Wednesday, August 29, 2012
KPBS Reporter, Tom Fudge
Today, the Padres formally introduced the team's new owners in a news conference at Petco Park. Members of the O'Malley group offered guarded answers to questions about investing in players.
SAN DIEGO The sale of the Padres to the heirs of the late-Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley and San Diego businessman Ron Fowler has been completed, and the new owners met with reporters this morning at Petco Park. But they were very reserved in talking about what they planned to invest in order to make the Padres competitive.
"We're not going to conduct the business of running the Padres in the media," said Fowler.
The ownership group includes four grandsons of Walter O'Malley. The group includes Kevin and Brian O'Malley, and their cousins Peter and Tom Seidler. Walter O'Malley made baseball history in 1958 when he moved the Brooklyn Dodgers to L.A.
The $800 million sale by former owner John Moores was green-lighted nearly two weeks ago at the Major League Baseball owners meeting in Denver. The purchase included the Padres and minority stakes in Petco Park and the Fox Sports San Diego cable channel. A quarter of the sales price paid to Moores was up-front broadcast rights fees from Fox Sports.
"We are thankful to have completed the sale process and to now be able to turn our attention to the future," said Fowler, who was appointed the team's control person for dealings with the league.
Fowler went on to say he wanted to create a team that San Diego fans can be proud to support, adding that the new owners want to build on the foundation Padres executives have already built.
"We support the plan that is in place," he said. "We will do what we can to make it even better."
The San Diego Padres have spent many years as a struggling franchise in a small market. Earlier in the year, USA Today reported the Padres were dead last in major league baseball, in terms of the amount of money they invest in player payroll.
Time and again, reporters pressed Fowler and the O'Malleys to give specifics on how much they hope to increase their investment in players. USA Today reported the Padres payroll was just over $55 million. The payroll of the San Francisco Giants, who are in the same division -- the National League West -- as the Padres, is more than $117 million.
Fowler did say his first priority would be winning. But on the salary questions, the new owners would only go so far as to say they would increase the Padres payroll.
"Financially, we're in a good position," said Peter Seidler. "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.
For the first time, some of the other minority owners were identified, including Rick Barry, Patrick Graham, Lee Ross and Wayne Seltzer.
One supposed owner, who was conspicuously absent from the Petco press conference, was San Diegan and top pro golfer Phil Mickelson. Press reports had named Mickelson as a member of the ownership group. But the O'Malley group would not confirm that was the case.
Peter Seidler said they would meet with Mickelson in two weeks to try to "finalize things."
"We have one spot in the ownership group for Phil, and only Phil, but we're probably a couple of weeks away from crossing the bridge," he said.
As for the 40 percent of cable-TV viewers who presently cannot get Padres games, the new owners simply said they are working on it.
The price of $800 million the new owners paid for the San Diego Padres was 10 times the amount former owner John Moores paid for the team in 1994. But Seidler said they had good reason to pay a high price.
"There's a new, beautiful, maybe best-in-the-country ballpark," he said. "San Diego is a baseball town. It had been for a long time ... And major league baseball's enterprise is as strong as it's ever been."
Though many answers from the new owners were vague and reticent, they were clear on one point: Bud Black would remain manager of the club. The Padres are now second-to-last in the National League West, with a record of 60 wins and 71 losses; their season-longest eight-game winning streak was snapped last night by the Atlanta Braves.