SBD/June 23, 2014/Franchises

Padres Relieve GM Josh Byrnes Of Duties In Wake Of Another Underwhelming Start

Byrnes' Padres entered yesterday 12 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West
Padres Exec VP & GM Josh Byrnes "has been relieved of his duties," according to Chris Jenkins of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Byrnes, who was hired in October '11, was the "first to go as a result of yet another desultory start to a season that seemed over before the All-Star Break." Byrnes, whose contract with the Padres runs through '17, was "dismissed before the first pitch" at Petco Park yesterday. The Padres were 12 1/2 games "out of first place at the time." Padres President & CEO Mike Dee said, "This was a decision that was not made in a day or two, not even a week or two. The last couple months in particular, we've seen what you've seen and our fans have seen. This was a team we had high expectations for. Those expectations have not been reached." But he added, "There were other factors related, over and above team performance, that contributed to this decision. We feel confident as a team here that we made the right decision at the appropriate time." Jenkins notes there have been "strong indicators over the past month that ownership's been looking to make some sort of major change in leadership." No replacement for Byrnes has been named, but Dee said that the search "is underway" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/23). MLB.com's Corey Brock noted assistant GMs A.J. Hinch and Fred Uhlman Jr., along with Senior VP/Baseball Operations Omar Minaya, will oversee the GM duties "on an interim basis." Dee said that the Padres will keep manager Bud Black "at least through the end of the season." Padres Exec Chair Ron Fowler said, "This is a reset. This is not a step back. We're doing this so that we could move forward. We expect continuous improvement from the organization. We're getting it in other areas. We are not getting it on the baseball field" (MLB.com, 6/22). 

JUST THE FIRST STEP: In San Diego, Matt Calkins writes you "won't hear a lot of complaints around town" following Byrnes' dismissal. His decision-making during his two and a half years on the job "warrants a C-minus at best." But if the Padres' owners "think they did anything more than slather a squeeze of Neosporin onto the problem, they're sorely mistaken." At the "end of the day, they still are the problem." This ownership group "did up its payroll" by 25% from last year, "making good on a promise to increase resources for baseball operations." But at a shade over $90M, team payroll "is still 21st in the league." Calkins: "If you want to maximize your chances at success, you have to do it right -- and the Padres aren't yet at that point" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/23). MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince wrote this "latest slog is particularly disappointing, given that ownership invested more than" $20M over the '13 payroll, in addition to "the pledge of another $25 million toward Petco Park improvements" (MLB.com, 6/22).

RISKY BUSINESS: CBSSPORTS.com's Jon Heyman wrote Byrnes was relieved of his duties "well before any semblance of a plan could possibly take effect." Most GMs get "at least five years, and many undeserving ones get many more than that." Byrnes is a guy "with great courage and integrity, and a practically unmatched work ethic." He is "willing to take risks." In order to win, a GM is "going to need to take gambles, and Byrnes always has been willing to do that" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/22). ESPN.com's Christina Kahrl wrote, "Firing a guy inside of three seasons speaks to something else, something more than a fundamental disagreement over goals and means or something similarly antiseptic and corporate." Byrnes seemed to "reliably lose on his biggest bets," like "banking on the idea that reliably fragile" LF Carlos Quentin was worthy of a four-year, $37M deal. Or "risking" $8M on the proposition that P Josh Johnson "would be healthy this year" (ESPN.com, 6/22). SI.com's Jon Tayler noted though half of the Padres' regular lineup was "acquired or developed before Byrnes became GM, his most notable additions haven't panned out at all." Then there is the "return on Byrnes’ biggest trade as San Diego’s boss: Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso." Acquired from the Reds along with Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger in exchange for Mat Latos, Grandal and Alonso were "supposed to be offensive cornerstones." Instead, Alonso "managed just a 110 OPS+ in his first season, then saw injuries limit him to 97 games" in '13. Meanwhile, Grandal has "seen his stock damaged by a 50-game PED suspension and a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee." Tayler: "All told, few of Byrnes’ moves have worked out as planned." The Latos trade "in particular has been a disaster for San Diego" (SI.com, 6/22).
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