Towers moving on after time with Padres
Former GM in no rush to find new job after dismissal
You ask Kevin Towers, the ousted general manager of the San Diego Padres, what happens now, and he has a quick, one-word answer: "Exhale."
Towers says the word and you can all but sense a feeling of relief in the man who was the longest-tenured general manager with the same team in the Major Leagues prior his dismissal last Saturday.
He had a run of 14 years as the GM of the Padres and he knows he has been fortunate. In today's world, general managers realize they may not be around to see the end of some of the long-term contracts they have given to their players. Particularly if those contracts don't work out as planned.
"I was extremely fortunate to be with the Padres for 25 years as a player, Minor League coach, scout, scouting director and general manager," says Towers. "I will always be a Padre at heart."
That being said, the day is coming when Towers, 47, will be collecting a pay check from another Major League organization.
A dozen teams have put through calls to Towers to see what his plans are and wonder if he wants to talk about some sort of position.
"Right now, I just want to spend some time with my wife, Kelley, in that there hasn't been a lot of family time of late with the nature of the job," says Towers.
Towers knew his position with the Padres could be in jeopardy when the team underwent an ownership change during the course of the season.
The change in ownership didn't impact Towers' course of business. He went about his job in the manner he always has handled the assignment, following the ownership guidelines related to budget restrictions and fielding the best team possible.
Towers' personnel moves led to a younger team and one that captured the excitement of both the Padres fans and Towers himself.
The Padres played well down the stretch and Towers felt he had a chance to stay at the controls, particularly since he had a contract for 2010.
All of that ended on the next-to-last day of the regular season when team CEO Jeff Moorad told Towers that a change was being made in the general manager's position.
It caught Towers by surprise. "He never told me exactly what the reason was," Towers said. "It felt strange because I've had a number of jobs in my life and I've never been fired."
Moorad told the media, "We want to operate in a more strategic approach."
Towers has been with the Padres long enough that he was the GM at the time I was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I can tell you first-hand that Towers has been one of the most respected general managers in the game.
One term that has been used related to Towers is that he possessed a "gunslinger attitude." It's no secret that Towers always looked comfortable in cowboy boots, but when it came to his approach, I would say his trademarks were a tremendous work ethic, his credibility and his connection and communication with his manager and team personnel.
Towers is the first to admit he wouldn't be the guy you would go to if you were looking for a power point presentation, but I never knew him to make a move without receiving the input from his baseball people.
More and more, there is this discussion of an analytical approach in baseball when the heart and soul of the game has to do with proper fundamentals being taught, communication within an organization and the pride of an organization.
"I always looked at the statistical side of things, but I must admit that I leaned heavily on our baseball personnel and my own judgment," said Towers.
Towers said that despite the calls he has received in less than a week since his dismissal, he is in no hurry to make a quick decision.
"I know I don't want to be in an office if I'm not a general manager. And I'm not looking for a job where I feel the GM might be in jeopardy, that's not me.
"I want to be with a team where I know and trust the people I'm working with and feel I can make a contribution. I'd be happy to scout and to be the eyes and ears for a GM if that's what is needed. I just want to be in a position where I can help a team compete," added Towers.
"All of that being said, right now, I'm in no hurry to accept a position."
That's why Towers and his wife headed for Catalina Island on Thursday while the baseball world focuses on the first weekend of postseason play.
Meanwhile, the Padres are moving along to find a replacement for Towers.
"We want someone with strong leadership and management skills," said Moorad.
When I read that quote, I couldn't help but think of Kevin Towers.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. He is the author of "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.