Monday, February 27, 2017

Culiacan GM Padilla sacked, Tomateros players complain

Anyone who's read Jim Bouton's classic "Ball Four" is aware that ballplayers don't often hold general managers in high esteem.  While Bouton's lampooning of Seattle Pilots GM Marvin Milkes was just one reason that got him into considerable hot water with the baseball establishment, it's fairly common knowledge that an adversarial relationship can develop between a professional athlete and the person who ultimately determines their salary (especially in the era prior to free agency).

That's why the response of a dozen Culiacan Tomateros players, many of them current or former major leaguers, in the wake of the team's firing of general manager Ray Padilla (pictured) raised so many eyebrows last week.  Padilla spent twelve winters in the GM's chair for the Tomateros before being let go after the season.  Although original owner Juan Manuel Ley built the Mexican Pacific League team into one of the country's top baseball organizations from the late 1960's until his death a year ago at age 82, Ley's family successors at the helm of the team ultimately grew frustrated with Padilla's lack of on-field success this season after the club, which won the MexPac's first-half title before dropping off in the second half and being eliminated in the playoff semifinals.

With Culiacan hosting the Caribbean Series earlier this month, much pressure was placed on Padilla to bring the Tomateros a pennant and berth in the CS.  The results of impatient ownership led to manager Lino Rivera's firing after a slow start to the second half (remember, this is the team that WON the first half title), replacing him with veteran skipper Enrique "Che" Reyes, who'd been coaching in the organization.  When Reyes failed to bring the team a flag, Padilla's fate was all but sealed despite an LMP pennant and a Caribbean Series title game berth just two years ago under his watch.

A terse February 18 statement from the Tomateros office said, "Continuing with the process or re-engineering our club, it is announced that Mr. Reymundo Padilla is leaving his position of Sports Manager."  Padilla's ouster brought on an unusual reaction of support from his former players days later, as no less than twelve Tomateros jugadores signed a formal statement protesting the move and sent it to the press.  Here is a translated version of that letter:

Due to what happened last week, in which the Culiacan Tomateros Baseball Club reported that Mr. Ray Padilla stopped being the Sports Manager, the players of this organization want to express our feelings about it.

In the years that Mr. Padilla was in charge of the sports management of this club, he managed to form a great harmony in the group of players that today make up the roster of the Tomateros team of Culiacan. That is why we are very upset the news. Ray, as we all call him, had a unique work ethic, always showing us his support in good and bad.

We feel a great disappointment inside this group of players. We understand that the owners make their decisions, but many times they do it without consulting those inside the team, doing things that may damage the organization in the future.

We want to show our support to Ray, thanking him for all his support throughout these years in which we had the opportunity to work with him.

Without more to add, we said goodbye, even with this news and very hurt by the decision that was taken by the directors, which we do not agree with.

Among the twelve players who signed the statement are pitchers Oliver Perez and Hector Daniel "Danny" Rodriguez, infielders Oscar Robles, Luis Alfonso Cruz and Ramiro Pena, and outfielders Ronnier Mustelier and Joey Meneses. Perez, Robles, Cruz and Pena all have MLB experience (Perez, a Culiacan native, is entering his 15th big league season), Rodriguez is one of Mexico's top left-handed pitchers and Mustelier and Meneses were two of the Tomateros' top hitters this season.

Padilla's replacement in Culiacan has not been determined.