“The draft has never been anything but a f—— crapshoot. We take 50 guys and we celebrate if two of them make it. In what other business is 2-for-50 a success? If you did that in the stock market, you’d go broke.” — Billy Beane
While 2003 may have been the end to an era, it would be difficult to argue that much had changed following the 2004 Amateur Draft. In a draft where the executive decisions were inexplicably carried out by owner John Moores, the Padres drafted local Mission Bay High School product, Matt Bush. The team immediately felt the return of their $3.15 million investment when, 13 days later, Bush was arrested in a night club scuffle under suspicion of “felony assault, and misdemeanor trespass and disorderly conduct … [and] underage drinking.” What’s worse, the dude’s a biter.
The move was immediately scrutinized as many believed it was merely predicated due to a financial bottom line as opposed to acquiring top shelf talent. While this isn’t necessarily a fair assessment (Bush was considered a Top 10 prospect in many circles and the Padres weren’t the only team who refused to pay premium prices for first round picks), the move ushered in a new philosophy and face for the front office:
John Moores rebuilt the Padres’ entire draft and development department, from the top down. Sandy Alderson, former executive with Major League Baseball became a part owner and team CEO. Grady Fuson, who nearly worked his way to general manager in the Texas Rangers’ system due to his extensive experience as a scout and talent evaluator, was named Padres director of scouting. Paul DePodesta, former executive vice president and general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, became Padres special assistant for baseball operations.
The franchise distanced itself from frivolous spending and settled with modest payrolls ranked either near or below the Major League average; fan favorites left via free agency. While the casual fan saw departing players and the concept of a modest player payroll as a black mark upon the franchise, the team began a new approach to the draft to create an advantage.
Since the move to Petco Park, the Padres have struggled promoting from within due to years of neglect that relegated their farm system near useless, ranking near the worst in the league up until this past season (courtesy of Baseball America):