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