More worries than surfboards for Pads

More worries than surfboards for Pads

SAN DIEGO -- They moved the surfboards out of the San Diego clubhouse on Saturday just in time for the Padres to be swept out of their National League Division Series by the St. Louis Cardinals.

No kidding.

While some of the Padres prepared for Game 3 during a workout on Friday at PETCO Park, a group of them, headed by Ryan Klesko, were busy signing surfboards personalized with the Padres logo to take home for the winter and hang in their various dens, trophy rooms and decks. The boards are also good for surfing, an activity that many of these Padres, soon to be ex-Padres, can begin partaking in as early as Sunday.

"Why not? It's San Diego," said Padres majority owner John Moores, who was clearly baffled when asked about the situation during the Padres' 7-4 season-ending loss. "I don't know. I think the longer I'm around the game the less I understand. I understood a lot more a dozen years ago than I do now."

That some thought this was highly inappropriate a day before what should have been the biggest game of the year didn't seem to faze Klesko, who went scuba diving on a road trip this season and brought some deer antlers on the team plane.

While Klesko was asking his teammates to make sure they signed the boards, lined up like cleats in the center of the room, Joe Randa looked at him like he was a martian.

Good for him. At least someone had their head in a series that the Padres wound up losing by a combined score of 21-11 and never had the lead in a single inning.

Klesko was 2-for-10 in the series with no extra-base hits, no RBIs and represented the tying run in the ninth inning when he grounded back to the mound to end the series.

Klesko has one more season remaining on his multi-year deal worth $10 million and he'll be playing first base next season, if he's still around. The left-handed hitter, who had 30 homers and 113 RBIs as recently as 2001, slumped to 18 homers and 58 RBIs. He was being systematically benched near the end of a season in which the Padres finished 82-80 and were able to win the NL West because the remaining four teams were a combined 68 games under .500.

Add the three playoff losses and the Padres also finished under .500.

The season was an aberration and it won't happen again any time soon. The Padres, for example, were 87-75 in 2004 and finished six games out. This year, they had the worst record of any team to win a division title or league pennant, and they still won by five games.

It wasn't enough to fool the owner, who is promising a complete evaluation of the team before it takes the field again in 2006.

"I'd be less than candid if I didn't say there were a number of things I was disappointed in," Moores said. "I've never had a team that failed to reach its potential like this one. There were some positive things. The pitching still is very strong. I feel very good about that.

"But there are a number of position players I've been disappointed in. They didn't live up to expectations. Why that is, I do not know. But I'm highly confident there will be some discussions about that in the offseason."

Padres fans can take him at his word.

When Moores bought what was then a moribund franchise in 1995, it had won just one pennant in its history. The previous ownership had gutted the team in a notorious fire sale and baseball was still in the midst of its last strike. But from those ashes has come three playoff teams in his 11 years and the new ballpark that was only talked about came to pass after much heartache and litigation, opening in time for the 2004 season.

The team cost Moores in excess of $200 million to operate in the nine seasons BP (Before PETCO). It remains one of the most highly leveraged franchises in the Major Leagues, although in the last two years, the Padres have been generating enough revenue to service their debt.

"Only PETCO has allowed us to do that," Moores said. "We couldn't have survived without it."

The player payroll is not paltry, but the baseball operations people have to be a lot smarter about how they allocate what was $70 million this year and may rise slightly next year. That's one of the reasons Sandy Alderson was brought in as chief executive on May 1.

Choices have to be made. Key players like Brian Giles, Trevor Hoffman and Ramon Hernandez will certainly file for free agency as soon the clock strikes midnight the day after the World Series ends. Hernandez probably will not be invited back. But the others are still in their plans.

"I believe Alderson's been real clear that he has a high priority on trying to sign Brian," Moores said. "For me, it would be almost unthinkable for Trevor Hoffman to be closing for anybody else. He had a really good season and he's clearly on his way to the Hall of Fame. And I hope he finishes his career in a Padres uniform."

Consider the transition of the roster as at least a two-year process. Right now, the Padres owe $20 million to two players, who will be awfully hard to move: $10 million for Chan Ho Park, who didn't even make the playoff roster, and the remainder to the surfing king, who will have an entire offseason to hunt, fish and play with his new board.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.