Moores reclaims active role with Padres

Moores reclaims active role

SAN DIEGO -- For those who may be wondering, John Moores intends to maintain his principal ownership of the Padres into "the foreseeable future" and have a significant impact on any sweeping changes that may be made to the club in the offseason.

"I'd never say never about anything, but I don't think I'll be out of the picture next year," Moores told at PETCO Park last week in his first sweeping interview of the season. "I don't want to dance too much around it, because I have a very difficult personal situation and that drives a lot my life, but I anticipate being part of the Padres next year and into the foreseeable future."

The "personal situation" is a slow-moving divorce from his wife, Becky, which has played out in public all season as the Padres have underperformed to a last-place finish in the National League West.

San Diego started slowly with an 11-17 April and never recovered. Now, the Padres may be on their way to their first 100-loss season since losing 101 games in 1993, two full years before Moores took over the team from Tom Werner and his group of 15 minority partners. This after the Padres barely missed making the playoffs in 2007 for a third consecutive season.

Because of a dispute with his wife regarding the owner's box at PETCO Park, Moores didn't see a game in person for the first four months of the season, living in Texas and keeping abreast of the team via television and the Internet. That matter has been resolved and he's back in the box now, attending just about every last game on the schedule.

Moores' absence from the team caused some concern among Major League Baseball's hierarchy, though he continued to attend each quarterly owners' meeting as the club representative, sitting in on numerous committees, including the executive council that advises Commissioner Bud Selig. That he might have to sell the team as part of the divorce proceedings is also a major point of consternation.

Moores, who was a highly visible presence during his first 13 years of ownership, said he doesn't believe his absence had anything to do with the team's play on the field this year.

"You know, I'm loathe to say that it had a lot to do with it, but I don't think it did," he said. "I'd like to say that it did, but I can't. The fact is that I missed the first half of the season. But I saw more baseball this year than I'd ever seen before; it's just that it was on television. I still stayed involved. How much is indistinguishable this year from other years. It just wasn't as much fun looking at it on television."

Now, Moores is stepping it back up as the season ends and the front office goes into evaluation mode.

"The goal has always been to play meaningful games in September. We clearly have not met that target this year, but I want to do it again next year."
-- John Moores

He said he expects that Sandy Alderson, the team's chief executive, and Kevin Towers, the longtime general manager, will be back next season. Paul DePodesta, the former Dodgers GM who reports directly to Alderson, has been re-upped recently for three more seasons.

It will be up to Alderson and Towers to determine who will remain from the field managerial and coaching staff, and what players are on the 25-man roster next season. It will also be up to the hierarchy to do a complete autopsy of the organization so Moores can determine next season's Major League player payroll, a decision that won't be made until after the World Series.

Moores said he won't sit in on the baseball operation meetings, but he expects detailed choices to be given him concerning the club's immediate direction.

"The goal has always been to play meaningful games in September," Moores said. "We clearly have not met that target this year, but I want to do it again next year. That's the priority. Last year, we got within an out of postseason play. And I thought potentially we had at least as good a team coming back. Everybody thought the West was going to be whole lot stronger than it has been. I don't really understand why it hasn't. We're going to try and take it apart and figure it all out."

Some decisions will have to be made soon.

Trevor Hoffman, the focal point of the bullpen since 1993, can file for free agency at midnight after the conclusion of the World Series. The Padres have an option for 2009 to bring back right fielder Brian Giles, who will be 38 next season and stands to earn $9 million if he stays or be paid $3 million if he goes. Giles said the option must be picked up five days after the World Series.

Both players want to stay, but Moores said he was uncertain right now whether either is going to be brought back.

"Giles has a .400 on-base percentage, and he's Sandy's prototypical kind of guy," Moores said. "He doesn't look to me like he's lost anything. So I expect him to come back."

When asked whether the Padres might be able to pick up an outfielder of Giles' caliber for the difference of $6 million, Moores responded: "I don't think you can. The tradeoff on that is, do you want to put somebody younger in right field? It seems to me that it's unlikely the club doesn't pick up his option. It's more likely than not."

Hoffman, who will be 41 on Oct. 13, is a little more problematic. He's the all-time saves leader with 552, but there are some in the club hierarchy who believe that his current salary of $7.5 million is a lot to invest in a pitcher who throws only one inning a game. Mostly because of this season's circumstances, Hoffman has saved 28 games in only 32 chances and is at a career low for a full season at 42 1/3 innings.

"If you're not criticized, it means people don't care. Then I would really worry. But people do care. They care a lot."
-- Moores

The decision on Hoffman, though, is very emotional for Moores.

"I love Trevor, I just love him," he said. "He's been here as long as I have. He is the continuity. It's difficult for me to think of the Padres' clubhouse without Trevor in it or without Trevor's kids in it, actually. But at some point, Trevor is going to retire. It's just part of baseball."

Certainly, though, that's not now. Hoffman said he wants to play next year and maybe a few more years after that.

"It looks to me like he's capable of 600 saves," Moores said. "I'm sure he thinks he is. If I was a Hall of Fame closer, I'd want to have 600 if I could. The question is, how does that fit in with our baseball plans? For us, Trevor is a very, very attractive guy in the community, too. And that does matter."

Whether Hoffman reaches 600 saves in a Padres uniform, and whether it comes during Moores' stewardship, are major points of consideration.

All Moores knows right now is that he doesn't want to go through the same angst again next season, either personally or watching the game he loves.

"This year was tough not being here," Moores said. "It was especially tough when we had the [10-year reunion] of the 1998 [pennant-winning] team, and I wasn't here. It was an especially hard time. But that's in the past. The worst part of owning the club is the public part of it. It's just tacky. It's a little bit of a freak show.

"But being held up to public scrutiny just comes with the territory of owning any baseball team or public enterprise. It means people care. What would disturb me would be the opposite. If you're not criticized, it means people don't care. Then I would really worry. But people do care. They care a lot. People in this town care a lot about the Padres, and I'm glad they do."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.