We're in a world of instant gratification and a quick trigger to direct blame. When an NFL team hires a new coach and he starts off 1-3, fans are calling for his head. When Stephen Strasburg K's 14 in his first MLB start, we're getting his plaque ready for the Hall of Fame. These knee-jerk reactions can prevent us from letting major renovations properly reach maturity.
When AJ Preller moseyed in to town in August of 2014, he inherited a staff and a system that weren't necessarily "his guys". One year in, and he had replaced most of the coaching staff, most of the minor league instruction staff, most of the scouting department, overhauled the major league roster, and jettisoned many of the former "top prospects" of the minor league system. The team on the field had recognizable names and marketability, but a combination of injuries, exposed roster construction weaknesses, and prolonged slumps sent the team to the cellar. The team that "won the offseason" lost the real season, and the cynics started to get loud.
The San Diego Padres fanbase is a jaded bunch. We've seen decades of futility interrupted by moments of success. It seems that our top draft picks fail dramatically, and our top prospects only bloom once they move on to another organization. It doesn't help that the other major franchise in town is doing everything they can to alienate and desert the people of San Diego. The departure of Rymer Liriano has illuminated some of the sentiment that often befalls Padres fans. A highly touted prospect never reached his potential with the organization and management was forced to make a move. We can do like we've always done and assume that he'll flourish with another team, or we can consider that perhaps the player development folks saw an athlete who failed to demonstrate an ability to overcome the shortcomings that were keeping him from making the leap that would make him a useful major leaguer. I don't think the Padres gave up on Rymer Liriano. I think Rymer Liriano failed to put in the work that the Padres were asking of him.
They say that it takes five years for a new GM to fully mature his system. Six months ago, we were looking at a major league roster with major flaws and a minor league system with gaping holes. It was a natural reaction to look at the depleted state of the Padres at that time and wonder how this ship can get righted and if Preller is the right captain to do it.
Six months later, and there is a whole different feel to the direction of this organization. Preller flipped some veterans for a refreshing pool of talented prospects, immediately reshaping the Top 10 Prospects list. By standing pat with expiring contracts (Upton, Kennedy) and passing on overpriced foreign free agents (Moncada, Tomas), the Padres now have a slew of picks in a reportedly deep 2016 draft along with a full International Bonus Pool with no restrictions and less competitors since so many other teams overspent last year.
The Padres are about to bring new crop of young talent into the system, at a rate that we've never seen. He will have those players work with scouting and player development staffs that are completely revamped from the group that failed to bring the highly touted talent of prior classes to prosperity. They will be playing for coaches and managers with more progressive ideas of usage and teaching. AJ Preller has completely overhauled the Padres organization from the ground up - players, coaches, scouts, and analysts across the board. It's a monumental undertaking. When you take a step back, it's apparent that he's worked every bit as hard as his reputation suggested.
These things will take time. The players drafted in 2016 won't start to make an impact on the major league roster for at least two to three years. If we, the fans, start pointing at the failures of prior management groups with the assumption that this group will fail in the same manner, we will harbor an atmosphere that will focus on failures instead of shining light on success. This coming season has all the signs of a rebuild. We need to embrace it. It's not easy for a fan base that has been fed the line of promising prospects to accept the same story over again, but this time it is different. A whole new wave is moving through town. I'm catching a ride.