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Following up: A.J. Preller lives up to reputation

James Shields trade more defensible for White Sox, who may have dealt with San Diego too soon

Reading through the first wave of coverage reacting to the suspension of Padres GM A.J. Preller, it doesn’t appear as though any additional punishment/justice for the James Shields trade is impending.

Major League Baseball left the door open, though, saying its suspension only applied to San Diego’s trade with Boston involving Drew Pomeranz. I suppose it is possible that the White Sox still have a grievance to settle, as the other two teams who weren’t happy the Padres hid medical information have received some help from the commissioner’s office. This suspension pertains to the Pomeranz deal, and the Marlins were allowed to reverse part of their trade shortly after it happened by sending injured pitcher Colin Rea back to San Diego, which made the Marlins whole enough.

Perhaps the White Sox are in a separate boat for dealing with San Diego the soonest. The Red Sox and Marlins were the only teams identified in Buster Olney’s original report on the Padres’ potential wrongdoing last month. Both teams had traded with San Diego in late July, and maybe that makes it easier to square up their accounts as opposed to the White Sox, who acquired Shields in early June.

That said, it’s still a fascinating story, as you might expect when a GM receives a 30-day suspension. None of the writers can think of many — if any — parallels, and when Marge Schott is the closest ...

Preller is the first non-player to be suspended by the commissioner's office since former Cincinnati owner Marge Schott. Then-commissioner Bud Selig suspended her in 1996 for repeated slurs against African-Americans, Jews, Asians and homosexuals, and expressing toward Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Selig reinstated Schott in 1998, and she gave up the club a year later.

(Washington GM Mike Rizzo was suspended one game for a run-in with an umpire after a game in 2011, but that’s punishment doesn’t compare to what Preller received, either.)

If nothing else, it’s made everybody revisit Preller’s origin story, which holds up rather well. When the Padres hired him, those vetting his past wondered whether his previous one-month suspension (originally three!) for negotiating with a Latin prospect who was serving a suspension for falsifying information could foreshadow future indiscretions and/or violations.

For instance, this quote from a skeptical San Diego Union-Tribune story went from boilerplate to funny:

"I really want our staff to think about being cutting edge," Preller said Wednesday at Petco Park. "I look forward to being that type of group, being next-wave, being ahead of the curve. ... Usually when you get an idea or thought that works, within a year 10 other teams are copying that or doing the same thing. That's why you constantly have to hit on ideas that give you a competitive advantage and, when the competition catches up, hopefully hit on the next idea to take us where we need to get to."

Hiding medical information is one way to gain a competitive advantage, and for Ken Rosenthal, this incident and Preller’s continued employment shows that the Padres "wanted a rogue" and "got a rogue" in Preller. Rosenthal said other executives thought Preller should have been punished more harshly, not just because a team like the White Sox bought damaged goods, but because the Padres steered a team like the Sox away from a club that discussed trades in good faith.

One exec went so far as to equate Preller's actions to "fraud," contending that the damage extended to other franchises that wanted to trade pitching to the Padres' eventual partners -- the Red Sox, Marlins and White Sox -- but lost out to a GM operating in a duplicitous fashion.

Given that there are no hard-and-fast rules for reporting more mundane medical information, it’s somewhat surprising that a team hasn’t been burned by flying too close to the sun. Then again, when you read Olney’s description of just how hard Preller flouted the rules, the Padres basically lit themselves on fire.

According to sources, the Padres reached midseason with dramatically fewer medical entries on their players. An average number of entries for a given team might be in the range of 60 by the All-Star break. The Padres had fewer than 10, according to a source.

Since the White Sox traded for Shields well before the All-Star break -- and because Shields showed signs of decline on the field — there may not have been a sufficient body of evidence to officially call shenanigans on the Padres. It’d be cool — and maybe/probably just — for the Sox to receive some form of restitution, but I’m guessing they’ll merely end up as a sympathetic/cautionary tale for dealing with San Diego.

I’m also guessing that this will be addressed over the winter. It’s in Major League Baseball’s interest to encourage a healthy and active market, because the sustained drama of its offseason and trade deadline aren’t matched by other sports.