Never accuse young general managers of not being keen. When Tuesday’s lunch check arrived, A.J. Preller and Jon Daniels were slow with their reach. Instead, Don Welke, the Padres Vice President of Scouting Operations, drew the short straw.
“Don paid,” said Daniels, the Texas Rangers GM. “It had been a long time since that happened. There were cob webs on his wallet.”
The web of intrigue with Preller continues after the Padres GM plopped his stamp on the team with bold offseason moves. But as August morphs into September, it’s the same old song.
The Padres are bound for their fifth straight losing season. They’re also double-digit games out of first place, another tradition in these parts.
“They’re not buried,” Daniels explained. “They’re going to end up right around .500.”
That will take a late-season push and Daniels only has so much pull.
But these two GM whiz kids, both hailing from Cornell University, once shared offices with the Rangers. Preller was Daniels’ top assistant.
And like Preller has learned, Daniels knows it’s as tough batting 1.000 in the big chair as in the batter’s box.
“In my first year I’m the guy who traded Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young and didn’t get nearly enough in return,” Daniels said.
Padres fans still say ‘thank you’ for that one. There’s no other way to think about it as going the other way was Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka.
“And I didn’t sign Nelson Cruz,” Daniels said, piling on himself. “And now he leads the league in homers and he’s in our division.”
So the swings and misses aren’t restricted to those holding a bat.
“In this position you have to take the good and the bad,” Daniels said.
Padres slugger Matt Kemp, en route to 100 RBIs, has been the good — even with his dreadful start.
And the good-time funk Justin Upton brought has been a hoot; Derek Norris is a plus behind the plate.
“Yes, but there’s a buzz about this club again,” Daniels said. “Some organizations go 12-15 years and they still don’t have that. You can feel the energy”
Even if Preller is feeling his way through his first true rookie season.
“There’s only one first time and you go from suggesting ideas to being the one making the decisions,” Daniels said.
Back when Dainels was stubbing his toe instead of putting it in the playoff race, he was summoned by then-owner Tom Hicks.
“He said, ‘I’ve made a lot of money making a couple of good moves. But I’ve made plenty of bad ones. If you believe in what you are doing, you have to stick with it,'” Daniels said.
That is Preller’s approach and, more importantly, he has the blessings of the Padres’ ownership.
“You’re not going to hit on all of them and that’s just the nature of it,” Daniels said. “But I think A.J. is going to be just fine.”
“Because nobody is going to out-work him,” Daniels said. “He is relentless.”
But he was docile at the trading deadline with a club that was going in circles.
“You don’t know what other people were offering,” Daniels countered. “It’s all about supply and demand.
“What are you going to do? Make a move just so you can say you made a move? You don’t do that if it doesn’t make sense. You make a move to help your organization.”
What’s needed for the Padres is a bump in the right direction. It hasn’t come yet under Preller’s watch, but Daniels predicts it will.
“It’s all about instant gratification but that’s not how it works,” Daniels said. “He’ll be fine.”
He just won’t pick up the check.