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In his first 8 games as interim manager after the firing of Andy Green, Rod Barajas led the Padres to a 1-7 record.
Not a great start to one’s managerial career.
However, a small sample does not a season make, and those eager to dismiss Barajas as a candidate for the team’s permanent manager position would be ill-advised to argue that those 8 games—at the end of a disappointing and long season—really represent anything more than a whimpering epilogue to a lost season.
For the Padres, those were a sorry 8 games. But there are far more important factors that support a Barajas offseason hire.
Because he fits the market; because he brings continuity to the org; because he would be the perfect mentor to a building-block player: these are the reasons why Rod Barajas should be San Diego’s next skipper.
He’s A Local(ish) Guy
Let’s be honest: as a guy who grew up in Santa Fe Springs, CA, Barajas was likely a Dodger fan growing up. We might forgive him for that, because, far more importantly, Barajas’ So Cal roots give him a chill demeanor that will fit well in this environment.
Here’s a quote from Barajas taken from a September 27th article from the Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee, regarding his transition into the San Diego manager’s seat:
“I reached out to a couple people. Every single one of them said, ‘Be yourself.’ They said, ‘People love you because of how you go about things. Your players like you because you’re Rod Barajas, man.’ I thought about it for a couple seconds, and I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re right.’ From that point, the anxiety, the nervousness subsided.”
Did you hear that? The Padres current manager just said ‘Dude’.
That may seem like a small deal, but can you imagine Andy Green saying ‘Dude’? After years of Green’s steel-gazed intensity, that kind of bro is exactly who this city needs in the dugout.
Many are clamoring for the Padres to hire big name, experienced managers with World Series resumes and All-Star pedigrees. The club has already been connected with names of that shape, including Joe Maddon, Mike Scioscia, and Tim Wallach.
In other words, names with virtually zero connection to the Padres organization.
After hiring Bud Black and Andy Green for their last two managers—two guys with zero previous connection to the organization—the Padres would this time do well to bring in someone already within the fold.
Barajas has several years of experience as a manager with our Triple-A and Double-A clubs—meaning he has worked personally with Ty France, Travis Jankowski, and Eric Lauer. We can presume that he has shared grimy, interstate fast food with Hunter Renfroe. No doubt, late-night bus rides have seen the cherubic head of Francisco Mejia nod off to sleep on Rod’s meaty, dad-like shoulder. That’s the kind of personal history that will make players fight for him.
Mejia Will Need The Help
About Mejia—Barajas, as a former veteran, MLB catcher, should be the right guy to mentor him.
In 8 separate seasons of his career, Barajas posted Caught Stealing percentages above the league average. In 5 separate seasons, he posted DRS figures above league average. He wasn’t Brad Ausmus behind the dish, but he should have valuable tutelage to share with the Padres’ young catcher.
“Since the moment I was traded here, he was a big help,” Mejia said this week to Acee. “… Everyone here has respect for him. It’s his personality. It’s who he is. It’s how he talks to people. He’s always trying to help people.”
If the Padres are going to achieve their championship aspirations, Mejia is going to be a big part of things. He is likely the team’s starting catcher moving forward. After Machado and FTJ, he may very well be the team’s third-best hitter. They need him to improve on defense—why not put him under the instruction of a guy who carved out a solid career at that position, and with whom Mejia already feels a great deal of kinship?
For Barajas, it’s clear that respect is something he will not have to work from Day 1 to earn, as it often seemed with Andy Green. For Barajas, respect within this organization is a long time coming.