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Padres ownership situation a mess

Financing, shallow pockets and erratic management problem for Moorad's plan to complete purchase

Phil Rogers

On Baseball

5:18 PM CST, March 10, 2012

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Forget the Mets' financing troubles attached to the Fred Wilpon/Bernie Madoff connection. Look past the Red Sox's franchise-reshaping, where these days only the uniforms seem unchanged, and the slow-moving sale of the Dodgers.

The chaos at the Padres' ownership level is just as bad, maybe even worse now after a week that saw Jeff Moorad's purchase left in serious question. Moorad was to have assumed controlling interest from John Moores — who like the Dodgers' Frank McCourt was forced to sell because of an expensive divorce — but apparently lacks the 22 votes needed for approval.

Imagine how that must make Moorad feel. These are the same guys who looked the other way at Jim Crane's history of hiring and workplace complaints — not to mention war profiteering accusations — when he agreed to move the Astros to the American League.

Moorad, the agent who headed the Diamondbacks' ownership group in 2005-08, controls a group that has 49-percent interest in the Padres and acts as the team's chief executive officer. He agreed to buy out Moores three years ago, and has been working slowly toward that transfer, but on Friday he and Moores said they were taking the sale off the agenda for this week's quarterly meeting of Major League Baseball owners.

This was hardly a shock. The Tribune reported in December that Moores could remain in control "if Moorad can't meet his financial obligations.'' But it seems financing is only one of the issues for Moorad (Tom Krasovic's Inside the Padres blog reports Moorad has put $152 million in escrow to complete the purchase).

According to both the San Diego Union-Tribune and Krasovic, White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is leading the opposition to Moorad, with Ken Kendrick, a former Diamondbacks partner of Moorad, also lined up against him.

Krasovic reported Jan. 20 that Reinsdorf spoke against Moorad at an owners meeting in January. No one has voiced a public objection, which isn't surprising.

Moorad certainly has put his stamp on the franchise. He fired the highly respected Kevin Towers as general manager, and Towers moved to the Diamondbacks, who won the National League West in his first year in charge. Jed Hoyer, on the radar as an assistant to then-Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, was hired to replace Towers, but almost immediately was undercut when Moorad imported another Fenway Park guy, Josh Byrnes, to be assistant GM.

When Cubs president Epstein moved to hire Hoyer in October — after a summit between Moorad and the Cubs' Tom Ricketts in late September — the Padres declined his request for a contract extension. Hoyer opted to become a No. 2 guy to Epstein in Chicago because he could see Moorad wanted Byrnes as his GM.

So now the Padres are on their third GM in four years, not that it has had devastating results for the franchise. The issue is that it lacks ownership with deep pockets, and now there's financial chaos that could prevent the team from signing Carlos Quentin to a long-term extension, even though that was clearly the intention when he was acquired from the White Sox.

Like the troubles of Wilpon and McCourt, it's a mess for Commissioner Bud Selig, who also is looking for a way to resolve the territorial rights dispute between the A's and the Giants. The back room drama at the upcoming meetings will be rich, that's for sure.

Opening eyes: Most of the focus in the Padres' camp is on finding ways to score more runs, but Andrew Cashner probably is being watched as closely as Carlos Quentin. That's because manager Bud Black and GM Josh Byrnes are almost as concerned about the back of the bullpen as the middle of the lineup.

When the Padres led the NL West until the last day in 2010, the key to the team was Heath Bell, Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson covering the last two or three innings. But only Gregerson remains, and he showed signs of wear last year.

Cashner, acquired from the Cubs for first baseman Anthony Rizzo, hit 100 mph with 10 consecutive pitches in his first Cactus League outing, including three that registered 103. Black would love to have him develop into a late-inning weapon this season before possibly going into the rotation next year.

"Once he gets comfortable in the big leagues, we'll be able to figure out how he fits,'' Black said. "Our decision initially is to pitch him in the bullpen. But the pitches he throws could play in the rotation too.''

That guy: Carlos Guillen's retirement Tuesday, announced after lingering health issues left him unable to fill an infield role for the Mariners, brought back a bad memory for White Sox's fans. Guillen's game-winning squeeze bunt was the final piece in the Mariners' sweep of a 95-win Sox team in the 2000 Division Series, and replays shown later, not the game telecast, only added to the pain.

A camera mounted on the Safeco Field roof showed clearly that Guillen's left foot was planted on the middle of home plate when he bunted an outside pitch from Keith Foulke to score Rickey Henderson from third.

"I was so crushed,'' said Dan Evans, who was then an assistant GM with the White Sox. "I walked back to the hotel from Safeco Field, stopped on the way back in a shop where I saw (the) replay and got even more (steamed).''

Years later, I asked Guillen if he knew he had stepped on the plate.

He smiled, then said, "Next question.''

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