It was a hiring that was some 14 years in the making. So, while new Padres manager Jayce Tingler needs to be introduced to Padres fans, he’s no mystery to San Diego general manager A.J. Preller.
It’s also no secret that Tingler, who’s never managed at the big-league level, will have a short honeymoon as he tries to convince the doubters that he’s the right man for the challenging job.
Padres executives have pointed toward the 2020 season as being the start of the payoff for making their patrons absorb four-straight seasons which produced at least 90 losses.
That painful stretch of sorry baseball was the price the team had to pay in rebuilding its farm system and constructing a blueprint which would produce — if all goes to plan — a sustained stretch of successful seasons.
That the Padres will try to break their seal on a new brand of baseball with a manager that is high on energy but low on experience is an interesting, and risky, concept.
But Preller, an Encinitas resident, is confident in Tingler. Preller elected to go with the unknown over more known candidates such as Ron Washington, Buck Showater, Del Mar’s Brad Ausmus and Rancho Santa Fe’s Mark Loretta in turning to Tingler.
Tingler arrives after a stint with the Texas Rangers that has its roots with Preller. It was Preller who acquired Tingler to play in Texas’ minor leagues in 2005, the year preceding his last one of a playing career that was underwhelming.
That’s not to say that Tingler, at 5-foot-8, wasn’t an overachiever. He was a grinder in baseball lexicon, the ultimate competitor that was short on skills and physical attributes but compensated for it with grit, hustle and determination.
He was also smart, and he could read the writing on the wall as well as he could opposing pitchers when trying to steal bases. Tingler never advanced past the Double A level and he was level with himself in recognizing that the only way he would see the majors was by buying a ticket to a game.
That was unless he traded his bats and cleats for a lineup card and a spread sheet. Unless he dove head-first into coaching, all the while absorbing the changing face of the game that was turning with increasingly speed toward analytics. Unless he learned Spanish, to better communicate with the wave of Latin American players that were filling baseball’s rosters.
It’s that combination of his background on the field (he was a coach on two Rangers playoff teams) and in the front office (ascending to assistant general manager) that outweighed his dearth of managerial days at the game’s highest league.
That’s not to say Tingler is foreign to scribbling out an order. He was the skipper for three Dominican Summer League teams and one in the Arizona League. All of those squads finished in first place, fueled in part by the motivating Tingler getting the most out of his charges.
When Preller came calling in the wake of Andy Green being dismissed, Tingler was directing the Dominican Winter League’s Escogido team.
Now the question remains how will his hiring play out in Escondido? Or Encinitas? Or any other city that possesses the Padre faithful that is starved for a winner.
Preller is on a short leash entering the final year of his contract and Ron Fowler, one of the Padres owners, has promised that “heads will roll” if the local nine produces another stinker.
So, while Tingler might not pass the initial sniff test it’s only fair that he gets a shot. Everyone began at the starting line sometime during their career and one only has to look at the recent World Series for proof.
Both managers, the Houston Astros’ A.J. Hinch and the Washington Nationals’ Dave Martinez, are in their first gigs on the top step of a major-league dugout.
Tingler punches the Padres’ clock, but with questions that can’t be answered in this column. Those will come and a lot quicker than in the 14 years it took for this decision to be reached.