Author: Nicholas Burmeister

Calm Down About Fowler Already

By Nicholas Burmeister (AKA Padres Haiku)

I wrote something like this last season when Fowler vented his frustration with Kemp. What I said then is still true now. He is giving voice to the deepest rooting passion in Padres fans. This is fan service at a caveman level. Not everyone understands the need to “tank.” There are casual baseball fans that are turned off by the idea of trying to lose. Ownership needs to hold on to these fans during the lean years anyway they can. Fowler is betting that some of these fans might react positively to a “the buck stops here” style owner. He might be right. Of course, there are other ways to retain casual fans during times of planned horrific baseball that they haven’t capitalized on. They might be saving the pie eating contests and bobble heads for next year.

One of the main objections to fowler speaking out against poor play is that it will deter future big name free agents from coming here. This would be true if the Padres were in the big name free agent market, which they are not. Nothing Fowler can say or do is going to land them on the short list for players like Harper, Trout, Arrieta, McCutchen, or Altuve. That’s fine. The Padres are not in that market. It’s like if someone told you, “Hey, watch out what you say about your ex because in the future Charlize Theron might not want to date you if you’re mean.” While that’s true, it’s not likely that Ms. Theron was considering going out with you in the first place (her loss, really).

Here’s the kicker. In a few years, the Padres will be in that market and free agents will come here. The team will probably try to land a big name free agent when they’re close to contending. Free agents know which teams are close to contending and which ones aren’t. They also follow the money. Robinson Canó went to Seattle of all places because he saw a chance to compete in the playoff’s (never happened) and a big time pay day (10yrs 240MM. Thank you Roc Nation Sports). When the time is right, players will play for a contender and a large sum of money even if Ron Fowler had the audacity to besmirch the good name of two of the worst pitchers in the last two years. So, cool it with the “he’s hurting our future” histrionics.

What Ron said about weaver wasn’t all that bad. It was nowhere near the lambasting that Shields and Kemp got. Ron said Weaver hasn’t been good, he hasn’t. Fowler said that Weaver has been critical of himself, he has. He said at some point teams have to let underperforming players go, they do. He didn’t call the man an embarrassment, and he never really let loose on Weaver like he did with Shields. This might be a product of how Shields carried himself prior to his trade as opposed to the self-effacing Weaver.

It’s also poor judgment to have Fowler say something like “we back him 100%, we have full confidence” and all that boilerplate nonsense. That’s not true. He doesn’t have confidence in Jered Weaver. He shouldn’t have confidence in Weaver because he’s been exactly what everyone thought he would be: a wet noodle arm with a good personality. If you think being critical of a player is bad, it also looks bad if the owner backs the worst pitcher in the league time and time again. Ron is being honest and that should matter for something.

This isn’t to say he should be allowed free range to run his mouth. Hunter Renfroe hasn’t had the spectacular season fans hoped for but he hasn’t put him behind the eight ball because the rookie is young, cheap, and doesn’t have the same perceived impact on a single game as that a starter does. When he vented on James Shields last year it was before the White Sox trade. That trade was likely made worse for the Padres by his comments. He should have held his tongue until after the trade a la Kemp. Let me be perfectly clear, I don’t think he should be doing these things, but I also don’t think his comments are going to have any more of a lasting impact then having Weaver stink up the joint in the first place.


Follow @PadresHaiku on Twitter

Dear Mr. Gruepner

The Padres have committed to thorough transparency regarding their medical records. This may include some sort of “Medical Records Tsar.” @padreshaiku kindly submits his qualifications.

Here’s why I’m perfect for the medical records manager job with the Padres.

A. I’m a librarian and I deal with complex databases all the time.

B. I’m a baseball fan, and I respect the integrity of the game.

C. I like working in a highly competitive team-based environment.

D. I understand HIPPA requirements and how to enforce them.

E. I will slip NyQuil into the opposing team’s water cooler before the game.

F. I’m a motivated learner and I like to take on challenges.

G. I’m getting pretty good at stealing signs.

H. I’m comfortable around a training room AND a board room.

I. I can deliver the lines “No Comment” and “I don’t comment on ongoing investigations” with real aplomb.

J. I already understand the freeway system in San Diego so I won’t get lost  on the way to work very often.*

K. Me and ownership seem to see eye to eye on former executives.

L. I will totally run the office NCAA tournament bracket contest AND any Super Bowl pool.

M. I know all the words to “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.” *

N. I will work for peanuts, literally. Just toss a couple bags on my desk every week or so and I’m good.

O. I’ve seen every episode of Pitch.

P. I feel like I’d be really good friends with Derek Norris.

Q. I secretly despise Derek Norris.

R. I got over the whole Rizzo trade thing pretty quick.

S. I will look the other way when it’s best for the club.

T. I don’t mind people slapping my butt at work. (I get that a lot at the library I work at right now actually.)

U. I have a license to drive and a clean record

V. I will keep myself steroid free just in case someone needs a clean sample.

W. I promise not to microwave fish in the break room.

X. I can administer performance enhancing hugs

Y. I am ready and willing to be thrown under the bus if another trade gets reversed.

Z. I have advanced skills in the Microsoft Office suite as well as Photoshop and Quickbooks*

I could go on but I’ve run out of letters.

Padres HR department: please direct offers/benefit packages to @padreshaiku on Twitter.

*not really but I promise I’ll learn them

Hasta la Vista Preller

By Nicholas Burmeister (AKA @PadresHaiku)

Preller has to go. I like what he did. He’s massaging the rules in a game that rewards cheating. It was gamesmanship, crafty, and inexcusable and I’m fine with it, but he has to go. This is different from PEDs, and not exactly like sign stealing. It’s a sort of a combination of the two; misdirecting the other team while clouding actual physical ability. Other front offices are up in arms that another GM would do this, and that they hadn’t thought of it first.

While I like the scoundrel-ness of the tactic, he has to go. He’s going to be a baseball pariah, and while I like the idea of a villain GM, I also like having one that can make deals with the other teams. The problem is AJ is untouchable even if he’s the best choice for the job. He’s like Eddie Furlong and the Padres are Terminator III. Eddie Furlong played John Connor in Terminator II, but when it came time to film Terminator III no one would insure Eddie to do the film because he had a drug problem. He was John Conner, he was the best choice, but because of his bad decisions we ended up with Nick Stahl protecting us from Skynet. Nick. Stahl.

There is going to be fallout no matter what. If the team keeps him on he can continue to develop the minor league system and the team can continue with AJ’s vision of the rebuild. However that means carrying a persona non grata in the most important position on the team. If the Padres fire him, they lose one of the shrewdest (if not crooked) minds in the game. This probably sets the team back another couple years. But there is upside to letting him go. First, owners will look proactive. Dismissing their darling GM will assuage most of the criticism getting tossed their way. It might also mean the team won’t lose any draft picks, international signings, or have any other trades undone by the MLB. Keeping the players AJ has acquired is ultimately the best thing for the team even if AJ leaves/is forced out.

That being said, AJ’s real value was with the international draft- this past year. The Padres blew their wad this year, and they can’t spend big like this for a little bit. So if AJ’s value was with the draft that already happened-a draft that the team cannot spend very much money on next year-they should move. He has little value to the team. It’s like having a fancy key to a car you don’t own. He served his purpose and now it’s time to set him free.

In baseball the future is always filled with danger. A top pitching prospect can blow out an elbow. A superstar shortstop can end up in prison. The team needs a strong leader to guide it through the next few perilous years. The team needs their John Conner. If the Padres can’t have Furlong to help them fight the Dodgers, Giants, or Skynet, I just hope they do better than Nick effing Stahl.

Follow Nick Burmeister on Twitter: @PadresHaiku

Fowler’s Gambit

By Nicholas Burmeister AKA @PadresHaiku

Padres Chairman Ron Fowler’s rants recently have gotten some attention, but I don’t think they’re just the ramblings of an old man. I think they are premeditated messages to a large group of Padre fans. What Fowler is doing is giving fans permission to accept the exit of their stars and to embrace the oncoming rebuild. He’s making it okay to root against the stars fans rooted for a week ago. He is doing this by stroking the basest  level of fandom. Fowler is playing San Diego’s id.

Ron is basically saying,  “You’re either with us or you’re against us.” Which, in the broadest measure, is rooting for a team. Until recently sports have been a purely jingoistic endeavor. Fantasy sports is eschewing this  behavior to some extent, but you’re likely to root, root-root for the home team where you grew up.  Uncle Ron is saying to San Diego, “You’re not a Kemp fan or a Shields fan; you’re a padre fan,  act like one.”

He’s doing this, in part, to save his own skin. He knows the re-build was under way starting last year, but he doesn’t want fans to look at him the same way they looked at ownership (Tom Werner) during the last fire sale. He is very sensitive to how San Diegans see him as a sports entity. He doesn’t want to be Alex Spanos (no one does). Fowler is saying “we got rid of those guys because they’re clubhouse cancers not because we’re shedding salary or rebuilding. Even if we are rebuilding, those guys needed to leave. Don’t point your finger at me, point it at them. I’m doing right by you.”

There is a portion of the fan base that understands the business of baseball and how cashing in a blue chip player for two or three prospects is an effective strategy, especially in small markets. This group is growing, thankfully. If you’re reading this you are most likely in this group of people. I don’t think he’s worried about what that group of people thinks. He doesn’t have to, the team is awful now, yet we live in the golden age of Padres Podcasting, the silver age of Padres Twitter, and the bronze age of Padres Blogging.  He’s sort of counting on those fans to read the tea leaves and back the team during the rebuild.

By flying off the handle, he gives the appearance of passion, which Werner, Moores and Moorad never did.  That might inspire enough San Diegans to stick with the team through a season or three of losing even if he sorta knows it’s bullshit. He is stroking the fan’s lizard brain and it makes them feel good.

For example, let’s say the Shields trade happens, and nobody from ownership says anything, there are a bunch of fans that would turn their back on the club faster than a housewife turns on Ellen. Fans grumble things like:

“Why you tradin’ Big Game James for? I just bought that guy’s jersey.”

Or “Same ‘ol Padres ” 

Or “Me want stars!” 

But, if ownership gives fans another reason to trade him, as opposed to just dumping his salary in a normal baseball-business way, fans might go along with it and say:

 “Yeah! Screw that guy. He gave up a home run to Bartolo Colon for crying out loud.” 

Or “Shields stinks”

Or “Throwing guy with beard bad”

This is because down deep inside every sports fan is a blind desire to love their team and to hate all other teams. A tiny voice that will support their squad regardless of the circumstances. Sports fandom is as irrational as it gets. That’s what the id is. It’s irrational and animalistic and it’s what Fowler wants to inspire. He might be saying the right things.

As an aside I have zero doubt in my mind that Ron Fowler’s passion is genuine. Zero. I believe that he wants to win more than any owner since Joan Kroc and probably more than her. He wants to win more than Werner and Moores combined. He wants to win more than Russian athletes want to use steroids. He wants to win more than Dellavedova wants to dunk on Draymond Green during the Olympics. Which, sadly will not happen.


Follow Nicholas Burmeister on Twitter as @PadresHaiku


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


The Sycuan Sign

By Nicholas Burmeister (AKA Padres Haiku)

My kneejerk reaction was to hate the new Sycuan sign on the batter’s eye. Not so much because I was married to the numbers on top, but because I’m some what opposed to selling every square inch of the ball park as an advertising space. I understand the small market revenue generator system and that the team needs to sell that space in order to make money, and I suppose I’d rather see an ad than have ticket prices go up even more. All this being said I still hate that sign.

Not because of any disdain for having an advertisement up there but because the Padres could have done better. Sycuan Casino has been a major benefactor for the Padres for awhile. They shell out cash when the team is awful, which cannot be said of all park sponsors. For that, fans should be grateful. However, I have to believe that in an All Star Game year, a year when the AL East teams are coming to San Diego, and a year where many of the teams in the NL West will compete until late in the season, the ad space on the batter’s eye would go to a local casino as opposed to a huge multi-national corporation. Again, this is no slight to Sycuan, I’m sure that the casino paid a pretty penny. Considering the inevitable ire Padre Fans would shower upon Mike Dee and the front office, they HAD to have sold/leased that space for a handsome sum just to lessen the consequent PR headaches.

Would InBev have paid more? Probably. They already have large ads around the park. What about a bank or an insurance company? Toyota pays for ads in the park, so does Sony and Wells Fargo. These brands wouldn’t jump on an opportunity to put their logo in such a prominent location?

It sounds strange because I’d rather not have anything up there, but if the team is going to sell it-sell big. Make it worth it.

Maybe I’d feel different if they had sold to a larger company. Fans might have been more upset if that space said Oculto Beer or United Airlines. It might be the case that they preferred to sell to a local group as opposed someone awful like Constellation Brands, or Wal-Mart to make it seem like they care. But if that means losing money to the tune of several million dollars they made a mistake.

Fans either don’t care or care too much. By now, Mike Dee knows anything he does, save for giving away free beer, is going to get a significant amount of the fan base angry (even if he gives away free beer, if it’s not the right beer, fans will be angry). Taking the numbers down would make fans angry. Selling that space would make fans angry. Keeping things the way they were and charging more at the gate would REALLY make fans angry. There’s really nothing that the front office can do to monetize that space and placate the fans, so take the money. The fans that get the angriest aren’t going anywhere. Those fans are locked in, dyed in the wool Padre fans that will complain, but stay loyal. I guarantee no one would be on the fence about getting season tickets, see a giant Michelob Ultra sign and say “Nevermind!” Likewise, no one is so turned off by a Sycuan sign they don’t buy tickets (except the Barona Casino operators, they might get pissed). Might as well sell to the highest bidder, take the money, and run.

Follow Nicholas Burmeister: @padreshaiku


A Short Play by Padres Haiku

Setting- a luxury office overlooking downtown LA. Don Mattingly has just been fired.

Dodger Exec: [to Magic Johnson] Mr. Johnson, the Dodgers and Don Mattingly have…parted ways. We have started to look for a replacement. The front office thinks-

Magic Johnson: [Interrupts] Pat Riley. Call Pat Riley!

DE: Uh…He’s a basketball guy, and anyway he’s busy with the Miami Heat.

MJ: Call him!!! He owes me!

[15 minuets later]

DE: So we uh, called Mr. Riley. He politely declined…Dodger brass suggests hiring-

MJ: Bill Parcells, he’s old school. I like that. He’ll toughen up that outfield!! He’s turned around teams before. Call him.

DE: Again, Mr. Johnson, Bill Parcells doesn’t have experience in the baseball world.  Plus, we’ve been to the post-season three years in a row, so a rebuild isn’t really necessary. It would serve the organization better to-

MJ: Call him!!

[10 minuets later]

DE: Mr. Parcells has passed.

[Magic stares out his window]

DE: Mr. Johnson, our best option might be to let the basball operations people find a new manager. Zaidi and his guys can find a…

MJ: You want a baseball guy? How about Lasorda? He’s available.

DE: Right…Well…Uh…

MJ:Call him!!!

[five minutes later]

DE: Mr. Lasorda said no.

MJ: He did?

DE: Well, he used a few magic words, but after asking us to trade for Willie Keeler, he hung up. It might be best to go a different route. Maybe someone with an analyitic background?

MJ: No, let’s stay on the path that we’re on right now. I got an idea. Can we hire…

-Smash cut to-

Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Chase Utley spray champagne on a bag of money sitting next to the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Follow Nicholas Burmeister on Twitter @Padreshaiku

San Diego: A One Team Town

The Chargers are leaving. Save for a last minute miracle or some sort of NFL intervention, San Diego’s football team will bolt for the beautiful post-apocalyptic wasteland of Carson, California. This means that San Diego will only have one major league sports team, the Padres. And while other cities also have just one major league team, San Diego will be the only one to offer just major league baseball. I’m not sure about this, but I think the last baseball-only city was Baltimore after the Colts and the Bullets left, and before the Browns came to town and changed their name to the Ravens. Before that I really don’t know — maybe pre-AFL Cincinnati?

So what does it mean that San Diego will be the nation’s sole baseball-only city? It’s probable that the Padres will absorb some of the money that San Diegans won’t spend on the Chargers. While I think that most San Diegans will maintain their Chargers fandom, it’s not likely that San Diegans will buy as much Chargers gear as they used to. Nor will San Diegans buy as many season tickets to Chargers games. And the corporate executives who used to entertain clients in a luxury NFL box will be seeking a new venue. So that Chargers money has to go somewhere, and it’s likely that much of it will still be devoted to sports.

The Padres are the obvious substitute. The Gulls have returned to San Diego, but as a minor league team, so they are unlikely to be a big source of competition for the Padres. Still, they will likely reap some of the benefit, if on a smaller scale. I suspect Aztec basketball will get a pretty big boost as well – not only because they’re good, but because college basketball season coincides with football season. Even the San Diego Sockers, who were a pretty big part of my youth, may benefit; people may be more interested in indoor soccer if there’s no football team to watch. Overall, however, the major financial beneficiary of the Chargers departure should be the Padres. And a richer Padres team is likely a better Padres team.

But however good the Chargers leaving could be for the Padres and the other teams in San Diego, it will also be a dark time for sports culture as a whole in America’s finest city. San Diego sports media will struggle without consistent Chargers access. I believe that the radio stations will still feature Chargers news and opinions, but will the coverage be as complete if the team has training camp north of San Onofre? Without stadium talk, the Mighty 1090 will have about 20 minutes of programming a day (except for Jim Rome). And minor league hockey isn’t going to fill that gap. I’ve never heard the Loose Cannons or Scott and BR talk hockey in any insightful way. If the sport ever comes up, it’s in a discussion about how they don’t follow it. I’m sure they will dip their toes into Gulls news, but I’m equally sure they will embarrass themselves before too long. Honestly, the only sports talk personality in San Diego that has ever really given hockey any real consideration is Hacksaw. He wants to talk puck; the ladies’ line is also open. The Loose Cannons have a decent handle on the NBA but that’s about it, 1090 struggles with basketball outside of SDSU.

Also, consider the grief your non-local friends give you for being a SD sports fan. Now multiply it by twenty. If your Niners-fan coworker isn’t already insufferable enough, think about how hard it will be to listen to them yammer on and on about how San Diego couldn’t even build a stadium, while Levi’s is the greatest stadium since the Romans fed Christians to lions in the coliseum. And think about the San Diego Super Chargers song — think about how it’s going to disappear. That’s rough. I’m sure Maroon Five will be tasked to create an equally catchy song for the LA Chargers. It’ll end up an international hit.

Truth is we really don’t know what’s going to happen. Perhaps San Diegans completely abandon the Chargers upon their departure, and maybe none of that leftover cash moves to the Padres or any other sports teams. Maybe the Chargers leaving barely moves the needle and locals remain fully committed to the Bolts. Maybe, the loss of one sports team also dooms interest in the other sports teams in San Diego. I think it will be fun to watch.

Follow Nicholas Burmeister on Twitter: @padreshaiku

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