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The Padres have said they never would have wasted a substantial pick on Johnny Manziel, who’s sure to never set foot on a baseball diamond. But the team’s not in much of a position to be tossing aside opportunities to improve.
It’s June, which means the Padres are losing loads of games, not scoring any runs and have become incredibly defensive against their own fans. It also means it’s time for the MLB Draft, and time for the Padres to show off their top draft pick as a promise the team will be better soon.
This year, with the Padres far-and-away the worst hitting team in baseball, Padres General Manager Josh Byrnes decided to screw around. In the 28th round, the Padres selected Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel. Manziel last played baseball in high school, where he was a shortstop and second baseman.
Well, leading up to the NFL Draft, Manziel spent a lot of time in San Diego. He worked out on the beach with students from St. Augustine High School and worked with a private coach in San Diego to get in the best shape of his life for the NFL Combine.
Saints Intersession Lifetime FItness class works out with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in South Mission Beach pic.twitter.com/WaHywfSMPS
— St. Augustine HS (@saints_info) January 21, 2014
During his time in San Diego, Manziel took in a Padres game. Actually, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Padres game and spent part of the game talking with Mike Pomeranz and Mark Sweeney on FOX Sports San Diego. He also apparently had dinner with Padres President Mike Dee, who asked Manziel if he’d like the Padres to draft him, because draft picks are fun toys to be used for building personal relationships with celebrities, and not useful tools for improving your ball club.
Now, a player who some aren’t sure will make it to the NFL field before he sees the inside of a jail cell or an AA meeting can tell his friends that he could’ve played baseball if he wanted. It’s not true, of course. Byrnes has admitted he’s never seen Manziel play baseball. Probably nobody who works for the Padres has. Even so, Byrnes doesn’t understand why the fans are upset.
“We never would’ve done it if it got in the way of a more substantial pick,” he told Darren Smith. The problem with that defense, though, is that the team drafted 11 more players after Manziel who they hope will sign with the team and develop into major-league caliber baseball players. How insulted do you think those guys feel?
Yes, to answer your question, 28th round picks are fairly meaningless. Only 6.7 percent of them ever make the major leagues. But the Padres simply aren’t in a position to be tossing away any opportunity to get better. At this point, the only thing that could save Bud Black and Byrnes’ jobs is a miracle, and they stand a better chance of finding that miracle by drafting real baseball players instead of someone who’s essentially a mascot for Vegas.
Drafting a football player, of course, isn’t unheard of. The Padres were obviously trying to copy what the Texas Rangers did in the Rule 5 Draft in December, when they took Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, a high-character player who had played minor-league baseball before and was in the process of leading his team to a Super Bowl victory in just his second year in the NFL. The attempt failed. Whereas the recently successful Rangers could bring in Wilson during Spring Training to talk about winning the championship and his time in baseball, the Padres bringing in Manziel would only raise questions about his negative influence on the other players.
This was a fun, quirky PR move executed the wrong way, at the wrong time, by the wrong team.