At some point, the San Diego Padres need to look within. Manny Machado not "stepping up" as the unquestioned team leader simply cannot be the primary symptom for the team's stunning lack of success dating back to 2014, when AJ Preller took over.
Los Angeles Dodgers fans are smart enough to know something far more significant has contributed to whatever's been wrong with the Padres, and it seems MLB insiders Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin helped kickstart that discussion with a revealing story published in The Athletic (subscription required).
In talking with Padres employees, players and former players, Rosenthal's and Lin's findings have suggested perhaps Preller is the root cause of what's been wrong with San Diego, despite his astute ability in evaluating and procuring talent.
For as good as Preller is -- he's made San Diego a destination despite just four playoff appearances dating back to 1999 -- some questionable practices and habits of his have perhaps eroded the Padres' infrastructure. Either that, or it was built with faulty parts.
Preller is said to be a "micromanager," with one player saying he "likes to be in charge of everything." A former employee claimed there's "no consistency" with his approach as president of baseball operations, which kind of makes sense when you look at how erratic and aggressive the Padres are with their personnel decisions. It's been said Preller "constantly pushes" the players for additional pregame work, not taking into account the grind of a 162-game season. Multiple people believe that creates a further disconnect between the front office and dugout.
And then you have the trend of deteriorating relationships with multiple managers, with Bob Melvin appearing to be the next victim.
Bombshell report suggests Dodgers might luck out with untenable Padres turmoil
On top of leaving Melvin without respectable depth and reportedly trying to undermine him by sending different messaging to players, Preller seemingly has a history of creating discord with the boss in the dugout.
"As the Padres crumbled this season, the differences between Preller and Melvin created a major disconnect. The rift between the two became one of the worst-kept secrets in baseball.- The Athletic
Several Padres people interviewed for this story described circumstances in which Preller told players one thing and Melvin told them another. One player, while careful not to absolve himself and his teammates of blame, likened the situation to a toxic relationship between parents in which the kids suffer.
Preller’s relationships with [Andy] Green and [Jayce] Tingler also deteriorated late in their respective tenures. Now Melvin might be the next to go."
Oh yeah, and Preller also hired a Rugby performance manager from New Zealand as the Padres' director of player health and performance and the players believe he was sent to spy on the team while sitting in on meetings and sauntering around the clubhouse while asking silly questions? Weird stuff. But it at least provides some comic relief in an otherwise disastrous story.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are enjoying their 10th division title over the last 11 years, and their NLDS loss to the Padres in 2022 seems like a laughable footnote, much like the Giants being crowned 2021 NL West champs. Any Dodgers fan who has enjoyed the stability Andrew Friedman has provided as president of baseball operations knew all along Preller was chasing shadows in his flamboyant effort to deliver a World Series to San Diego.
People forget Friedman and Preller were hired right around the same time. Though Friedman has been offered plenty of advantages Preller wasn't, he was still tasked with leading a new frontier in LA after the McCourts sold the team two years prior and Ned Colletti ended his solid but mistake-filled tenure from 2006-2014.
Friedman thrived and has further elevated the Dodgers. Preller has had his moments, but Rosenthal and Lin may have uncovered the flimsy foundation upon while he's built the Padres, which definitely could explain why the Padres have been above .500 just once across a full season since he took over.