Jason Klein (Brandiose) – TKF #59

This week the guys talk to Jason Klein from Brandiose, a local company that has become a leader in the sports branding industry. They talk about minor league baseball, working with the Padres, and developing the polarizing mascot Chuck The Condor with the LA Clippers.

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The Padres Suck?

Listen.

Can you hear that?

It’s the sound of hundreds, if not thousands of Padres fans telling each other just how much the Friars suck this year. “They’re terrible!” “They can’t play defense!” “They’re a bunch of old has-beens!” “They’re all young nobodies!” “I can’t stand to watch this team strand another baserunner!” These frustrated fans aren’t wrong. They really aren’t, but at the same time…they are?

You see, the Padres are in fact not a  good team this year. They show flashes of greatness, and then show long stretches of the team everyone assumed they were getting in 2016. Except me. I maintained this offseason that the Padres would finish in second place. Somehow, I still believe it. Call me a believer, and then make fun of me for a long long time. However, the Padres are playing relatively well, and have even managed to sweep the NL West leading Giants, and take two of three from the Nationals. They aren’t as “shitty” as some people would like them to be, and they are nowhere near great. They’re just in the middle. The gray area. They call it ‘hovering around .500′ for a reason – it sounds boring and inconclusive.

But, to say they just suck is wrong. Because, the Padres is an entire organization, and I’m finding a hard time deciphering which part of that organization sucks.

THE PLAYERS:

The Padres on the field squad have actually put up some of the most explosive offensive numbers in Major League Baseball throughout June and July. Guys like Wil Myers and Matt Kemp started to hit like we always want them to, a dude named Schimpf is playing at a level no one was expecting, and even ol’ Mumford and Sons, Derek Norris, decided to wake up – if only for a few brief beautiful moments. Add in to that mix Solarte’s oft overlooked and solid play (never overlooked by me, cause I am always right), some timely pitching, and Melvin Upton’s tradeable stats you actually have a team that’s kind of fun to watch! Fancy that. Seriously, flipping fancy it. As a lifelong Padres fan I’ve sat through teams that have had a similar record and expectations and have not been fun to watch (i.e. 1986-1992, 1999-2003), and it’s been pretty exhausting. Statistically, over the long run this team is at best a .500, maybe third place finisher if everything breaks right. That is not good. However, that does not suck. You know who sucks? The Rays, The Reds, The Diamondbacks, and the Braves. And, you may say, “Well, Dallas the Braves are actually rebuilding, and they have been honest with their fans about that, so really it doesn’t suck, and I have a sandwich in my hand and I’m eating it and blah blah blah…” and that actually brings us to the next category –

THE FARM SYSTEM:

Remember last offseason when we gave away a bunch of young prospects and players for guys like Kemp, the Upton’s and Kimbrel? Remember when everyone lost their minds, and no one could fathom how we’d recover before Jesus came back to smite Petco or at least rescue us from season three of True Detective? We gave up Wisler! We gave up Turner! We gave up…Jace Peterson! Yes, we did. And, perhaps it’d be nice to have those guys back, but personally players like Margot, Guerra, and Asuaje make me a little more excited. Especially since Turner is starting to profile more as a speedster and defender, and maybe that’s it. Add to this list the deals made for Paddock and more recently Anderson Espinoza, and I’m starting to like this farm system a lot. Next in line is the influx of international talent, and draft picks Preller has been able to sign, and well…let’s just say I don’t miss Jace Peterson. Whether the front office will admit it or not, like the Braves we are rebuilding, and AJ Preller is charge (for the most part) of that rebuild. Since AJ had a hand in the prized Rangers farm system, I’m gonna give him a longer rope than normal. Looking at the young talent we have, I’m gonna say we don’t suck. Minus the James Shields deal, and I’ll get to that.

THE COACHING STAFF:

I like Andy Green. You kind of have to. He’s a young manager without a ton of experience, having the same amount of success with this team that Bud Black and Pat Murphy had with last years “All-Star Squad”. Players seem to like him, and he’s a happy guy who also likes to show some emotion. Can’t really be upset with that, and based on record alone he doesn’t suck…at all. In fact, he might be a good manager someday. McGwire is harmless, if not probably a lot of fun to have around, and Zinter is obviously having a positive impact. The only question mark on this whole crew is Balsley, which is weird for fans to hear. Last season and this season pitchers aren’t seeming to respond, or maybe he’s lost his influence. Either way, something is going on, and while that alone doesn’t suck, it is a bummer.

THE GM:

He’s not Kevin Towers, and that doesn’t suck.

THE EXECUTIVES:

Here is the only part of this organization that might…perhaps…not totally, but maybe…suck. A lot of times we forget that Fowler and Co. are a relatively new ownership group in sports. They have a certain bravado to them that reminds you of all the reasons you hate rich people. They are utterly confident in their decision making, and thats final. They do have the right to be, as it is their team, and they can do and say what they want. So, really they don’t suck, they are just kinda…sucky. But, let’s look at this crew: Fowler is the “voice”, and fought for that privilege. I’ll give him credit in that he’s a better voice than any Spanos young or old. He obviously has a short temper and expects results although he isn’t completely sure on how to get them. Neither is Seidler, and that’s when things get troublesome. More on that in a second. Fowler was the catalyst for the Shields deal, which is unfortunate, because man…let’s just assume Shields was able to pull together an okay June, we could’ve gotten so much more for him. Instead we got a player you already forgot about, and Fernando Tatis’ kid. You remember Fernando Tatis, right? He’s that player whose baseball card you keep for nostalgic reasons although you never rooted for him, you just liked his name, and you miss that time in your life. Of course the Shields deal was more of a salary and personality dump than anything else, and when Shields left the team under the careful watch of Sevendust, we all immediately got it.

Sure, Fowler is riding the line of active owner, and frustrated owner, but at least he’s active and I like that. Seidler, the future voice, is a little different. He’s the real “owner” and he knows it. He only pokes his head out when something weird happens. He’s the Michael Corleone of this family (Yes, that makes Fowler “Sonny”, and Dee a mix of “Fredo” and “Tom Hagen”) and that’s a good guy to have around. When he talks you feel like something is actually being addressed, but you never totally trust him. That brings us to Mike Dee, who had a sizable campaign launched a couple of months ago to have him fired. He’s not well-liked by a lot of fans, but very well-liked by ownership, and that means he will be here until someday he betrays Seidler in nightclub in Cuba, and then goes fishing on a boat by himself. Here’s the issue, Dee has made the team more profitable, maybe not by much, but he has, and that’s all that matters to most owners. He’s made an inferior product a tourist destination, which is impressive. It’s like if Disneyland got rid of Space Mountain and Frontierland and Pirates of the Caribbean, and people still kept coming anyway. The team has had more odd scandals than most this season, and has about a .500 record dealing with them, which is fine. Food at the ballpark is awesome, which is great, and the scoreboard is the size of La Mesa now. The experience is just that – an experience. Not necessarily a Baseball experience, but an experience nonetheless. The part of this executive team that does suck is when they all try to get involved in player decisions. Dee says he doesn’t get involved, but we all know that’s not true, and ultimately who cares. However, when you hire AJ Preller, you let him do his thing. Trust him. It’s pretty obvious they haven’t. There was a theory going around that they hired Preller at the last second because he abandoned his strengths and sold them on building a winner immediately, which any ownership group obviously wants to hear. AJ just didn’t have any experience doing that, and made moves that were fun, but questionable. My addition to this theory is that AJ tried to build a winner, while secretly revamping a not-so-great farm system, which was his plan all along. I like this theory, so I’m buying into it. If the executive crew can find a way to stay out of things for another season or two then this team might have a chance. The issue is most of us know that isn’t possible, and yes that does indeed kind of suck.

For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc 

Carlos Rico – TKF #58

This week Dallas and Nick sit down with Carlos Rico from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. They talk about the All Star Week, the Drew Pomeranz trade with Boston, and the upcoming issues surrounding the Chargers’ push for a stadium. Then Nick and Carlos discuss the post Kobe Bryant Lakers.

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ALL STAR WEEK – TKF #57

The big event came and went. On this episode Nick, Dallas, Padres Haiku, Nick’s Dad, and Liz McCann all share their All Star experiences. From a baseball discussion series hosted by Steve Garvey at Sycuan, to Fanfest, to watching Wil Myers come up short at the Home Run Derby, it was all a blast watching San Diego showcase itself on the national stage. Even though the National League lost in the big game, it was a week none of us will forget.

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Geoff Young – TKF Pod #56

This week Nick sits down with Geoff Young from Baseball Prospectus and crookedscoreboard.com. They talk about the international signing period, the future of the farm system, and the overall experience of being a patient Padres fan. Then they talk about Richard Linklater’s latest film Everybody Wants Some!! Nick’s wife, and Red Sox fan, Liz also stops by to discuss their shared hatred of the Yankees.​

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Kevin Durant to the Warriors is a Bad Move

There are a lot of reasons why Kevin Durant shouldn’t be making his way to Oakland. It’s not good for the game. It’s not good for Curry. It’s not good OKC and reminds Sonics fans of a life they might’ve had. It’s not good for Russ or Kerr or the Western or Eastern Conference. It’s definitely not good for Green. It’s a bad move all around.

And you may be asking yourself why I think this, and my answer is simple:

I’m a Celtics fan.

Dennis Lin – TKF Pod #55

This week the guys chat with the UT’s Dennis Lin. They discuss what it’s like covering the Padres up close on a daily basis and what lies ahead for the franchise this summer. WARNING: There is some Pete Rose HOF talk in the first few minutes. Sorry!

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TKF Pod #54: Craig Elsten

This week the guys sit down with Craig Elsten from Mighty 1090. They talk about Craig’s first year as the voice of the San Diego Gulls and dig deep into what having good hockey back in town means for the sports landscape of the city. Then they discuss the #FireMikeDee movement with the blogger Padres Jagoff, who set the campaign into motion.

Geoff Young piece mentioned in episode!

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TKF Pod #53: Scott Lewis

This week the guys have Scott Lewis, CEO/Editor-in-Chief of Voice of San Diego, on to announce the show is joining the Voice of San Diego Podcast Network! They talk about how Mayor Faulconer’s big win will inform his next move, the Chargers’ path to moving downtown, and if the new No Downtown Stadium-Jobs and Streets First committee will be effective with getting in the way. Then they talk about the #FireMikeDee blogger movement, open a pack of baseball cards, and discuss the recent MLB draft.

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Done With Dee

By Nicholas Burmeister AKA @padreshaiku

Dee is a mess and people want him fired. I understand that; I too would like someone else as CEO. I do, however, think he’s in an incredibly difficult position: he’s trying to squeeze every thin dime out of a bad baseball team. And fans hate him for that.

Fans don’t like that the cost of a ticket has jumped so much. Fans don’t like the cost of a beer going up, or a hot dog, or pork belly nachos. Fans didn’t like the field looking like garbage after a concert. And fans really didn’t like a portion of their stadium getting renamed after a former commissioner in order to thank him for an All-Star game. Fans don’t like that everything in their ballpark is getting branded, sponsored, chopped up, renamed, or moved in order to make every nook and cranny more profitable, more exclusive, and more expensive. But Dee doesn’t care about your opinion. He cares about money. Those unpopular moves all make money, at least theoretically. So Dee doesn’t care if the retired numbers get taken down; it’s about the money. He doesn’t care if you like brown; it’s about the money. He doesn’t care if a family of four can’t afford seats on the field level; it’s about the money. I could name more, but you get the idea. Dee’s bottom line is the bottom line, and if it sounds like he’s putting profits before fans.

Here’s your hot take if you think Dee should stay: I don’t blame Dee for trying to maximize profits, even if it pisses off some fans. If making a formerly open bar/seating area exclusive to platinum season ticket holders means the team can make more money, then so be it.

What I do fault Dee for is making mistakes that can’t be explained by a profit motive. There was nothing to be gained financially by replacing the Petco announcer a few years ago. And the team didn’t profit from his kneejerk decision to fire DJ Artform. Instead, he made the organization look foolish by switching his position multiple times — first claiming the incident was a simple mistake and not a homophobic act, then firing the DJ anyway, and then eventually reinstating him.

I suspect that Dee’s profit-based decisions have had some success. I haven’t seen the books, of course, but Forbes puts team revenue at $244MM in 2016, that’s up from a projected $224 MM last year. Sadly, if there has been a bump in revenue over the past couple years, it can easily be attributed to the unbridled off-season optimism of 2015 and the All-Star game, both of which are temporary cash injections without long term security. Forbes also puts the value of the team at $890MM, which is no change from last year. Zero growth is troubling.

That isn’t entirely Dee’s fault, though. The real problem is that the best way to make money is to have a good team, and this team just isn’t good. Dee has tried to hide this, doing his best to sell the idea of a scrappy, over-performing, competitive team. I get it – he can’t sell tickets by admitting he has a shitty team. He can’t talk about contending or brag about his players’ stats. (And he can’t go on record saying that the team is tanking for draft position, even if that’s what they’re doing.) But Dee’s attempts to put on a cheery face aren’t fooling anybody, and he likely knows it.

That’s why he has focused so much on improving ballpark experience. It’s really his only move. Dee is wants fans to divorce the notion of having a good time at the ball game from having a winning team. If we can’t make the playoffs, we can at least have a giant HD video board. But although many of the improvements are nice, how much do they really increase attendance? How many more people are buying tickets in order to see the giant Dave Winfield mural on the wall? In the end, all this is just a top hat on a turd. We don’t need fancy digs; we need a winning squad. Padre fans would pack a dilapidated pile of rubble – or, worse yet, the Oakland Coliseum — if the team was in contention.

But here’s my biggest issue with him: in order to get a better team, Dee has tried to involve himself in player acquisition. And that’s a huge misstep. He’s not an on-field guy; he’s an off-field guy. He has no business meddling with the roster. It’s like the manager of Qualcomm Stadium trying to write Beyonce’s set list or choreograph her routines. Dee needs to let go of that pronto. Let the baseball people handle the baseball stuff and stay in your lane, Mike.

Despite all this, Dee is not going to get fired this year, at least not before the All-Star game. It’s his baby and booting him before the mid-summer classic would be a bigger mistake than hiring him in the first place. But, god willing, he won’t last beyond this season.

Still, even with all his flaws, his termination will be frustrating because what the organization needs is stability. Ownership and coaching fluctuations have had a toll on the team, the fans, and the relationship between the two. A few years of consistent voices from the front office, clubhouse and ownership box will go a long way to fix that relationship. Hopefully, we can start that consistency next year, with Dee’s replacement.

 

Follow Nicholas Burmeister on Twitter @padreshaiku

 

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