The San Diego Padres have won a grand total of one World Series game in their 44-year existence, are more than 500 games under .500 all-time, and are on pace to finish amongst the bottom half of National League teams in attendance this season for the 30th time. But better days — on the field and at the gate — could be ahead for the Padres, who are about to be sold to a group that features plenty of big names accustomed to winning.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Monday, August 6 that a group headed by former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley and professional golf champion Phil Mickelson has agreed to buy the Padres for about $800 million. The deal is expected to be officially approved by Major League Baseball owners during a meeting Thursday, August 16 in Denver.
While the new ownership group — dubbed “The O’Malley Group” — is expected to be headed by O’Malley’s sons, Brian and Kevin, and his nephews Tom and Peter Seidler, it is the baseball experience of the elder O’Malley and the Hall of Fame exploits of Mickelson (a San Diego native who has won 40 events on the PGA Tour, including three Masters titles) that have generated the headlines and the hope the Padres can become annual contenders in the National League West.
O’Malley’s father, Walter, bought the Dodgers following the 1950 season and eventually ceded presidency of the team to Peter. Under the O’Malleys, the Dodgers reached the World Series 13 times and won six championships in 48 seasons before selling the team to Fox. Coincidentally, as part of the sale, the O’Malley Group will receive the $200 million Fox Sports San Diego paid to outgoing owner John Moores as part of the 20-year, $1.2-billion deal the Padres recently signed with the network.
The Dodgers were also annually one of baseball’s biggest draws following their move to Los Angeles in 1958. Over the next 40 seasons, the Dodgers never finished lower than third in the NL in attendance.
The Padres had some of their greatest success since Moores bought the team in 1994. The Padres recorded seven winning seasons — as many winning seasons as they had in their first 26 years — reached the playoffs four times under Moores and won 98 games in 1998, when they were swept by the New York Yankees in the World Series. In November 1998, San Diego residents voted to fund 70 percent of a new stadium for the Padres, who moved into Petco Park in 2004.
However, San Diego fans have largely stayed away from Petco Park as they express their dissatisfaction with the Padres’ inability to retain star players such as former Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, each of whom were traded within the past three years for packages of prospects. The Padres haven’t finished in the top half of NL in attendance since 2006 and haven’t finished in the top four since 1985, the year after the Padres’ first World Series appearance.
The Padres also committed one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the Major League Baseball Draft in 2004, when, with the first pick, they selected local high school shortstop Matt Bush instead of college pitchers Justin Verlander or Jered Weaver. Verlander has thrown two no-hitters and is the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner and Weaver is 15-1 this season with a no-hitter, but Bush has been arrested numerous times and is all but assured of becoming just the third no. 1 draft pick to never reach the majors.
With a 48-64 record through Tuesday, August 7, the Padres are likely to endure their fourth losing season in the last five seasons. But Moores did provide Padres fans a bit of a going-away present — as well as some momentum for the O’Malley group — by signing outfielder Carlos Quentin and closer Huston Street to extensions recently instead of dealing them for younger players at the trading deadline.