From the Mouth of Moores
By Tom Cushman
(page 1 of 5)From his box on the Qualcomm Stadium press level, John Moores looks down on a batting cage surrounded by members of the team he purchased late in 1994. Since baseball rosters are a study in flux, the players Moores is scrutinizing on this particular afternoon are several generations removed from the ones he and then-partner Larry Lucchino inherited from the chaos created by previous owner Tom Werner.
Once the transfer was made, Moores and Lucchino christened their chattel “The New Padres” and—through a monster trade (which brought Steve Finley and Ken Caminiti to town) plus a public relations blitz—quickly brought substance to that description.
Nine years later, the term “new” Padres has a new meaning. Hardly a day passes without someone new checking into the dugout. In what was foreseen as a transitional year—with the team upgrading its talent in anticipation of the move into a stunning new ballpark next spring—these Padres instead have been hammered by injuries, betrayed by an overabundance of inexperience and, by July, were on pace to lose a record number of games.
“I don’t get it,” Moores says. “I mean, ostensibly I understand what’s going on, because we have a huge amount of our payroll enjoying the game from their seats. [Injured stars Phil Nevin and Trevor Hoffman have been sidelined this season.] That notwithstanding, it’s still a mystery as to why we aren’t playing better than we are.
“We’ve had losing streaks before, even in very good years, and you just kind of shrug it off. This is the first time it’s ever gotten to me. I see a fair amount of talent on the field, some that other clubs would be licking their chops over. Yet somehow it’s just not coming together.”
The customers have noticed. Predictably, there’s been increasing focus on general manager Kevin Towers and field manager Bruce Bochy. The level of criticism ratchets up with each dismaying performance, but if Moores hears it, he remains unmoved.
“I like Towers and Bochy,” he says. “Both have a long record of achievement relative to their peers. The last thing I want to do is make a bad situation worse by doing something that’s really just a gesture. I don’t see why, when we’re in a trough, we’d want to give up an asset.”