SAN DIEGO -- Hours before first pitch Saturday night, the Padres announced they had parted ways with manager Andy Green. The move was the culmination of a disappointing second half and unmet expectations for 2019.
But Green’s removal alone won’t fix several glaring holes on the San Diego roster. With Green’s former bench coach, Rod Barajas, serving as interim manager on Saturday night, the Padres endured their ninth defeat in the past 10 games, a 4-2 loss at Petco Park that dropped them 17 games below .500 for the first time this season. Early indications are that Green's dismissal was merely the first domino to fall ahead of a busy offseason in San Diego.
Addressing the media on Saturday afternoon, general manager A.J. Preller put things bluntly when asked what needs to change this winter for the Padres to truly thrust themselves into playoff contention.
"Get some better players," Preller said, only half-joking, as he essentially fired a warning shot for an underperforming roster.
The Padres entered the 2019 season with playoff aspirations for the first time since 2015. Suffice it to say, those expectations haven't been met.
Despite the implications of Green's dismissal, Preller made it clear during his news conference that the blame for those struggles should be spread around the organization.
"It starts with myself, with our baseball operations group," Preller said. "I've got to do a better job."
Then again, Preller's job seems secure. On his current roster, however, most jobs aren’t.
The Padres’ 4.65 ERA entering Saturday ranked 18th in the Majors, and they're once again slated to finish in the bottom five in the big leagues in runs and OPS.
"We're going to be crystal clear with our expectations," Preller said. "If you're going to be an everyday position player for the Padres, there's more to be expected. If you want to be a starting pitcher for the Padres, there's more to be expected."
In the past, those expectations weren't this high. During Green's first three seasons, the Padres never won more than 71 games.
But this year marked a shift. The Padres committed $300 million to Manny Machado, then promoted a host of top prospects. From the ownership group to the fan base, expectations were significantly higher.
On Saturday, it resulted in Green's dismissal. But in the Padres’ clubhouse, players deflected that blame onto themselves instead.
“We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror,” said first baseman Eric Hosmer. “We’ve got to perform better.”
"There's only so much a manager can do," said closer Kirby Yates. "The responsibility becomes on the players to go out there and perform. We didn't do that, and it cost Andy his job. That's it."
Yates has done his job about as well as any closer in baseball this year. He'll be back next season. The Padres also believe they're set in the infield with Machado at third, Hosmer at first and Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop.
After that, it's fair to expect a major overhaul this offseason -- in the outfield, in the rotation and perhaps at second base and catcher. (Not to mention Green’s hand-picked coaching staff.) The Padres have prospect capital to deal from and several interesting Major League pieces that could be moved, including Wil Myers, Austin Hedges, Luis Urías and Joey Lucchesi.
It sure seems like the Padres' players expected change, given the team’s poor performance this year.
“The guys we have in this room, there's a disappointment, because we're better than what our record is right now,” said outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who mashed his 33rd home run. “That's not Andy's fault by any means. But you've got to do something. ... I figured something would have to change. And I guess it did. It sucks. He's a great individual, a great human, a great family member.”
Things were supposed to be different this season. They weren’t.
Perhaps Machado put it best in his call for action from the front office this winter:
"We're missing pieces, obviously," he said. "We've got to reinforce the ballclub and play better baseball than we did this year. We know we can do it. We put ourselves in a good situation during the first half of the season. We're just a couple pieces away from being in a different situation than we are today."