Interim manager Pat Murphy fired as underachieving Padres seek jolt

ESPN logo
Monday, November 2, 2015

SAN DIEGO -- Admitting his San Diego Padres "didn't have the right formula" this season, general manager A.J. Preller says he's looking for a manager who can get the underachieving team to play at a high level.

Preller fired interim manager Pat Murphy on Sunday after the Padres finished 74-88 and fourth in the NL West, 18 games behind the division champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Padres were a disappointment. Despite the addition of stars such as Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and James Shields and a bump in payroll past the $100 million mark for the first time, the Padres had their worst finish in four years.

San Diego has had five straight losing seasons and has missed the playoffs for nine straight years.

Preller's aggressive offseason moves didn't pay off. He fired Bud Black as manager on June 15, when the team was 32-33. The next day, he promoted Murphy from his job as manager of Triple-A El Paso.

The Padres were 42-54 under Murphy, who had no big league experience. Murphy was a former head coach at Notre Dame and Arizona State.

Preller said Monday that it wasn't the record under Murphy or any specific thing that got him fired. He said it was "more just looking overall at somebody we feel will be a little different fit, a better fit going forward. That's what we're going to find."

Asked what he was looking for in a new manager, Preller's answer was telling.

"The biggest thing we're looking for is somebody that has presence, somebody that has energy, somebody to get our players to play at high level, somebody the players are going to respect and want to play for, somebody the organization can rally around and can establish a culture."

Asked if the players didn't respect Murphy and didn't play at their highest level for him, Preller suggested that the entire baseball operations didn't get the team to play to expectations.

"I do think we feel like there's talent in that room. ... It's hard to say the guys underachieved or anything like that. I think just overall it just didn't work," Preller said. "It didn't mesh, it didn't merge. We didn't get guys to play as well as they did maybe at some other stops. ... We just never got that group to play at the level we were hoping to get to all year."

The Padres topped out at 10-5 on April 21. The newcomers Preller brought in didn't turn out to be the impact players everyone expected them to be.

Last week, Wil Myers, who missed significant time with a wrist injury, said: "I think we did underachieve as a team but I know that everybody here's going to come back and work hard this offseason and make it work."

Murphy said last week that he didn't really get a chance to put his stamp on the team.

"I don't feel like I really got to display what I can do, for a lot of different reasons," Murphy said. "It was a difficult situation. .... The boat was already moving. It was hard to learn everything I had to learn and affect change. I don't feel I did very much that I know what I'm capable of."

Preller said firing Black and hiring Murphy when he did were "the right calls at the right time." He said he had no regrets.

"Obviously we didn't have the right formula here this year," said Preller, who was hired in August 2014. "Clearly we didn't have a winning dynamic this year and that's something we've got to get better going forward."

The division rival Arizona Diamondbacks said they'd granted permission for the Padres to interview third base coach Andy Green. The Diamondbacks said the Padres hadn't asked permission to interview Triple-A manager Phil Nevin, a former Padres player.

It's possible Padres bench coach Dave Roberts and hitting coach Mark Kotsay will get interviews.

Former Texas manager Ron Washington could be a candidate based on Preller having worked for the Rangers before being hired by the Padres. Washington, now Oakland's third base coach, said Monday that he hadn't been contacted by San Diego.

Another possible candidate is former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who's spent the last three seasons as a special assistant in Boston's front office. Padres President Mike Dee is a former chief operating officer of the Red Sox.