Winfield: Confident in Padres; Hall vote was 'correct'
Star player turned San Diego executive discusses Cooperstown, scouts, team's fortunes
LOS ANGELES -- Dave Winfield was the first to be portrayed wearing a Padres cap on a Hall of Fame plaque. The Padres were Winfield's first team -- they selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 1973 Draft, and he played with them until signing with the Yankees as a free agent prior to the 1981 season. He is currently an executive vice president for the team.
Never shy about offering his opinions, Winfield recently shared his thoughts about scouts, the Hall of Fame election and the upcoming season for the Padres.MLB.com: What do you think about the new scouts exhibit that's going to open this spring at the Hall of Fame? Winfield: It's been a long time coming, that's true. If it wasn't for scouts, the things at the top couldn't happen. They start at the bottom. They find talent wherever it may be and then they emerge in the system. Some people emerge who you never thought would be stars. But it's the scouts. It starts with them. They're not paid like major executives. They love the game. They have an eye for the game. And they have the time and energy. I think it's a great thing to have a room, a wing, an exhibit, whatever it is for the scouts. MLB.com: The writers and announcers have their permanent wings. Winfield: Ah, we're running out of space now. You like that one? Obviously the writers deserve to be in. I'll look forward to seeing that exhibit. It's funny. Somebody showed me the report last year from when they scouted me as a player, just what they thought of me. It's interesting to see what people thought of you during a certain period in time. Sometimes they're so far wrong, and sometimes they're right on the money. MLB.com: Who scouted you from the Padres? Winfield: All the teams were looking, but the scout who signed me, his name is Donnie Williams from Paragould, Ark. And he's still a friend today. He's a great guy, and I always appreciate it because he was the guy who piqued the club's interest and opened the door for me. MLB.com: What did you think of this year's Hall of Fame vote? Winfield: It was correct. That's right. I did some interviews ahead of time, and I can look it at from the standpoint that I never did drugs. I said I didn't believe a lot of people would make it into the Hall because of their connection with performance-enhancing drugs and it panned out that way. This is true: Guys who used it, they made a lot of extra money, they won a lot of awards, they won the World Series, they prolonged their careers and did a lot of good things. But had they gone in, I think it would've sent a bad message to people that you can do what you want to do and get by with it. So they didn't get that last bit of confirmation -- you're OK, you get the stamp of approval, you're in. They probably don't need that. MLB.com: So do you think that as time goes on that will change? These guys have 15 years on the ballot. Winfield: You know, there are a whole range of players and there's no black or white. ... But the ones that [the writers] are pretty sure of, I don't think will get in. MLB.com: You've always been a big proponent of promoting the Negro Leagues with your initiatives in San Diego. I saw that this is the last year the museum in Kansas City is doing a ceremony to present their Legacy Awards. Winfield: Yeah, this is their last event, and I'm sad to see that. It's tough for museums of any nature to survive in baseball. It was tough to always get the key people to attend. But I want to see the Negro League museum survive and thrive. It's a very important institution. I'm always glad to support it. MLB.com: Well, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is always seeking funding. And the Jackie Robinson Foundation has been working for years trying to fund a museum in New York to honor Jackie. Winfield: Everybody has to work hard these days. You have to scrape. You have to do whatever is necessary. What can I tell you? It's not easy out there. You've got to keep them in front of the public. You've got to keep them alive. You've got to support institutions like that. I think it's very important. MLB.com: So you're back as a Padres vice president. Any new initiatives? Winfield: Not right now. About the middle of February the pitchers go to Arizona. I'll be over there. I'm not done. I've got some things up my sleeve. I always keep on the move. I'm trying to do some positive things. You'll see me in and around baseball offering some very good things. MLB.com: What is your take on the new Padres ownership? Winfield: They're good. Everyone is not quite in place yet. Ownership is. But key executives, a couple are in, a couple are out. But this is their first full year coming up. We'll see what we can make happen down there. MLB.com: They haven't done a lot of shifting around of bodies on the Major League roster yet. Winfield: No, and it's hard to compare with what the Dodgers have done and teams like that. Everything pales in comparison. The Dodgers have an awful lot of money to spend. That's what it takes. These guys paid $800 million to buy the Padres. You know that always doesn't leave a lot of money to make the moves that you want. MLB.com: Between TV dollars and overall revenue, the Padres have more money than they used to. Winfield: Yeah, and the team costs more money than it used to. We'll see what works out. MLB.com: So what's your take on the future of the franchise? Are you positive about it? Winfield: Oh, yeah. You've got to be positive. Just like a player. Everybody starts out even at the beginning of the year. Some guys start to emerge, get strong, develop. Guys like Chase Headley came from nowhere. You expected him to play good defense. Look at that offense he plays now. And we've got a lot of young players in the system. So that's what we have to go on. We're not going on established, big-name, highly paid talent. We just don't have it. Bud Black is a good manager. He just got an extension on his contract. He's a good man. Players like him. He gets the most out of the players. We just have to give him more players if we can.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.