SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres still believe they have a World Series-caliber team despite a brutal late-season collapse that left them with yet another losing record.
If the Padres do make it to the Fall Classic in the near future, it won’t be manager Jayce Tingler who leads them there.
The Padres fired former MU standout Tingler on Wednesday, three days after they finished 79-83 and in third place in the NL West, 28 games behind San Francisco.
General manager A.J. Preller said Tingler — who just a season ago was second in voting for NL Manager of the Year — would be given the opportunity to remain in the organization.
Tingler’s fate was sealed during a shocking freefall that saw the Padres go from a one-game lead for the NL’s second wild-card spot Sept. 9 to being eliminated from playoff contention with seven games left. The Padres clinched their 10th losing record in 11 seasons.
Tingler was 116-106 overall in two seasons.
Preller said the Padres have embraced the high expectations fostered by their playoff run during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, led by superstars Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado and with Tingler as their rookie manager.
“Ultimately, I felt like this was a change we needed to make in order to get us on that big stage,” Preller said after firing Tingler, his friend from their days together with the Texas Rangers organization. “We feel like we have a talented roster and we have a team that should play into October. The decision today reflects that.”
In a statement, Tingler said: “While I’m profoundly disappointed that our season ended far too soon, I know this team has a very bright future ahead.”
Like Preller, owner Peter Seidler said this season “ultimately is viewed as an aberration because we’re a World Series-caliber, competitive team going forward for the next several years. That’s certainly the standard we hold ourselves to,” Seidler told The Associated Press.
Tingler had no previous managerial experience above rookie-level ball and stints in various Dominican leagues before being hired Oct. 28, 2019.
Tingler’s predecessor, Andy Green, didn’t have previous big league managerial experience, either, although he managed four seasons in Arizona’s farm system before spending one year as big league third-base coach.
“I trust A.J. to get this thing right this time but I’m not going to demand that it has to fit a checklist item,” Seidler said. “We’re going to find the right human being to be our manager and he’s going to lead us to great things next year and for years to come.”
Tingler guided the Padres to a 37-23 record in 2020 and their first playoff appearance in 13 years. They beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a wild-card series before being swept in the division series by the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
With a payroll of $175 million, the Padres entered this season with World Series aspirations and played with swagger until a number of problems surfaced during the second half, on the field and in the clubhouse.
Although Tatis remains one of the frontrunners for NL MVP, he was bothered by a recurring left shoulder injury and was even moved to the outfield for a time in an attempt to lessen his exposure to injury.
The Padres failed to land a starting pitcher at the trade deadline and then saw their rotation decimated by injuries to Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Chris Paddack, with no depth available to fill in.
There were reports that some players were unhappy that the Padres tried to trade first baseman Eric Hosmer at the deadline. Later, reports surfaced that some players had gone to Preller to voice their displeasure with the job Tingler was doing.
In a stunning dugout dustup Sept. 18, Machado cursed and yelled at Tatis and had to be separated by teammates and a coach. The spat came after Tatis struck out looking and then argued the call by umpire Phil Cuzzi. Tingler had been ejected when he came out to argue on Tatis’ behalf and wasn’t in the dugout when the superstars clashed.
The Padres plunged to another losing record.
“The failure starts with me. I’m going to look in the mirror and have an honest analysis of what went wrong and what needs to be changed,” said Seidler, a third-generation member of the O’Malley family that used to own the Dodgers.
“As an organization, it’s very clear to me everybody wasn’t pulling on the same end of the rope this year and that’s got to completely change,” Seidler said.
Asked if the clubhouse had become toxic, Seidler said: “It wasn’t as professional as I would expect it to be.”
Back in February, after the Padres gave Tatis the longest contract in baseball history, a 14-year, $340 million deal, Seidler said ownership was committed to bringing a championship to a fan base that has seen more than its share of losing. The Tatis deal followed a $300 million, 10-year deal for Machado in 2019, and a $144 million, eight-year deal for Hosmer in 2018.
“Our city showed up at the ballpark. We’re No. 3 in the major leagues in attendance this year and we need to double down in our commitment to bring a title to San Diego,” Seidler said.
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