Byrnes deserved better
I think firing Josh Byrnes was silly. You didn’t ask for my opinion, but I’m giving it to you anyway.
While he is not an “A+” general manager, he certainly doesn’t deserve a failing grade. He hasn’t signed 30-somethings to multi-year albatross contracts (I’m looking at you, Angels, Dodgers, Tigers, Yankees). Josh Johnson was a gamble that didn’t pay off, but it is only 1 year. Joaquin Benoit is being paid a whole lot, but only for 2 years. His draft picks haven’t had the time to pan out so it is difficult to grade his performance in developing players.
Which begs the question: why was Byrnes fired? Because the team stinks? That’s not entirely true. The entire team is not bad. The pitching has been excellent despite injuries and the defense has been at least average if not a little better.
The fact of the matter is: Josh Byrnes was fired because the Padres offense is the worst it has ever been at this point in the season.
The next obvious question becomes: is it Josh Byrnes’ fault the team can’t hit? I’m not convinced.
Let’s take a look around the diamond.
Yonder Alonso is inexpensive, under team control and young. Prior to injuries last year he was having a fine season (284/335/415 through May of ’13). There was little chance the Padres would give up on their young first baseman before finding out if he could return from his hand/wrist injury. Not replacing Alonso was not a mistake.
Jedd Gyorko had a very good rookie year. It wasn’t as good as many fans thought (power numbers are nice, but he struck out… a lot) but it was still good. The argument could be made that he didn’t deserve his contract extension yet, but there’s still no reason to replace him, so keeping him entrenched at second was not a mistake.
Everth Cabrera was an All-Star, lead the NL in stolen bases, got on base at a 355 clip. He wasn’t going anywhere (50-game suspension not withstanding). No mistake there.
Perhaps trading Chase Headley prior to this year (or even better, prior to 2013 when his value was at its zenith) was the better choice than keeping him. However, many fans would see such a trade as a give-up move unless the team got real MLB quality in return. I can only assume there wasn’t any of such to be had. Maybe we give Byrnes a half-a-demerit for not moving the oft-injured, light-hitting corner infielder.
The Carlos Quentin contract was a disaster, not because he can’t play but because he literally can’t play. If not moving Headley was a foul tip, Quentin was a whiff.
Cameron Maybin is just frustrating. So much talent, so little consistency. It is really easy to knock the extension he signed to buy-out his arbitration years. But there was no way to know he’d be this injured or that his bat wouldn’t come around. I’m not assigning a strike here either… let’s call this another foul tip.
If Maybin is frustrating, Will Venable is downright maddening. I can’t remember a Padre player with so much talent, who goes on such torrid hot streaks only to fall flat on his face offensively. Still, I doubt anyone would fault Byrnes for signing the team MVP to a team-friendly contract towards the end of 2013.
In summary, there really is only one huge mistake on Byrnes’ record. He’s had some other questionable deals but he’s hit a few home runs (Kennedy & Smith).
The simple, painful fact is this: the Padres hitters and their inability to hit got their boss fired. That, my friends, sucks as much as it sucks to lose a GM of Byrnes’ quality. However, if Byrnes was only fired to “send a message” to the rest of the team, then that is even more embarrassing. That would essentially admit a group of professionals need extrinsic motivators to do their job properly and to the best of their ability. If that is the case, that is ridiculous.