KPBS Reporter, Tom Fudge
CAVANAUGH: Today, the Padres formally introduced the team's new owners in a news conference at Petco Park. Members of the O'Malley group spoke to reporters about their plans for the team. KPBS reporter Tom Fudge was at the news conference. He joins us now. Hi Tom.
FUDGE: Hello, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Now, who represented this new ownership group at the news conference?
FUDGE: Well, they were pretty much all there. Ron Fowler who's a San Diego businessman what is called at this point the controlling owner. But also the O'Malleys were there. I think a lot of people, anybody who's followed this story knows that the heirs of Walter O'Malley who was famous for bringing the Brooklyn dodgers to Los Angeles are big members of the ownership group in this team, and Peter sideler was there, so everybody was out in their minds to celebrate the purchase of this team.
CAVANAUGH: We heard that golf legend fill Mickelson is also part of the group. Was he there as well?
FUDGE: You know, he wasn't there. Of and the subject of Mickelson at this conference was a curious one. A couple of reporters asked why he wasn't there. And based on the rather reserved comments, it's not clear whether he is actually part of the ownership group. It sounds like they have been talking with him, but it's not clear he's actually in there.
CAVANAUGH: Interesting. Now, remind us if you could about the O'Malleys and their history with baseball.
FUDGE: Well, Walter O'Malley was famous or depending on your point of view infamous for moving the Brooklyn domingers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. He kind of created west coast major league baseball. And the LA dodgers most sports fans know has been an extremely successful franchise. But the O'Malleys are no longer part of the ownership group there. But Walter's heir, his son Peter and then four of his grandsons, became interested in the Padres when it looked like the Padres were looking for a new owner. And they have apparently put together some money, and they have partnered with Ron Fowler, a San Diego businessman, and they have bought apparently the Padres for $800 million. Just a bizarre figure. If you looked at that ten years ago, you would never imagine the Padres would be worth that much.
CAVANAUGH: What was the atmosphere at Petco Park today?
FUDGE: Well, I would say that it was celebratory, but also reserved. The reporters heard on more than one occasion that the O'Malley group is not going to manage the Padres in the press. And so they kind of told all of us right away that, well, we're going to keep -- frankly, we're going to keep quite a bit of what we're doing behind closed doors. So it was very important to be at this particular press conference. You kind of got the feeling this would be one of your few opportunities to actually talk to the people. And in response to questions like the question about Phil Mickelson, they were very reserved, and also very reserved about answering any questions about how much money they were going to invest in the team. And of course that's a very important question.
CAVANAUGH: It's an important question because it's been pointed out on many occasions that the payroll for the Padres is one of the lowest in major league baseball.
FUDGE: USA today earlier this year said among all major league baseball teams, the Padres had the lowest payroll. The lowest in the neighborhood of 50 or $60 million. And once again, reporters at this press conference asked the O'Malley group over and over again, well, what are you going to do with payroll? Are you going to be able to keep good players here? Are you going to be able to go out and secure some free agents? This is Peter Seidler giving the company response to these questions about investing in the Padres.
NEW SPEAKER: Financially, we're in a good position. I'll steal one of Ron's favorite lines. We're in it to win it. We want to put a winning product on the field, and we're going to put all of our energy into making that happen.
FUDGE: So they're in it to win it, but that was about as specific as they got. One person actually asked them, well, are you thinking of maybe having a middle of the road investment in payroll? And they really wouldn't touch the question. All they said is that we will increase payroll, but we're not going to tell you how much.
CAVANAUGH: Did they express any kind of plans for their ownership of the Padres? Or basically did this reserve go through the entire news conference?
FUDGE: Well, it was a very reserved response by the new owners. Ron Fowler at one point said we have three priorities, No. 1 is winning, No. 2 is fan experience, and No. 3 is community development. In other words, they very often said the expression civic jewel or civic treasure in describing the Padres, and they said the Padres have been very much involved in the community up until now, but we're going to increase that a notch. We want the Padres to have a great presence in the San Diego community. An interesting thing for an ownership group to say when most of them are from out of town, a lot of them from Los Angeles.
CAVANAUGH: Part of the deal, are the part of the deal that some believe really made the Padres attractive was a new $200 million contract to broadcast games with fox sports San Diego. But the kicker in that is that 40% of San Diegans can't even get that because it's not on the cable services here. Was that addressed?
FUDGE: That was addressed and the response we got from the new ownership group was again very reserved and very inspecific. Somebody, in fact, the way the reporter put it is what are you going to do about this TV mess? And it really is a TV meswhen almost half of your fans in San Diego are not able to watch the Padres games. And they said, well, we're working on it, we'll talk to fox, we'll talk to the other party involved, I think they were talking about time warner, and they said they're going to work on it, but no specifics in terms of what would be done or offered and when it would happen.
CAVANAUGH: Apparently this news conference was just to introduce these people to the reporters and to the people of San Diego. So I'm going to end it with you by asking, give us a reminder, what kind of season are the Padres having this year?
FUDGE: Well, during May and June, the Padres were horrible. They were just awful. And in fact, even though I'm a baseball fan, I just couldn't bring myself to watch it! But ever since the All-Star break, the team has actually been looking up. They've actually been doing quite well. Until last night when they lost a game, they had won eight straight. They swept the Diamondbacks, they swept the Pittsburgh Pirate, and on the management side in terms of signing players, things are looking up a bit. They signed to a multiyear contract, Huston Street, who's a relief pitcher, Carlos Swinton, and he's important because he's actually from San Diego and knows how to hit the home run. So lately things have been looking up.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much.