You don't care about the Padres. Most of the country doesn't care about the Padres. They suck. But if you allow me a few minutes of your time, I'll tell you why they suck. Bear with me.
THE CLIFF'S NOTES
Everyone knows and hates Jeffrey Loria. He's widely known amongst baseball fans as the evil dipshit who screwed over Miami citizens for a new stadium and millions of dollars. But no one knows John Moores. John Moores is the ninja Jeffrey Loria. He's Jeffrey Loria with a good PR team, common sense, luck and great timing.
John Moores made his fortune on the front of the technology wave in the early 80's and 90's as a tech savvy programmer and investor. The Texan built his fortune through his own business, BMC Software, and from smart investments in other tech companies. In 1994, on the heels of the (team devaluing) strike, John Moores bought the lowly Padres from current Red Sox owner, Tom Werner, for $80 million.
His purchase of the team ushered in a new wave of optimism for a club that had only won its division once in its then 25-year history.
Moores' influence was felt immediately as the team posted 91 wins in the 1996 season behind big name acquisitions of players like Steve Finley, Rickey Henderson, Ken Caminiti, and Wally Joyner. As the fans reveled in the new-found success, plans were already underway to move the Padres out of dual-purpose Qualcomm Stadium (then Jack Murphy Stadium) into a taxpayer-funded stadium of their own.
In 1998, the Padres continued their National League ass-kicking tour as they added Greg Vaughn and Kevin Brown and ended up with 98 wins and a (brief, four-game) appearance in the World Series. San Diego was in a baseball frenzy.
THE FIRST BIG SCORE
On November 3rd, 1998, 13 days after the Yankees recorded the final out of a four-game sweep of the Padres in the World Series, San Diego voters approved a ballot measure to begin construction on a new, downtown stadium that would give the Padres a home of their own. The deal was a half-billion-dollar downtown redevelopment of which the Padres (Moores) would be on the hook for just $115 million. The remaining $300-400 million would be footed by the city (the taxpayers).
In the end, the stadium would belong to John Moores, along with partial ownership in a new hotel and other downtown properties developed in the deal.
This is the type of deal that investors dream of.
But the taxpayers never batted an eyelash because the downtown development ended up being great for the city. The east village area of downtown San Diego was revitalized; businesses were making money, condos and hotels were springing from the ground, and no one seemed to care that John Moores had essentially fleeced the city and taxpayers in the deal, because they won, too.
In the five seasons between 1999 and 2003, the Padres never finished better than fourth in the five-team NL West. The mantra became "wait until the new stadium is finished." The promised land was a construction site that was hung up in legal battles that were, in part, inspired by those who suspected that the 1998 season was a one-time effort by an owner who was trying to cash in on a single-season down payment.
Eventually the dream became reality and in 2004 the Padres began playing in a beautiful new stadium called PETCO Park.
But despite the new digs, the revitalized downtown, the luxury boxes and the fancy new logo (that no one really liked), the payroll failed to keep pace.
It seemed that John Moores had gotten everything he wanted, but the team failed to keep up with MLB payrolls, and MLB competition.
By 2009, the Padres had the league's second lowest payroll and had only a pair of one-and-done playoff appearances (1-6 playoff record) to show for the first six seasons in their new park. High payroll players like Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez were shown the door when it became apparent that they would actually have to paid their MLB worth.
The company line from John Moores and the Padres front office had changed, but the theme remained the same. Instead of the "poverty due to lack of a good stadium" excuse, they'd shifted to the dual purpose "poverty due to stadium loan payments AND due to an outdated, undervalued TV contract."
Let's quickly attack the arguments there:
John Moores was only on the hook for $115 million of a $500 million stadium that he owned and claimed that the payments he had to make on those loans prevented him from putting a decent team on the field.
John Moores claimed that the $10 million-a-year deal that was in place with Cox Cable wasn't enough for him to go after any free agent who wasn't just looking to finish out his playing days in the warm San Diego sun.
John Moores tended not to address the claims put forth by many fans that his $80 million investment had matured into something worth hundreds of millions of dollars - and that's ignoring the fact that he was also taking in tens of millions of dollars annually from big market teams.
If you owned a diamond — an actual diamond — that kept getting bigger and bigger, year after year, at some point don't you think that someone would call bullshit on your poverty claims if you kept lamenting that your diamond wasn't shitting out dollar bills?
In any case, one of those circumstances wasn't changing for twenty years (stadium loan payments) but the other one (the TV contract) was going to be up for renewal after the 2011 season. This was finally going to be the end of stagnant offseasons and "big" signings of players like Greg Maddux, Vinny Castilla, and David Wells about five years after their manufactured usefulness.
The new TV contract represented hope. It was the glimmer of sunlight on the horizon after a long, dark night. The recent news of the Dodgers negotiating a multi-billion dollar TV deal made Padres fans realize what may lie in store.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
In 2009, it was announced that John Moores had reached an agreement with former player agent Jeff Moorad to sell the team to Moorad's contingent of investors for $540 million. The subtext to the sale was that John Moores "had a pitcher warming up in the bullpen" and now his wife wanted a divorce. The Padres being the largest shared asset between them meant that the team would have to be sold in order to complete a divorce.
Hope sprung in San Diego.
Jeff Moorad had corralled a group of 12 investors (including Troy Aikman) to pool their resources and purchase the team in a series of payments over the course of two to three years. Moorad, despite being a minority owner, immediately assumed the ownership role and the front office underwent an overhaul.
This arrangement went smoothly for approximately 18 months until the time when the final payment which would take the Moorad ownership group from 49% ownership to 100% was to be made. You see, any ownership transfer in Major League Baseball must be approved by the League's other owners. And when it finally came time for the transfer in early 2012, the owners took a close look at Moorad, Aikman et. al. and decided that they were not worthy. Apparently the other owners had "concerns" that Moorad's group didn't have enough money to operate a competitive team.
Ignore the fact that they were taking over a team with the lowest payroll in baseball. Ignore the fact that the current owner had a metric fuckton of money and was still receiving MLB welfare from the Yankees and Red Sox. Something about this ownership group just didn't feel right.
Oh, right, Jeff Moorad was a player agent who had fought against most of these owners to get their money in his clients' pockets in the past. But I'm sure that had nothing to do with it. The other owners just wanted to ensure competitive balance with the team that had just put up a 71-win season.
THE BIG SCORE
Now here's where John Moores goes from your everyday greedy team owner to Jeff Loria-level scumbag. Hope you're still with me here.
Going into the 2012 season, the Padres were without a TV contract. Their $10 million-a-season contract with Cox Cable had expired, and it was time for the new, big, payroll-boosting contract. At the same time, the Moorad group had been rejected as to-be owners of the Padres, and so the team was back on the market.
In March 2012, just prior to the 2012 season, it was announced that the Padres, re-helmed by John Moores, had reached an agreement with Fox Sports on a new Padres TV deal worth up to $1.2 billion (billion) over the course of 20 years. The most significant part of the deal was that Fox would put up a $200 million up front payment on the new contract.
Throughout the 2012 season, Padres fans heard about several different ownership groups making bids on the team. As the season went on, the groups were narrowed down until finally a deal was reached. In August 2012, it was announced that a group fronted by former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley had reached a deal with John Moores to purchase the team for $800 million.
Keep in mind that the Moorad group had been rejected by the other MLB owners to finalize the purchase of the team that same year for $540 million.
What had happened in the course of the two-and-a-half years to make the Padres increase in value from $540 million to $800 million? Simple, the down payment on the TV contract. That $200 million down payment was going into the pocket of John Moores.
And the other MLB owners quickly approved the sale and moved on. They saw a deal that they would love to get for themselves one day and moved on.
$200 million pocketed and gone.
And now we get offseason reports that the new ownership group is broke. Competitive balance my balls.
John Moores bought the Padres dirt cheap in 1994 after the baseball strike. He pumped money into the team and reached the World Series weeks before a ballot granted him a new stadium and shit-tons of taxpayer money. He skimmed money off the team while they remained terrible for about a decade. He got caught banging some chick and had to sell the team in a divorce. He agreed to sell the team in payments. The payment deal didn't work out. He found $200 million sitting in his baseball team's account. He put that money in his pocket. He tried selling the team again and succeeded. He disappeared.
The Padres did nothing this offseason. Their biggest signing was Freddy Garcia, who didn't make the team. They're sitting at 2-10 and look like the worst team in baseball. John Moores is nowhere to be found and, undoubtedly, likes it that way.
And yet, the fanbase is apathetic. No one calls into local sports radio and yells about it. John Moores isn't vilified in San Diego and is unknown anywhere else. He's the Kaiser Soze of MLB ownership. He's Jeffrey Loria in sheep's clothing.
I just thought someone should know.