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Stay classy, San Diego

Decorum, thy name ain’t Preller

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres
What, me worry? Preller’s asshattery likely extends to Machado signing, if you connect a couple of dots.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated posted a postmortem on the Manny Machado signing, and it answers a few questions about how the whole thing went down.

In the process, it’s hard not to feel some empathy for the Chicago White Sox.

And the villain in it all — big surprise — is the unquestioned asshat of the suite class, San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller.

You can be forgiven for not even realizing that Preller was still the GM in San Diego, and that’s not an snarky crack at the Padres’ small media imprint. It’s a statement on the fact that despite seriously unethical behavior as an executive with two different MLB clubs, Preller is still employed in baseball anywhere north of the Northern League.

Just a couple of years ago, ESPN broke news that San Diego maintained two sets of medical information on its players — one “authentic” set including every ailment suffered by players, minor or otherwise, and a second set, the one shared with other teams in trade talks, which was filled with omissions with Preller’s knowledge and endorsement. Preller, by ESPN’s estimate, underreported Padres injuries by more than 80%.

In short, Preller was cheating his fellow 29 clubs.

For his role in the duplicity (namely, orchestrating and perpetuating it), Preller was punished with a monthlong suspension from baseball, and the Padres fined. The punishment was only meted out for the detrimental role Preller’s duplicity played in a trade with the Boston Red Sox, involving Drew Pomeranz. (Earlier, the Marlins were allowed to send injured pitcher Colin Rea back to the Padres because, well, Miami wasn’t aware of the fact that he was damaged goods.)

In case you think sidelining a GM is common behavior, no baseball executive had been similarly suspended in the two decades previous, dating back to Marge Schott and her rant of racial slurs.

Three other teams, presumably all who’d traded with San Diego during its stretch of cheating the rest of the league, filed complaints, but MLB opted not to punish Preller or the Padres further for any other improprieties. Presumably the White Sox were among those filing complaints, as they’d committed the infamous James Shields-Fernando Tatis Jr. swap in the same time frame.

(Though a more “minor” infraction, Preller was also suspended from baseball earlier in his career, when he was the assistant GM of the Texas Rangers, over an international signing impropriety.)

So forgive me for connecting some dots in SI’s Machado free agency story.

The story broke when word of Machado’s signing appeared in a tweet by Jeff Passan of ESPN.

That leak prevented agent Danny Lozano from offering the White Sox a chance to meet or match San Diego’s offer, although of course he was under no obligation to do so. But the story also confirms that the leak prevented Lozano from doing the decent thing, personally informing the White Sox of Machado’s decision.

Few figures were in position to leak to Passan. Padres owner Ron Fowler told SI writer Stephanie Apstein that he was in fact a bit furious when he saw the news (“we don’t have a word of the contract drafted”), so count him out.

Fowler throws Lozano under the bus, claiming the agent confessed to him he leaked the news to stop the flood of questions about Machado. Agents are known to tire of endless questions about their clients, thereby driving prices (and commissions) up, so drag Fowler’s theory to the trash, as well.

That leaves one likely leaker, and he just happens to be the most unethical GM in the league. Would you believe he’d prematurely claim a signing to the most prominent newsbreaker in baseball before a word of Machado’s contract had been drafted? Before a physical taken? Before the agent had a chance to do the decent thing and inform the losing bidder personally?

Those were rhetorical questions, by the way.

Apstein’s story confirms that Ken Williams learned the White Sox lost out via Passan’s tweet, and that Lozano’s call to Hahn began, “since this has leaked out on Twitter ...”

Stay classy, San Diego.

The Preller theory is indirectly supported in another of Apstein’s stories on the signing, as she claimed that the kamikaze nature of the breaking news sent San Diego’s staff into an understandable tizzy. I bet it did.

But she misreads the nature of it, in claiming “it was Preller’s misfortune that the news leaked when it did; a few hours later and he would have been spared the press gauntlet.” Such a read flies in the face of Preller’s prior dabblings in light sociopathy; you know the dude was Cheshire catting the shit out of that afternoon.

Sez Butthead: “What do you guys want to talk about?” heh heh.

Apstein, again: “[Preller] breathed a sign of relief as he snuck out of the ballroom at the close of the session.”

What she ignored elaborating on was that the sigh of relief was over the fact that, against all odds, Preller had sucker-punched baseball, again.

More information on the Machado saga.