For someone who always wanted to work in sports, Jeff Moorad’s career has been a success by most measures. But he said he still has one goal he’d like to achieve.
“I want to win a World Series,” Moorad told a group of business students at California State University San Marcos on Thursday. “That’s what drives me.”
That statement is just what Padres fans want to hear. Moorad is the chief executive officer and principal owner of the San Diego baseball club, which is coming off two losing seasons and has never captured a title. A former executive with the Arizona Diamondbacks who ran a successful sports management company before moving into the front office, Moorad said that right now he is focusing on rebuilding the team -- but the ultimate goal is to win it all.
“I want to win, I don’t just want to compete,” he said. “I want to have a team good enough to compete each and every year, but ultimately I want to get lucky and get all the way to the World Series and win. Until we do that, I don’t think I’ll be happy.”
Operating in a relatively small market, and without the huge revenue-generating capacity of teams like the New York Yankees, Moorad said he is aware the Padres can’t go out and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on free agents. So, his plan is to build up young players. This was the reasoning behind trading star pitcher Jake Peavy for pitching prospects, and for trading popular third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.
Moorad said that the team they had wouldn’t be able to afford Peavy once his contract came up, so they wanted to get some value for him. In the case of Kouzmanoff, the team wanted Chase Headley and Kyle Blanks to play every day, and Kouzmanoff was the odd man out in that situation.
Similarly, Moorad said the team would be willing to trade first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who is popular both for his on-field talents and the fact that he grew up in Chula Vista. However, Moorad said he wouldn’t be traded for nothing. The Padres rejected a proposed trade from the Mariners last year that would have given San Diego six players for Gonzalez.
“My first and foremost commitment is to the name on the front of the jersey,” Moorad said. “I understand that individual players are a critical part of how fans relate to the organization, but I also believe that it’s our responsibility to always do the right thing for the long-term interest of the Padres.”
Moorad worked as a sports agent for 20 years before going to work directly for a team. He represented football stars like Troy Aikman and Steve Young, and baseball players like Manny Ramirez. But he had always dreamed of owning a team, so when an opportunity came to work for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he jumped at it.
“When I went to the Diamondbacks, I thought I knew everything,” he admitted. “What was challenging was fitting into a structure, and quite frankly fitting into the top of the structure where I had to trust. I had to learn how to trust those people that worked for me.”
Moorad said that he’s something of a natural control freak, and he had to learn to allow people to do their jobs.
Corporate structure is important to Moorad. He said that he’s met the chief executives of enormous organizations and heard them talk about how hard it is to enact change. For that reason, Moorad said he wants to keep the Padres flexible and avoid ever becoming too bureaucratic.
John Moores is still the majority owner of the Padres, with Moorad’s group taking more and more control over time. Moorad said that Moores is not involved with the club on a day-to-day level though, and they generally run major decisions by the former owner as a courtesy, but he isn’t very involved.
Moorad said that he wants to continue Moores’ philanthropic efforts in the San Diego community, and he also said that fan experience is very important to him. He wants people to feel welcome and relaxed when they come to Petco Park.
But, he acknowledged that the ultimate fan experience comes in watching a team win. He said he doesn’t expect San Diego’s payroll to stay so low forever, he just wants to make sure that when the club spends, it’s in the right places.
“As we took the payroll down -- which we did essentially by cutting it in half last year, and now as we build it back up again -- we’ll do it with a roster that is full of younger, more affordable players that will be our core going forward,” he said. “As those players grow up and mature, so too will our payroll.”