-run shot. The Orioles’ highlights: two errors from their shortstop, a base runner getting picked off of third base with the bases loaded and a reliever tossing three wild pitches in a single inning. They only drew 8,555 fans, though, so maybe they can pretend this didn’t happen.

Rays 6, Royals 3: Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer in the seventh to turn a 3-3 game into a 5-3 game as the Rays came from behind. Yandy Díaz, Brandon Lowe and Daniel Robertson knocked in runs as well. This was Zunino’s first game back after paternity leave so he probably had a bit more adrenaline coursing through his veins. Which, if he is a new father is actually terror, but let’s be nice and call it adrenaline.

Cardinals 13, Brewers 5: There were a ton of one-run games on Sunday. On Monday we get three teams scoring more than a dozen and winning in laughers. Here Dexter Fowler atoned for his boner on Sunday by going 4-for-4 with a homer and driving in four. Paul Goldschmidt homered — his ninth — among three hits and three driven in. The Cardinals outhit Milwaukee 18-5.

Twins 9, Astros 5: Jorge Polanco had four hits, including a two-run homer and drove in four, Jason Castro dingered as well, Max Kepler and Nelson Cruz had RBI singles and C.J. Cron hit a two-run double. The Twins win their fourth straight. The Astros pitching staff has now allowed 29 runs in their last three contests.

Rockies 7, Nationals 5: If you’re gonna get your 998th career hit, why not make it an RBI double? If you’re gonna get your 999th career hit, why not make it another double? If you’re gonna get your 1,000th career hit, why not make it a homer that breaks a 5-5 tie late in the game and serves to be the winning run? That’s what Nolan Arenado did last night. A shame he didn’t make 999 a triple for symmetry’s sake, but that’s on MLB for not making me their show-runner. Mark Reynolds and  Raimel Tapia also homered for Colorado and Trevor Story extend his hitting streak to 11 games.

Athletics 6, Rangers 1: Toledo Ohio’s own Chris Bassitt tossed five shutout frames for Oakland. No, I have no idea if Toledo claims him with pride or anything. I mean, they should, but I just said that because I looked up his player page and saw that he was born in Toledo. For all I know his family actually lived in some hoity-toity neighborhood in Maumee. Which I guess would be fine. I had a client who once lived and owned a business in Maumee. Nice guy. He’s in jail, but the last time I talked to him he was in good spirits. Of course that was 13 years ago, he’s still in jail and has a few more to go on his sentence so he may be grumpy these days, but at heart I’m sure he’s still a nice guy. Don’t look at me like that. I did my best on that case.

Wait, where was I? Ah, yes, the A’s-Rangers game: Stephen Piscotty homered and drove in three and Matt Chapman added a sac fly. Fernando Rodney pitched in his 907th career game, which puts him 24th on the all-time list, passing Cy Young. Bob Melvin after the game: “Fernando Rodney broke Cy Young’s record, pretty cool stuff.” Get you a manager who tells dad jokes about you. Not one who says a 14-inning loss was “a great baseball game all-around.”

Tigers vs. Red Sox — POSTPONED:

This morning it was summer
By noon a cold front building
Where did you go?
Where did you go?
I got to find some shelter
’cause any minute now
It’s gonna blow
It’s gonna blow
But I don’t mind the rain
So strike me once again:
I’ve got nothing to lose
And it looks like we are in for stormy weather
With death and destruction coming through
Oh, look out there she blows
Now everybody knows:
Stormy weather always makes me think of you
And watch out ’cause the storm is coming through