What explains the monster extension of the Padres Manny Machado? The team owner’s determination to win with the fan’s imagination

When word came out this weekend that the San Diego Padres and Manny Machado had reached an 11-year, $350 million contract to avoid leaving the game, replacing his existing contract and continuing to serve as the third baseman in the San Diego is the rest. in his career, what he did felt a little like the brass sign in every Scooby-Doo episode.

How do the Padres keep doing this?

It was the baseball industry that made the rest of the industry look like it. A hidden and hidden angst about the intervening children. Even before Machado’s extension, other team owners were complaining about the open ambition (and open wallets) shown by Padres owner Peter Seidler, New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton. As for the concerns of his rich staff, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred praised the Padres as much as he could earlier this month, saying “they’ve done a really good job of taking advantage of their talent to generate revenue.” but he said. they also wonder loudly about their durability.

The question becomes ‘How long are you going to keep doing this?’ What happens when you rebuild?’” Manfred told USA Today, noting that the Padres are expected to lose money through 2023.

Seidler’s answer, in so many words? Challenge accepted.

The move by Padres owner Peter Seidler (left) and senior baseball official AJ Preller has sparked excitement about baseball in San Diego. (Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)

The Padres’ investment in Manny Machado was a success

At the heart of sports fandom is a contract: You, the fan, invest your time and emotions — and yes, your money. You pay an ever-increasing ticket price. You’re paying for cable to watch the home team when everyone you know has cut the cord. You pay $15 for a beer. You pay $134.99 for a printed shirt.

As a result, the people behind the team – the front office, sure, but mostly the owners of the team – are trying to give you something worth rooting for, something worth spending your discretionary income to enjoy. That’s how it should work.

In theory, it’s a circular process: Baseball-starved fans exist. A team owner provides upfront funds to create or relocate or remodel a baseball team for the fan base. Supporters of the group said. Then the owner of the team improves the condition of their investment, thus making money, and re-invests to get star players, gain success and further encourage the fans of the team to be more interested in the team.

What some might call it “wasting their talent to generate revenue.” Some will define this dynamic using a simple phrase: You get what you pay for.

Many affiliates and front offices have spent a lot of time trying to break the emotional connection between spending money on stars and fan satisfaction. Sustainability has become the buzzword du jour. Long term mega-deals become red letters.

Seidler, who took over as manager of the Padres in 2020, has no durability in his personal title.

“People love that word,” he told reporters in February. “Let’s find someone else. Do I believe our parade will be on land or water or both?

Near the peak of this sustainable movement, Machado and Bryce Harper waited out the cold winter on the free agent market, finally signing contracts in late February with the Padres and Phillies, respectively. It’s nowhere near universal or straightforward, but it’s clear that these two teams — contenders in the 2022 NLCS, led by top picks AJ Preller and Dave Dombrowski — helped push the bill to the moon. way.

Other reasons: The ridiculous results of the Mookie Betts trade for the Boston Red Sox, the addition of great financial strength in Cohen’s Mets and the development of the first development, as exemplified by Jose Altuve, Jose Ramirez, Julio Rodriguez, Wander Franco. and almost every member of the Atlanta Braves.

What is clear is that long term contracts are not a bad idea. Far from it. The lessons from the failed contracts of Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols boiled down to a more specific criticism: don’t sign players at certain ages or at certain profiles with defensive limitations. Other unsuccessful deals have been reduced for other reasons, with differences in the title of the teams taking the half-time stage around the huge investment in sports that one player cannot lift the whole team on the field. .

None of this, as it turns out, ever sought out Machado. In San Diego, he played 519 of a possible 546 regular season games. He went on to win two more than three NL MVP votes and emerged as a vocal leader on both playoff teams – matching his 20-year total for San Diego prior to his arrival.

If Machado were to reach the end of the 2023 season without a new deal and renege on his contract, the Mets, Yankees and many other teams would have almost followed him with the energy that is absent in his dreams. landscape for 2019. So while the Padres landed Machado less than expected four years ago, this week they have to step up and commit more to the 30-year-old than they did to the 26-year-old. . Why? Because as Machado put it earlier this summer, “markets change.”

What the Padres won by doubling

The Padres won’t be caught taking half measures. Before Seidler took over the franchise, they made a huge contract mistake of their own in signing Eric Hosmer, who was simply not a candidate in the first place. But the Padres weren’t bothered by this, with the Cincinnati Reds owning the team. Instead, they learned from it and focused on the younger, more consistent, bigger types of players who have proven useful as anchors of the franchise.

It costs more, but it can also prove more rewarding in the long run. Since Machado took over at the hot corner, Preller and the team have added Juan Soto, Xander Bogaerts, Josh Hader, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell. Many others plan to play with Machado for at least five years. The team also promoted Fernando Tatis Jr. and – in spite of some, uh, sagas – they have been able to rotate the discourse almost forever.

Padres fans responded as you might expect. Despite the “small media market” tag attached to the team, the Padres reel in a large number of viewers, scoring in the top five MLB teams in home ratings in recent seasons. After ranking 18th in MLB in average attendance in 2018, they finished third and fifth in the past two seasons, drawing over 10,000 more fans in every 2022 game than the last pre-Machado Padres .

“We’re seeing a lot of pro-life support,” Seidler told reporters in October. “And now, from our perspective, we always have an obligation, and it is at a higher level now. That’s good.”

The man whose social media account comes with handles that feel more “message board image” than “billion dollar conglomerate” – how many complaints can you make to PadrePedro7? – Seidler is interested in watching a good baseball team, like the team’s shareholders in Philadelphia and New York. His grandfather was Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, and Seidler has spoken openly about wanting to build the Padres into a balanced, worthy rival to the juggernauts in Chavez Ravine.

“I like spending money,” he said in October. “You can’t take it with you.”

Returning from the rush of financial commitments and MLB’s recent landscape, as well as Seidler’s cooling, fan values ​​also seem like the right strategy to go for in the medium to long term. Many organizations lose money in a given year, but the results and stories they create with this loss website can pay off in a big way. The Dodgers, for example, have posted annual losses since the current ownership group took over in 2012, but the franchise they bought for $2 billion was worth $4.075 billion at last check, according to Forbes.

Seidler said he is not interested in selling the team anytime soon or wants the Padres to remain in his family for generations. But wisdom is true. If a group builds a following and maintains it for a long time, by any means, for any reason, let’s magically stop talking about media marketing – when was the last time you heard someone mention the size of St. . Louis time to discuss the Cardinals’ forever win?

So, in a move to protect all team owners who don’t want to uphold their end of the bargain with fans, Manfred has pushed Seidler and the Padres to once again defy the perceived limits of their market. “The Padres are going to lose money,” he said earlier this month, “but the question is what are you going to do next?”

First, it will appear, they will extend Manny Machado. Later? Maybe they will try the same with Juan Soto. At some point, we will stop being so surprised.

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