The last few weeks have seen some significant changes in on-field personnel for the San Diego Padres. A.J. Preller’s August arrival was clearly the beginning of a paradigm shift in the organization, one that’s quickly putting new faces in the dugout.
The resulting surge in season ticket sales has been cause for optimism throughout the front office, especially in light of the biggest elephant in the room: the possibility of the Chargers leaving town, and the implications of being the only show in San Diego.
It would be a situation that is largely without precedent. NFL teams have been particularly nomadic, but most of those pulling up stakes left at least an NBA team – and sometimes an NHL franchise – to vie for the sports fans’ dollar. San Diego has neither, so the loss of the Chargers would leave the city as the nation’s only baseball market with no other professional sports team in basketball, football, or hockey.
So the recent roster investments by the Padres may mean it is not so much whether they will bring home a World Series but whether they will remain financially solvent – and physically present – in their current market.
What Being The Only Team In Town Would Mean for The San Diego Padres
The impact of being the only sports team in town may be hard to track for the San Diego Padres. If the Chargers do relocate and San Diego fields a roster of expensive newcomers but seem to have little to show for it, there will likely be dismay at the dollars launched into payroll with nothing to cheer about. You can hear talk radio now: “We’ll only fill the seats for so many games without a pennant.”
But there’s more at play than wild cards and four-game sweeps. The real upside for the team, in the event of an NFL exit (a dis-Charger?), is more complex and not as flashy as a victory parade.
The main issue is stabilization of the franchise. Notice this doesn’t necessarily mean growth, since sometimes an end to a decline is the most you can hope for in the short term. If your personal finances featured annual increases in debt for many years but then suddenly stabilized and you were able to hold your ground, you’d feel like a success. And you have to break even on your way from a loss to a profit.
The franchise must view their situation the same way. They don’t necessarily need to get richer if the Chargers leave, they just need to make sure they don’t get poorer.
This doesn’t necessarily mean financially, either, at least not in the short term. The Padres are in neither feast nor famine, ranked in the middle of the pack for franchise value by Forbes Magazine. The real threat to the franchise is a decline in the area’s sports marketability; particularly among current and potential corporate sponsors, who would see the city as a fading sports market if the Bolts bolt.
So a 2015 and 2016 in the black could be fool’s gold. In time, expiring sponsorships may not be renewed, or season ticket sales may start to decline. When these canaries succumb, a team is in real trouble, especially with the MLB having its struggles in general.
What the San Diego Padres may need most is for the Chargers to stay, but no matter what they need success on the field. They must work to avoid mediocre performance and fan apathy. This combination will lead to uninspiring revenues and escort the Padres out of town right behind the Chargers (If they decide to leave).
Preller’s moves are the most rational investments that could be made right now, and now is certainly the time to make them. If he waits to see what the Chargers do, he could already be in a worse financial position by next off-season. He’s doing all he can do, it seems, but it’s still largely up to the Chargers.