The San Diego Padres reportedly had an "unusual number of heated moments" throughout the 2021 MLB season beyond the recent shouting match between stars Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.
Ken Rosenthal, Dennis Lin and Eno Sarris of The Athletic reported Friday the issues were a factor in the Padres' on-field collapse and raised questions about whether president of baseball operations A.J. Preller is a strong enough leader for an organization that entered the year with championship-level expectations.
"There are some deep-rooted cultural problems there," a former Padres employee told The Athletic. "It's not always inviting to people with different ideas, perspectives or backgrounds. And it's not all the fault of the people who are gone, either. It's pervasive."
A former coach added Preller may lack the necessary empathy to handle clubhouse problems: "I don't think [Preller] feels that at all."
San Diego came out of the gates strong after an offseason headlined by the additions of starting pitchers Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove to complement a star-studded offense.
The Padres owned the second-best record (34-21) at the end of May, and they were still in a playoff spot with a 61-47 mark at the end of July.
They fell apart over the final two months of the season, however, and own a seven-game losing streak that dropped them to 78-82 with two games left in the campaign.
Amid the rapid descent out of the postseason picture, Machado and Tatis were caught on video having a heated verbal exchange in the dugout during a Sept. 18 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals:
Between the bickering between two of the club's cornerstone players and a lack of high-end success after spending big in recent winters, questions are beginning to emerge about whether Preller can sort through all the problems to deliver a World Series to San Diego.
"No one works harder," a rival executive told The Athletic. "He's so smart, the best player personnel guy in the game. But he wants the flashy deal. And it hasn't worked."
Adding to the frustration is the NL West rival San Francisco Giants' ability to move past the reigning-champion Los Angeles Dodgers to the top of the division—one win or an L.A. loss in the final two games would clinch MLB's best record for the Giants—without those marquee additions.
In turn, perhaps no MLB executive will face more pressure heading into the offseason than Preller, as he faces the prospect of trying to compete in a division that features a pair of 100-win clubs this year.