Don Bauder 7:35 p.m., June 19
There have been a lot of questions surrounding the purchase of the San Diego Padres from John Moores by a group that includes Kevin and Brian O'Malley, Peter and Tom Seidler, and Ron Fowler. On Tuesday that purchase was completed, and on Wednesday the Padres held a press conference which included a generous amount of time for questions from media. Unfortunately, most of the questions went largely unanswered.
With a full representation of San Diego media attending, including some national coverage, the ownership group representatives in attendance spoke briefly about how pleased they were to be a part of the Padres and how delighted they were to be in San Diego. Ron Fowler was the last to speak, and spoke at length.
Fowler appeared to break down on the verge of tears at one point, happy for the opportunity to be a part of owning the franchise. It seemed genuine and honest, but the important questions raised by fans and citizens of San Diego were not addressed, as asked by the media.
These are concerns that media have reflected for years - and in some respects decades - which have come from San Diego voices since the end of Ray Kroc's ownership and then the sale of the team under Ray's widow Joan Kroc to Tom Werner. Werner dismantled the team and made the Padres the laughing-stock of American baseball.
When John Moores bought the franchise from Werner, Moores acquired free agents and within a couple of years the team visited their second World Series (the first was under the ownership of Kroc), but it wasn't sustainable and the team hasn't had a sniff of a shot at the title since then. In other words, ownership has yet to make the San Diego Padres into a successful franchise.
In this respect, when Ron Fowler stated that attention shouldn't be paid to ownership but rather to the product on the field as he did on Wednesday, it seems that history is simply repeating itself. This is because the product on the field has been sub-standard the vast majority of the time.
Ownership has always been responsible for this sub-standard product, and will always be responsible for it, and to deflect ownership's role in the importance of a franchise seems disingenuous. Of course fans should be focused on the product on the field, but they should always hold ownership responsible. When asked about that, Fowler seemed to miss this point.
In his vocal presentation to media on Wednesday, Fowler proudly claimed that his business experience led him to believe in the credo, "Under-promise and over-deliver."
This is the easiest thing in the world to believe in. If you promise nothing and deliver a little, then you've achieved your goal. On Wednesday, Ron Fowler promised nothing. Draw your own conclusions.
Questions went unanswered or were danced with and left unattended. When asked about the percentages that each member of the ownership group were vested, Fowler refused to answer the question.
According to Tijuana's Frontera, from an article printed on Thursday, Alfredo Harp Helú owns 10% of the San Diego Padres, which means that the billionaire invested $80 million dollars in the team if the $800 million price is accurate (and was not precisely denied by Fowler when asked). Interesting how Mexican media casually offers that tidbit, yet the ownership group wishes to be tight-lipped.
Alfredo Harp Helú, by the way, is the cousin of Carlos Slim Helú, the richest man in the world according to Forbes magazine. And other than that revelation about Harp Helú owning 10% (and there's no reason to suspect that it isn't accurate), it is anyone's guess as to who is ultimately responsible for the success or continued failure of the Padres as an MLB franchise.
Another important issue raised and asked continually when the press conference went into the question-and-answer phase, concerned payroll for player's salaries. Again, the question went unanswered.
Fowler claims that to do so is to tip one's cap to the competition as to what the team's plans are. This is hogwash. The Los Angeles Dodgers are not going to adjust their roster based on whether the Padres plan on raising payroll $20 million dollars or whatever the number should be in 2013.
After one attempt at the question failed to be answered, based on specifics, Scott Miller of CBS Sports asked the question again, quite respectfully - only wishing a broader answer as to what fans could expect in player payroll going further. Miller's question was not answered either, Fowler's response was only that payroll would increase.
So will the price of players, by the way. Under-promise and over-deliver? Promise nothing, then anything is over-delivered. San Diego is used to that.
The hope, then, will be the statement that Fowler made about judging ownership by their actions and not by their words. But to tout the signing of Carlos Quentin and Huston Street to extensions (by no means are either player a bad signing, but both are entirely affordable even if player payroll remains the same in 2013 as it is in 2012) as some grand action that transcends a non-promise is just silly.
So then, the hope is somewhat tempered. Ron Fowler seems like a nice guy, and a good businessman, a really good one. Sincere. Yet, there's no plan that the fans of the San Diego Padres can hold ownership responsible for. Over-delivering a fourth-place team is a slam-dunk.
How about the Padres winning the World Series? Don't all successful MLB franchises promise their fan base that the ultimate goal is to win the World Series, and to continue to do whatever reasonable thing they can execute in order to continue to do so?
Or is that too much to ask for? After all, this is San Diego, a city that is used to being let down with their professional sports teams time and time again. But perhaps this time, Padres fans will see through this nonsense and hold ownership responsible for the failures throughout the years. Here's to hope.