Why wait until the end of the baseball season when you can beat the rush?
Under new management, the Padres have their highest payroll ever -- in the $90 million range -- and went into the season with hopes of being competitive in the National League West. But as the All-Star break approaches, the Padres are struggling to stay out of the NL West cellar, and are historically bad offensively.
As if to underscore the announcement Sunday, the Padres lost to the Dodgers 2-1, falling to 32-44.
Mike Dee, brought in as team CEO late last season (and a former front-office co-worker of Byrnes in Boston a decade ago), made the announcement and said the team's recent poor performance on a road trip ratcheted up management's "sense of urgency" to make a change.
On that East Coast trip, Dee and ownership front man Ron Fowler, were seen conferring at several games. "We were led to believe this team was built to compete," Dee said. "We have not seen that so far. There's an old saying in baseball -- you are what your record says you are."
Fowler, who was a minority owner under previous ownership, noted, "When you invest 50 percent more in payroll, you expect results. It's a results-driven business."
Dee emphasized that manager Bud Black and his coaching staff are safe at least until the end of the season. Meanwhile, the search for a new GM begins immediately. "Maybe we get a jump on everybody who's going to look to change GM's at the end of the season," he said.
Dee said they will be looking for "the best baseball people." He said he wants a GM with a now-and-future blueprint and someone who exudes leadership. The top candidate, he said, "will have a near-, mid- and long-term vision of what we want to be as a franchise."
Despite relatively strong pitching, the team has sunk as the offense ranks last in the NL or in all of Major League Baseball in batting, slugging, on-base percentage and other key offensive benchmarks. If the Padres continue on their current course, they will produce the worst team batting average in franchise history, even worse than the 1969 expansion team that lost 110 games.
Many of those expected to be the team's best players -- Chase Headley, Jedd Gyorko, Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso -- are hitting near or below .200. Gyorko and Alonso are currently on the disabled list, Headley is playing with a ruptured disk in his lower back and Quentin constantly battles cranky knees..
But Dee said with the new ownership's commitment to building a consistent winner in San Diego, "this could be a pretty juicy job for someone who wants to be a GM."
Byrnes was previously general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, credited with bringing in such young stars as Paul Goldschmidt. In San Diego, no such luck.
Byrnes' duties will be taken over by Omar Minaya and assistant GM's AJ Hinch and Fred Uhlman Jr.