Major League Baseball, delivering one of its harshest penalties against a club general manager in baseball history, suspended San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller 30 days without pay for submitting false medical records to the Boston Red Sox.
Preller becomes the first non-uniformed personnel publicly suspended since the late Marge Schott, former owner of the Cincinnati Reds. She was banned for two years in 1996-1997 for making racial and ethnic slurs.
Yet, despite the severity of the penalty, Preller will not be fired or receive further discipline from the Padres, a high-ranking club official told USA TODAY Sports.
The official spoke to USA TODAY Sports only on condition of anonymity because of the private nature of their internal conversations.
MLB, which completed their investigation Thursday, determined that the Padres did not include the entire medical records of pitcher Drew Pomeranz when they traded him in July to the Red Sox. The Red Sox filed an official complaint with MLB shortly after the trade in which they sent top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to San Diego.
“I accept full responsibility for issues related to the oversight of our medical administration and record keeping,’’ Preller said in a statement. “I want to emphasize that there was no malicious intent on the part of me, or anyone on my staff, to conceal, information or disregard MLB’s recommended guidelines.
“This has been a learning process for me. I will serve my punishment and look forward to being back on the job in 30 days.’’
Yet, at least one other club front-office executive insists that the medical information was intentionally withheld, which led to Commissioner Rob Manfred’s harsh penalty.
The Miami Marlins and Chicago White Sox also questioned the veracity of their records in summer trades with the Padres. The Marlins acquired pitchers Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea and Fernando Rodney, and the White Sox acquired James Shields.
While Pomeranz and Shields have remained with the Red Sox and White Sox, respectively, Rea was diagnosed with elbow ligament damage that may require Tommy John surgery. Rea informed Marlins officials that he had been receiving treatment on his elbow for weeks before the deal. Rea was sent back to the Padres.
“We accept the discipline handled down from Major League Baseball and will fully comply with Commissioner’ Manfred’s recommendations pertaining to change with our medical administration and record keeping,’’ Padres CEO Ron Fowler, managing partner Peter Seidler and CEO Mike Dee said in a joint statement. “Rest assured, we will leave no stone unturned in developing comprehensive processes to remediate this unintentional, but inexcusable, occurrence.
“To be clear, we believe that there was no intent on the part of A.J. Preller or other members of our baseball operations staff to mislead other clubs.
“We are obviously disappointed that we will lose A.J.’s services for 30 days, but will work closely with him upon his reinstating to ensure that this unfortunate set of circumstances does not happen again.’’
Yet, considering Preller’s past transgressions, one more strike could lead to a year-long suspension, and likely termination. This is Preller’s second suspension. Preller, hired in August, 2014 as the Padres’ GM, was also privately suspended by MLB in 2010 while he was an assistant GM with the Texas Rangers for violating international signing rules. He also was fined last summer by MLB for an illegal workout in Aruba.
If there’s another slip-up, intentional or not, Preller’s baseball career could be in jeopardy.
For the Padres, this is just the latest incident in their ugly season. They once again fell out of contention early, and traded former All-Stars Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton and James Shields this summer, with Fowler publicly ridiculing Kemp and Shields after the trade. The Padres also had to issue a public apology for playing a pre-recorded tape of a woman singing the national anthem with the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus on the field.
It’s embarrassing enough for the Padres to miss the postseason for the 10th consecutive year, but to actually cheat, and still have a 62-84 record, is deplorable
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today.