Column: Blame for failed Andy Green run shared by Preller, Padres front office


As Padres General Manager A.J. Preller sat in a Petco Park dugout engulfed by cameras Saturday to explain why he fired manager Andy Green with eight games left in the season, he absorbed part of the blame.

Good start since, as Al Gore once uttered, it’s an inconvenient truth.

Bubbling underneath the decision to cut Green loose — after the Friars frayed in the second half, after a brutal September to forget, after growing examples of listlessness on the field — is the reality that Preller and ownership need a trip to the nearest mirror.

They arrived before Green, establishing the foundation. They hired the manager, then handed him rosters and rules that handcuffed and hamstrung, save for a few months this season.

There was the boldness of the $300 million signing of Manny Machado and the controllable-years-be-damned decision to trot out Fernando Tatis Jr. All of it, though, became admirable splash without nearly enough day-to-day substance surrounding it. The last two opening day starters, for starters: Clayton Richard and Eric Lauer.

Most times, Green was George Custer at Little Bighorn — with less ammunition.

“It starts with myself,” said Preller, of sifting through the rubble to figure out why the decision to bank on a rookie manager unraveled before the postseason finish line. “(The next hire) is a big decision. You don’t want to be sitting here in this spot again.”

That does not mean the decision to replace Green was wrong. Given the ugliness of recent months, it probably needed to happen — even if the timing left some puzzled. But despite the poker face and careful wording, Preller and Green were not on the same page … and haven’t been for a while.

What changed with the change: The bulls-eye shifts off of social-media piñata Green and onto Preller. The GM should be crystal clear about the stakes of getting the next decision right, because there’s almost no chance he’ll be given a shot at another one no matter the gleam of the farm-system gates.

This has been a long and exceptional patient organizational leash by today’s standards, especially for a franchise about to polish off its ninth consecutive losing season. You thought 2020 felt like a referendum before? Now, it’s a downright certainty.

Then again, the clock will tick very slowly on evaluating Preller’s decision to push his chips in on Green, to up the ante with a contract extension and then cut it short of the finish line with players and a playbook that made consistent winning all but impossible.

Of course, Preller did not make any of those decisions in a vacuum. So by default, it’s not all on him. That’s why anyone with a front-office address deserves a dose of frank introspection about what happened with Green.

“I think everybody has to own it, from the players all the way up,” Executive Chairman Ron Fowler said. “It’s not one guy. It’s not one individual. It’s the entire organization not accomplishing what we wanted to this year.”

In the clubhouse, multiple players embraced accountability.

“Managers don’t go out and play the games,” All-Star closer Kirby Yates said. “We’re all professionals here. Our job is to go out there and win baseball games. There’s only so much a manager can do. We didn’t (perform) and it cost Andy his job. It doesn’t feel good.”

What we do not know and truthfully, probably never will: How much did ongoing input from players and veterans in particular weigh into the decision to pull the job-changing trigger?

Preller shot down that theory, though who in their right mind would acknowledge it?

“The concept of losing a clubhouse or anything like that, I don’t feel that’s the case,” he said.

The arguments for and against Green stacked up on both sides. Not only did he suffer through the youngest and least experienced rotation in baseball, innings limits were imposed on his best rotation arm in Chris Paddack, along with Matt Strahm and others.

Earlier this season, I asked veteran Craig Stammen if he had experienced the kind of pitching jigsaw puzzle Green was forced to solve.

“The answer is no, I’ve never seen this before,” he said.

Someone steered these Padres to the All-Star break at .500. That in no way inspires cartwheels, but it’s something that hadn’t been accomplished in San Diego since 2010. Green stitched it together despite missing Tatis Jr. for 34 games.

Do you think Aaron Boone or Terry Francona, dealt those cards, would have done a whole lot better?

Equally true, though, is the painful options of a second-half collapse that should not have been surprising — but felt so anyway after the first half sleight of hand. The battered vibe of the stretch run was hardly a healthy dress rehearsal for what energy and winning should look like.

When you read between Preller’s lines, though, you could sense building frustrations with veteran players failing to match or surpass past production — mentioning Machado in particular with tea leaves hinting at Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers.

Did Green need to develop younger players while managing, so to speak, the fancy footwork required to spark underachieving mainstays? Of course. Then again, those are the players the front office decided to lock in. The responsibility, as with most things in a delicate baseball ecosystem, shared.

“(We need) a manager who can get those guys to play at their level and overachieve,” Preller said.

Trusting in a manager is like buying a new car. You know what it looks like, but never quite know what you’ve got until you’ve driven it for a while. The Astros burned through three managers in six seasons before they struck dugout gold with A.J. Hinch.

Teams sometimes need a managerial change to jolt the clubhouse, whether the person deserves the pink slip or not. Does anyone doubt Rick Renteria would have done some serious win-loss damage if he remained with the Cubs and inherited the tools given to Joe Maddon?

Did Green need to go? Probably.

That in no way, though, means the blame lands squarely at his office door.





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