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The San Diego Padres are in the midst of another disappointing season despite entering the year with high hopes to contend for a World Series title.
San Diego has a number of problems contributing to its struggles, but several veteran players described the Padres as not having a “winning culture” and that there is a “leadership void” in the clubhouse despite there being a “unanimous consensus” that Manny Machado “controls the clubhouse and sets a tone and personality for the team,” per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Machado signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres in February 2019. At the time, it was the biggest free-agent contract in American sports history, and it made him the face of the Friars for the foreseeable future.
The Padres have built their roster around Machado in the years since with the signings or acquisitions of players like star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, outfielder Juan Soto, closer Josh Hader, and starters Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove.
While some believe that bringing in star talent will translate to immediate success, that hasn’t been the case in San Diego, which is on pace to miss the playoffs for the third time in the last five seasons as it sits fourth in the National League West with a 69-78 record.
Sources told Acee that part of the problem is that there is “a lack of engagement” within the Padres clubhouse and that it “is largely borne of the team’s best players being on their own programs to some extent.”
The sources added that “it is the product of there being an outsized presence who commands the room, a man who has shown the ability to carry a team but has not exhibited the ability nor inclination to lift it.”
If Machado is viewed as the leader in the clubhouse, then he is at least partially to blame for any disconnect or lack of engagement from players.
But while culture issues are evident within the club, Machado doesn’t believe it has been an issue and he “strongly indicated he does not put much stock in the importance of cultivating a culture,” according to Acee.
That said, Machado indicated that the team’s issues are “everybody’s fault” and that the club “should have wanted it more” this year.
The Padres held “what some estimated were eight or nine” team meetings to try and address the issues, and Machado “was among the primary speakers” in nearly every one of them, according to Acee. However, the slugger was among several players who “did not follow through on action plans” which “set a tone that essentially could not be overcome.”
If the Padres are going to build for the future, it’s clear they have plenty of questions to answer this offseason. Perhaps the most prominent is whether Machado should be a piece of the franchise for years to come.
There’s no denying Machado is a valuable asset, having slashed .252/.315/.458 with 28 home runs and 84 RBI in 129 games this season, but San Diego will have to decide if his performance outweighs his lack of clubhouse awareness and leadership.