Existence is Futile

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Even from across the country I can feel the anticipatory dread.

I can hear the acid churning in the preemptively nauseated stomachs of Padres fans. Forget Pepto or Tums. This ache won’t subside.  Padres fans have watched the “search” for a new manager devolve into a cursory scan of A.J. Preller’s Texas Rangers Rolodex (look it up, kids, it was a thing a few decades ago…. the Rolodex, not Preller).

No Joe Girardi. No Joe Maddon. No Dusty Baker. No Buck Showalter.

We dread Jayce Tingler.

Which says plenty all by itself.

Who in the Hell could be afraid of something called Jayce Tingler?

You can’t even say the name with a straight face.

Most managers are casually referred to as ‘Skip.’ That’s short for skipper.

Skip Tingler?

You can get off the floor now. Well, stop laughing first. I don’t want you to lose your balance.

Fear the Tingler?

We do.

With manic, laugh-out-loud bitterness and rage.

Because Jayce Tingler sounds like another Andrew Mulligan Green, a somebody nobody ever heard of who brings these assets to the table: can’t command a big salary; won’t talk back to Preller; can’t command a big salary and won’t talk back to Preller.

We fear the manager who “interviews well.” One with leadership “intangibles.” One who “knows analytics.” One who “speaks the players’ language.”

We’ve been fed that slop before. It will not go down well a second time because we choked on it the first time…not as bad as the players Green managed to a 25-47 second half this season, but bad enough. (I know, management fired Green with eight games to go; but his dreary essence was all over that 1-7 slouch to the finish).

There are some baseball minds who believe Tingler may be a manager of the future. The Athletic’s Enos Sarris is one of them (link: https://theathletic.com/1302054/2019/10/18/sarris-scouting-the-next-wave-of-potentially-great-managers/)  Good new managers can be found. The Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and (I’ve witnessed it at close range) the Washington Nationals all have.

But we crave a brand name. We crave a winner…a proven winner. Why? Because we sense in our deepest and most fearful souls that there’s something terribly wrong with the Padres culture. We sense it’s too light, too breezy, too wimpy to win.  We want a grizzled butt-kicker who will metaphorically – and possibly literally – stomp around the dugout and shake the players out of their SoCal ennui.

Culture matters.

Ask yourself. Is there a Padres culture?

Put another way, is there a Padres Way? Is there something that defines our approach to winning? What do we look for in draft picks? What do we teach in the minor leagues? What are we about as team? What are our imperatives? What is acceptable? What is unacceptable? This franchise is 50 years old and has no identity, no core, no sense of self. We all know this. We keep waiting for it to happen. We’ve heard all about the hot talent lava.

Here’s a news flash. Lava isn’t enough. Potential is ephemeral – the stuff of daydreams, signing bonuses and marketing campaigns. Potential doesn’t deliver victories. And the Padres do not need another marketing campaign. They need victories. Victories achieved at thin margins that separates average from exceptional execution.

Is Jayce Tingler the answer? Hell, if I know. Would Ron Washington be better?

He’s a winner with a checkered history – confessed cocaine use and infidelity; allegations of sexual assault. That’s a lot to surmount. Do Padres fans want to help or hinder that journey? Does management want to gamble on that fickle intangible?

What about Eduardo Perez? Jim Bowden thinks he’s the perfect fit (link: https://theathletic.com/1293391/2019/10/16/jim-bowdens-managerial-chairs-the-best-fit-for-every-team-with-a-manager-opening/).

Perez has better name ID and isn’t part of Preller’s prefab preference pack. That by itself reads like an advantage to me.

The drama is killing us. It should. The choice matters. Big League. It is the biggest choice facing the club since it hired Dick Williams, a move that propelled the Padres to their first World Series.

The new manager will have to motivate Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer – or at least prod them to take their leadership roles seriously. Machado and Hosmer must understand young players take cues from their preparation, hustle and execution. The new manager will also have to harness the best of Fernando Tatis Jr.’s talents while protecting the club from his volatile, injury-inducing excesses. Lastly, the new manager will have to demand that his starting pitchers prepare better, push themselves harder and snarl if taken out before the 7th inning. With the exception of the occasionally gritty Chris Paddack, Padres starters have the demeanor of a wet rosin bag. They need to be dented jackhammers – pounding the strike zone and daring the dugout to call the bullpen with runners at the corners. I DARE YOU!!!

In the end, though, the manager can only do so much. The manager has to fit within a culture and plan. That’s why lesser-known managers have succeeded in Atlanta, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Boston, Tampa and in Washington. Those managers know what they have because the culture has identified players, taught them well in the minors and set exceptionally high expectations at the Major League level. Players who are traded into such organizations adapt or founder.

More than a manager…more than a Washington or a Perez or a (gulp) Tingler…the Padres need a culture that demands more than it demands now. Existence is futile. Competition is about winning. It’s not about being. Being Padres is all we’ve been for too long.

What’s more, WE are part of the problem. A very, very, very big part of the problem. Starting with ME. Being Padres fans has become a sickening exercise in self-delusion, myth-making and bargaining. I did it through my childhood (when I didn’t know any better) and through my entire adulthood (when I did). I’m an enabler. I tolerate endless mediocrity. I absorb the taunts of other baseball fans as a goofy badge of honor signifying my perpetually sunny resilience. I wince as I write this. The truth hurts. Big League.

It ends now. I’m the problem. I always have been. I show up. I cheer. I buy the gear. I’m a glutton for garbage. Or have been.

No more.

I’m part of the culture too. Starting now, I’m demanding more.

Who’s with me?

WHO….IS…? WITH….ME??

Major Garrett was born and raised in Clairemont, is Chief White House Correspondent for CBS News, host of “The Takeout” podcast and author of the book “Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams and Occasional Blackouts of His Extraordinary First Year in Office.”

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