For a guy with enough pocket change to buy fur-lined toilet seats for every resident of La Mesa, San Diego Padres owner John Moores sure sounds like a bitter dude. Fielding questions from a Union-Tribune sports reporter during spring training, Moores was asked, "What caused the ballpark delays?"
Forget that the question is just short of asking, "Why are you so darned handsome?" Moores' testy answer suggests there is a good reason he almost never talks to reporters from the news or business sections: "There is something different about San Diego," he said. "There's a huge streak of populism in San Diego that obviously has caused us a lot of problems."
Yeah, damn that populism. The last thing you want in a big city is the public getting involved. That always mucks things up.
Moores was clearing yearning for the good ol' days, when a guy with big bucks could buy a City Council and rule a town without all those little people getting in the way.
At least, he thought that was the deal. And now, sounding like a post-menopausal mom scolding her children, he says the Padres can't afford to field a real team because the city didn't build his stadium fast enough.
"This situation's never happened in baseball," Moores grumbled to the U-T sports reporter. "It can only happen in San Diego."
Moores is still the millionaire about town, hosting parties attended by the mayor and tossing ducats to local charities. But he no longer talks like he's all that thrilled with the Des Moines of the West. Clearly last year's little dust-up, when he pulled millions in donations to San Diego State University because he was pissed off at a column in the Daily Aztec, was only a sign of his inner angst.
At a March hoedown with the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., according to the U-T Moores was asked, if "he had to do it all over again, would he still build the downtown ballpark?"
"The answer is, I don't know," Moores reportedly said, which must have sent shudders through the crowd of adoring real estate toadies.
That Moores is moping around town complaining about the way he's been cornholed is a bit weird, considering Moores has gotten everything he's wanted from the city, including a pack of smokes and a free lifetime pass to Sea World.
A new stadium, yes sir! Development rights for the downtown land around the stadium, no problem! What, you don't want to build a park next to the stadium like in that cool video? Okie-dokie!
Yet Moores continues to stew, clearly indignant that no one has offered to wash his car in the last few days.
Maybe he's just feeling the heat, getting jittery as cruel fate picks away at his empire. With high-tech markets crumbling, shares in several of his stalwart companies are now worth slightly less than a Big Mac.
Peregrine Systems, one of the companies he founded, is rolling in scandal, as investigators and investors-those damn populists-question exactly how the company managed to over-report earnings by close to $3 billion. Moores, the former chairman of the board, sold stock for something like $500 million before the collapse, which, in the stock game, is called "suspicious."
Meanwhile, the Padres once again suck. After last year's 96-loss effort, there is talk of a jinx or the involvement of Satan, who was spotted by some fans munching fish tacos at the Rubio's stand during the fourth inning of the home opener.
Sports Illustrated called it a "dark cloud" hanging over the team. The evidence includes the sudden death of outfielder Mike Darr in a car accident and serious injuries to two main players, Phil Nevin and Trevor Hoffman, right before the start of this year's season.
So Moores has more to worry about than the increasing cost of keeping good champagne in the Lear jet. And in the wee hours, when he sits alone in the dark, he apparently blames it all on those damn populists, choosing to forget his own run of bonehead moves.
Certainly, at some point, he might have thought, gee, giving a stock tip to a San Diego city councilwoman right before a vote on the stadium project might seem, well, a wee bit inappropriate. Soon after the Valerie Stallings mess brought the project to a grinding halt, consigliore Larry Lucchino jumped ship, mumbling that he was no longer thrilled to be working with the loveable Moores.
After burning through three replacements for Lucchino, Moores is now getting more personally involved in running the team, which will give him more time to whine about the high salaries.
Of course, the system was in place long before Moores bought the Padres, making his complaints sound like the bitching of a guy who bought a house next to a landfill, even though there was a big sign on the landfill and it smelled like cow dung.
Maybe Moores should have read a few newspapers before he bought the Padres. Regardless, the team Moores bought for $80 million in 1994 is worth as much as $200 million now, maybe more, thanks to the new stadium deal, so don't weep for John Boy, who clearly enjoys his role as a baseball poobah.
The Union-Tribune reporter noticed Moores was wearing a fancy ring, which he foolishly thought might be from the Padres '98 National League championship. In fact, it turned out to be Casey Stengel's ring commemorating his induction into the Hall of Fame. Moores said he bought the ring at an auction, perhaps as a reminder that if you can't earn respectability, you can always buy it on Ebay.