Nightengale’s Notebook: What made late Padres owner Peter Seidler beloved by his MLB peers

Nightengale’s Notebook: What made late Padres owner Peter Seidler beloved by his MLB peers


ARLINGTON, Texas — Major League Baseball owners arrived at their meetings this week, holding back tears, still trying to grasp that beloved San Diego Padres owner Peter Seidler is gone

“I saw the news on my phone, I couldn’t believe it,” Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said. 

St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt was checking into the hotel, informed of the news by a reporter, and recoiled, hurrying to his room. 

Commissioner Rob Manfred was having a committee meeting when he was informed of Seidler’s death, shared the news with several owners in the room, and no one uttered a word. 

“We just sat there,” Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said, “and couldn’t say anything.’’ 

Seidler, 63, the grandson of Dodgers legendary owner Walter O’Malley, was a beautiful man, with a passionate soul, unbridled optimism, with an unwavering commitment to his beloved city of San Diego. 

“He had (non-Hodgkin’s) lymphoma, twice overcoming it,” Attanasio tells USA TODAY Sports, “but he never had a bad day. At least I never saw it. It was hard to always stay positive going through the treatments, but he was unfailingly positive. He was always warm, kind and gentle. 

“How many baseball owners can you say are gentle?’’ 

When Major League Baseball and the players association were at war two years ago, threatening to cancel the 2022 season, no one was more miserable than Seidler. Even when a resolution was reached on a five-year contract, Seidler was pleading for a 10-year contract. 

When Seidler spent a franchise-record $258 million on his club, sending MLB and his fellow owners into a tizzy, believing he was ruining the game with his expenditures for a small-market team, Seidler’s retort was that he had a plan. And, oh, by the way, he pleaded with reporters: Will you stop calling the Padres a small-market club?

“A lot of people thought that that San Diego would never be a baseball city,” said Attanasio, Seidler’s closest friend among owners. “It’s a military town. It’s a beach town. He made baseball more than relevant. He brought passion to that fanbase, and that’s as loud a crowd as you will ever hear.”

The Padres finished with an 82-80 record, perhaps the most disappointing team in baseball history, but still drew a franchise record 3.2 million fans, selling out 61 games, and averaging 40,389 fans a game. They went from receiving revenue-sharing money from their fellow owners, to paying it, despite their massive financial losses. 

Seidler didn’t care. He just wanted to win. It was important for him to leave behind a legacy for the entire community, so desperately wanting to win a World Series, no matter the cost, and no matter how much it upset owners. 

Attanasio was well aware of the angst Seidler was causing among fellow owners, going back to why he would dare sign Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year, $340 million contract in 2021 before he played a full season. 

“Look,” he told Attanasio. “We’ve got a business plan. The Chargers are leaving. There’s no other sports team in town. We think we have an opportunity here if we seize this now. And we have a business plan to draw a lot more fans.”

Said Attanasio: “And guess what, he did.” 

Seidler refused to stop. He secretly had Aaron Judge come into town the night before he returned to the Yankees, offering him a 10-year, $400 million contract, and willing to pay more if needed. He offered shortstop Trea Turner $42 million more than the Phillies’ 11-year, $300 million deal, and when rebuffed, spent $280 million on shortstop Xander Bogaerts. 

If Seidler were alive today, he’d try to have free agent Shohei Ohtani fill out a blank check.

Seidler, who lived life as if he were immortal, was slowly dying in front of us this past year. He looked more frail every time you saw him. His shirts were too big, his sports jacket drooped off his shoulder. 

But he would never let you believe he even had a cold. 

“He was a two-time cancer survivor,” Padres CEO Erik Greupner said, “so I think as a result he was more aware than the rest of us that his days were numbered, or limited.” 

Still, he would never let onto anyone about his health. You ask him how he’s doing, and he immediately spun the narrative, asking about you and your family. 

“You could tell he was sick,” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said, “but he didn’t want anyone to feel bad for him. He was just so universally liked.”

He wasn’t just beloved by the owners, but everyone else he met. The grounds crew. The stadium workers. Beer vendors. Government officials. Players. 

“He was just the most genuine and pure soul,” Padres Cy Young winner Blake Snell said. “He was such a great man.”

Padres All-Star pitchers Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove dropped flowers off at Petco Park the day Seidler passed, while an artist painted a mural of him with the simple message: “Thank you.” 

“Peter was a truly wonderful human being, and being in his presence was always a blessing,” Darvish posted on X. “He was a teacher of life, and taught me countless lessons from all the interactions we had. May his beautiful soul rest in peace.” 

Seidler was a man of the people, opening his doors to anyone and everyone. You dropped into his spacious corner office at Petco Park, and it had less furniture than a college dorm room. He’d passionately talk about trying to combat the homeless situation in downtown San Diego, asking for solutions. 

His idea of a great time at the ballpark was not sitting in his Petco Park suite wining and dining dignitaries, but hanging out at the batting cage before games talking to everyone from grounds crew to Manny Machado, showing as much respect to the bat boys as he did to $300 million players. 

“We’d be in the office and he’d say, ‘Let’s go down to batting practice,'” Greupner said. “He loved being on the field. He loved talking to people. He was never in a rush. He would always pause, and just soak in the moment, and enjoy the people around him. He made such a conscious decision to be present in the moment, enjoying every moment with people around him, and didn’t take them for granted. 

“He treasured each and every one.”

The outpouring of love and appreciation for Seidler and his family was shown all week. He wasn’t just a baseball owner, he was a community treasure, doing everything possible to improve the community and help the homeless problem. 

He would routinely take walks alone around town asking the homeless what could be done to help. One time, he left his cell phone on top of his car, realized what happened, tracked down his phone, and discovered that a homeless man had it in his shopping cart. 

Seidler knew it was his, and could have demanded it be returned, but instead bought the man lunch, and gave him a generous tip to have it back. 

There wasn’t a negative bone in the man’s body. Even with his team flailing away with its massive payroll, Seidler remained undaunted, convinced it was going to turn around any day. 

“I remember his first year, the Padres were 20 games out of first place in September,” Attanasio said, “and he was still hanging on every pitch. He was like, ‘Everything’s going to be OK.'”

That was Seidler, with enough optimism to fill every tank at SeaWorld, trying to make the world a better place. 

It was the first day of spring training this year when Seidler uttered the words: “One day soon, the baseball gods will smile on the San Diego Padres, and will have a parade.”

Whenever the Padres have that parade to celebrate their first World Series championship, the first float should be for the Seidler family, wife Sheel, and their three young children, aged 11 to 4. 

Surely, Seidler will be there in spirit, looking down from the heavens, saying, “I told you this day would come.”

May his legacy live forever in the San Diego community. 

Not so fast, John Fisher

Major League Baseball owners, who agreed to allow A’s owner John Fisher to move his franchise from Oakland to Las Vegas, voted to approve the deal under one intriguing caveat. 

There’s a provision in the agreement called a 10-year flip tax, MLB executives told USA TODAY Sports, to prevent Fisher from using the relocation simply to increase the value of his team and immediately sell. 

MLB gave Fisher about a $300 million break by not charging him a relocation fee, but if he turns around and tries to sell the team, he’s going to have to pay a stiff penalty. 

The agreement, an executive told USA TODAY Sports, requires Fisher to retain the team until at least 2028 when they are scheduled to open in Las Vegas. 

If Fisher sells before 2028, he will be taxed 20% of the purchase price, which will be split among owners. 

If Fisher sells in 2029, he will be taxed 10%. 

If he sells in 2030-2033, he will be taxed a decreasing amount each year. 

He will be unable to sell the team without being taxed until 2034. 

So if Fisher was thinking about pulling a fast one, there will be a price to pay. 

Around the basepaths

– The Phillies’ contract talks with Aaron Nola have gained significant momentum in the past few days and there’s strong optimism that they’ll reach an agreement before the winter meetings. 

Nola originally was seeking a seven-year, $210 million contract, while the Phillies were countering with a six-year deal for about $150 million. 

They are getting close to finding middle ground with Nola making it clear to Phillies’ management that he wants to stay put. 

– The Los Angeles Dodgers are in trade talks with the Chicago White Sox in an attempt to acquire ace Dylan Cease. The Dodgers badly need pitching help, and the White Sox badly need to rebuild their roster. 

“I’ve made it very clear that the White Sox are willing to listen in on any of our players,” White Sox GM Chris Getz said. 

– The Phillies have shown little appetite for free-agent closer Josh Hader, leaving the Texas Rangers as the heavy favorite to sign Hader this winter. 

– The Milwaukee Brewers tried to sign co-ace Brandon Woodruff to a two-year contract, knowing that he’ll likely miss the entire 2024 season with his shoulder injury. Yet, talks broke off, leaving the Brewers to non-tender him and make him a free agent. He was projected to earn $11.6 million in 2024 and would have been eligible for free agency after the season. 

“That was a tough, tough phone call,” Brewers GM Matt Arnold said. “It was emotional. He was awesome for us in so many ways. … Certainly, a tough day any time you have to deliver news like that to somebody that means so much to your franchise.” 

– The Phillies want Bryce Harper for life, making sure he never plays for another team again the rest of his career. Harper’s 13-year, $330 million contract doesn’t expire until after the 2031 season, but the two sides are expected to discuss a potential extension paying him more than his current $26 million a year salary. 

– The Yankees and San Francisco Giants are widely viewed as the co-favorites now to sign free-agent center fielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger. The Yankees would love to have Bellinger and Juan Soto roaming their outfield, while the Giants would also like to also have free-agent Matt Chapman playing third base for them. 

– Executives believe that Atlanta is poised to strike big after saving about $12 million in their trades and non-tenders on Friday. They traded six players and non-tendered seven others. 

Certainly, GM Alex Anthopoulos has something big in mind. 

– No manager is going to benefit more by Craig Counsell’s record five-year, $40 million contract than Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox. 

He’s a free agent after the 2024 season, and he’ll have teams lined up around the Green Monster trying to sign him. 

– Pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto is expected to be posted Monday where he will be the top free-agent target for many teams, opening his 45-day window to sign with a club. He would have to sign with a team by Jan. 4 or return to the Orix Buffaloes in Nippon Professional Baseball. 

Yamamoto went 16-6 last season with a 1.21 ERA, striking out 169 in 164 innings. 

Yamamoto, unlike Shohei Ohtani, clamors to pitch in a large market, two executes say, predicting that he will pitch for the Yankees or Mets. 

Padres minority owner Eric Kutsenda, 51, will replace the late Peter Seidler as their new chairman and interim control person. 

 “I am excited to partner with Erik Greupner and A.J. Preller to help guide the Padres forward in fulfillment of Peter’s vision,’’ Kutsenda said in a release. “That vision includes the Padres remaining as a family asset for generations to come and is anchored in Peter’s dedication to the fans and community of San Diego. Our north star remains the same: to win a World Series championship for the city of San Diego.” 

The Padres still are expected to lower their payroll, which would likely mean that they will eventually trade outfielder Juan Soto.  

– MLB has no plans to implement an electronic strike zone in 2024, but likely will tinker with the pitch clock and limit mound visits. They also are discussing the potential of increasing the number of batters a reliever must face from three to four or five, with one executive saying he’d like to make it mandatory for starters to pitch at least five innings. 

For now, MLB’s joint competition committee is expected to reduce the pitch clock from 20 seconds to 18 seconds when runners are on base, requiring pitchers to work exclusively from the stretch with runners on base, and reducing mound visits from five times in a game to four. 

“I think the most important thing on rules is that the owners, the players, the umpires have an openness to revisiting changes that we’ve made, or other rules,’’ Manfred said. “And I’m hopeful that that process becomes more collaborative. I know there are some rule changes that have been discussed in the committee that were actually player suggestions. I take that as a huge positive. And I’m hopeful that with some further discussion, that things that are out on the table, we’re able to reach a consensus.”  

– Kudos to Los Angeles Angels manager Ron Washington for having one of the most diverse coaching staffs in MLB history. 

The names weren’t quite what he wanted originally for various reasons, but he will have three other Black coaches on his staff: 

  • Manager: Ron Washington 
  • Hitting coach: Johnny Washington 
  • Third base coach: Eric Young  Sr.
  • First base coach: Bo Porter 

Also on the staff are catching coach Jerry Narron and infield coach Ryan Goins. 

– The Minnesota Twins, who are without a TV contract, have begun implementing budget cuts, costing prized pro scout Billy Milos his job. Milos, 55, who has been with the Twins for 29 years, is widely considered perhaps the best scout to find unheralded talent, particularly among the independent leagues. 

The Twins used nine independent ball players this past season. Milos was the one who recommended the Twins select future Cy Young award winner Johan Santana in the Rule 5 Draft. He also signed All-Star pitcher Pat Neshek, and signed Nick Anderson, Randy Dobnak and Buddy Boshers from the independent leagues. 

Teams should be scurrying to find a spot for him in their scouting ranks. 

– Atlanta outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. set another new record this week. 

He became the first player to learn that he was the NL MVP winner just before he was about to play a winter ball game for Tiburones in his home state of La Guaira, Venezuela. 

– Former Chicago Cubs bench coach Andy Green has found a job with the New York Mets in their front office. Marlins first base coach Jon Jay interviewed for Green’s job, but the Cubs are now looking elsewhere. 

– The Cardinals, the favorites to sign free-agent pitcher Sonny Gray, badly need experienced starters to fill innings. They are without five pitchers who made 82 of their 162 starts this past season. 

– One idea floating around baseball is holding the WBC for a week in the middle of the season, preferably during the All-Star week, instead of in March to reduce injuries and complaints. The next WBC is in 2026. 

– The Rays will be a popular team at the winter meetings, telling teams that Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Manuel Margot are available. 

– No new manager made a bigger first impression in his press conference than Washington, saying: “Our whole focus is going to be to run the [AL] West down. And you can take that to the bank and deposit it.” 

– No new coach made a bigger first impression with his opening statement than Rickie Weeks of the Brewers. 

“I’m back!” he began. 

He then spoke about his passion for the city of Milwaukee and the organization, and concluded by saying: “Let’s [bleeping] go!’’ 

– And there was the raw, emotional quote from Cleveland Guardians manager Stephen Vogt on his new gig: 

“I’ve been released. I’ve been traded. I’ve been the worst player in baseball. I’ve been one of the best players in baseball. I’ve been a prospect. I’ve been a nobody. You name it. No matter who walks in the doors of that clubhouse, I feel like I know where they’re at and I can relate to them.” 

– Angels GM Perry Minasian reiterates that Mike Trout will be playing for the Angels in 2024 after several large market teams privately inquired about his availability. 

– MLB canceled plans to play regular-season games in Paris in 2025 when it couldn’t find a promoter to make the games profitable. There still are plans to have games in Tokyo, Mexico City and San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2025, however. 

– Fabulous seeing John Adams’ famous drum, beating loudly from the bleachers at more than 3,700 Cleveland Guardians’ games, going to the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

– Pretty cool to see Hall of Famer Derek Jeter returning to his high school, Kalamazoo Central High School, to help fund a $5 million project through his Turn 2 Foundation for new baseball and softball fields at the Michigan school. 

– Sad to think that Oakland was once the epicenter of the sports world with the A’s winning three consecutive World Series titles in 1972-74, the Warriors an NBA title in 1975 and the Raiders a Super Bowl after the 1976 season. 

Follow Nightengale on X: @Bnightengale 

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