Ron Fowler is the Anti-Spanos

Padres Executive Chairman is giving San Diego sports fans a ray of hope

NBC 7’s Derek Togerson looks at how the Padres ownership could be changing all of Major League Baseball

Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler has been a very visible, at times vocal, professional franchise owner who values being a member of the San Diego community. He’s also the kind of guy who sees a problem and then finds a way to try and fix it.

Basically he’s the very opposite of Dean Spanos, who expects everyone to come in and take care of everything for him then still finds a way to make a mess of just about any conceivable situation.

But it’s become clear that Fowler wields more power in baseball circles than most people know, and that is a very good thing for the San Diego Padres.

“I think the labor relations department on the 34th floor has an office with Ron’s name on it,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on his recent visit to Petco Park. That is only a slight exaggeration.

“We have probably one of the deepest, strongest relationships in baseball between the Commissioner’s office and the Padres management group,” said Manfred. “Very close, personal relationships as well as professional relationships.”

Fowler is extremely well-respected in baseball circles. In fact he might even be partially responsible for putting his “small-market” Padres in a better financial position against the Dodgers, Yankees and baseball’s other big spenders.

“We have tried to deal with payroll disparity by limiting, through the use of taxes, the very highest payroll clubs,” said Manfred.

One of the men who did that is Fowler, who was the head of the Labor Policy Committee that helped hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement during the off-season.

Part of the new CBA altered the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT), levying hefty fines on teams that spend freely. For example (and this is a lot of numbers but it’ll make sense in a second) the threshold in 2018 will be $197 million. The base CBT will be 20% on whatever amount they go above $197 million IF it’s their first time exceeding the threshold. If it’s their 2nd time they’re taxed 30% and 3rd time offenders pay 50%. And now there are additional surtaxes of 12% for going $20 million over the limit and 42.5% for $40 million in excesses.

Using the Dodgers (who have already exceeded the threshold in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017) as an example, if they kept this year’s Opening Day payroll of $242 million payroll in 2018 they would have to pay $42.75 million JUST IN TAXES for the year. Even for the free-spending guys at Dodger Stadium that seems to be a little bit steep.

“For the first time in the 25 years since I’ve been in baseball everybody in the top quartile of clubs had payrolls that actually went down this year due to the increased penalties that were negotiated as part of this Collective Bargaining Agreement,” said Manfred.

Fowler is a huge reason why that happened. His Padres (and the Royals and Twins and Rays and several other clubs) will never be able to spend on the same level as the Dodgers or Yankees or Red Sox. MLB could have had a representative from any of the smaller market clubs take the lead in the negotiations.

But they chose Ron Fowler, who by most accounts is the one most responsible for the league and the MLB Players Association striking a deal that will last through 2021.

See what I mean about Fowler being the Anti-Spanos? Could you imagine what would happen if the NFL put Deano in charge of negotiating a new CBA? It would be like putting Ryan Lochte in charge of NASA.

Now I understand the team is in a rebuild and the big league product is not great right now. But when you look at the money that's been spent on the International market and all the young stars that the team has in the minor league system there is, finally, hope that the Padres can contend more than just once or twice every decade, a peak that's followed by nine years of futility.

Part of the so-called “San Diego sports curse” is the fact we have been saddled with awful owners over the years. From the Spanos clan to Donald Sterling to Jeff Moorad we have had the wrong people in charge almost constantly.

If there is a curse I’m thinking that Fowler (with the Seidler and O’Malley families with him) is the one to finally break it. His recent track record shows he’s very good at his job.

Shoot, after all the bozos that have come through this town we’d have settled for someone just being competent.

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