We've talked a lot about the Padres decision to name a space at Petco Park after outgoing MLB Commissioner Bud Selig over the last few days, but we don't have press credentials. We don't get to talk to team executives directly. Our dialogue is generally reactionary, and the front office reacts to us in similar fashion. It's a bad way to have a meaningful conversation. Well, today Jodes and I were at today's Social Summit, a gathering of fans active on social media. Before anybody accuses us of being paid shills (again), yes, the team put us up in a suite. Yes, they gave us a whole lot of food. Yes, I am a man of loose morals. But I love the Padres way too much to be swayed by something as simple as a meal and a free ticket to a ballgame.
A significant part of our time today was devoted to conversations with various people in the front office. During some roundtables, we had a chance to speak with Ron Fowler, Mike Dee, and Wayne Partello. Unsurprisingly, there was one subject that kept coming up. Most of the complaints were not about the Plaza itself, but about the team response after the initial criticism.
Partello took the blame for the impression that Palm Court Plaza was being renamed, as well as overblowing the announcement itself. He talked with us in the suite for a large portion of the game, and admitted that he didn't brief his staff well enough beforehand. There is, unsurprisingly, a balancing act that goes on in the PR office between keeping secrets, well, secret and making sure everybody knows what's up. The team oversteered in the direction of secrecy, which is part of what led to all the fishtailing this week. (I'm sorry. I'll stick to baseball metaphors in the future.)
But it was Dee that took the brunt of the criticism. I mentioned that I found his appearance on Padres Social Hour condescending and insulting, and he profusely apologized both publicly and privately. He also gave a little insight into why the team wanted to honor Selig, and mentioned that when construction of Petco Park was shut down to legal and political hurdles, the commissioner's office stepped in to guarantee the loans on the ballpark, which was essential to the team weathering that storm. But Fowler also noted that this was inside baseball, and fans have no reason to care about it. Going forward, they intend to keep that confined to the offices and meeting rooms where they belong. As for Selig Plaza? "The toothpaste is out of the tube," according to Fowler. There's no real going back now, and everybody will have to live with the reminder of the mistakes that were made.
After the roundtable, we took a little trip to the future site of the Plaza. Designs are still in the works, but Dee and Partello said they would be more open about it. Here's what's there right now.
We also got a look at some of the plaques that will be in Selig Plaza. These plaques, honoring Hall of Famers who spent some time with the team, are currently covered up in front of the batters eye. The public isn't allowed anywhere near them, and a couple are being swallowed by Luke Yoder's tomato plants (which, despite temptation, I did not ransack for their delicious fruit). Here's a look at one of the plaques that will go in Selig Plaza, with our friend RJ's Fro for scale (and his sweet 'stache).
After spending a lot of time talking to Dee and Partello today, I feel like they understand why fans have been so upset with them over the last week. Personally, I'm ready to forgive them for their errors. I'll be watching to make sure they've learned from their mistakes, but right now? I'm ready to move on.