Before the start of the 2015 season, San Diego Padres fans were on an indescribable high. The team had successfully rebuilt itself with plenty of superstars and the team for a first time in a long time had a chance to compete. Not just compete, but they had a chance to go deep into the playoffs.
Well at least they did on paper. The game of baseball and the grind of a major league season is not played on paper however. The game has many different intangibles and unforeseen things that amount to a full season. The 2015 Padres struggled to play with any consistency. Without that the team was dead in the water.
At times last season early in the year, this team showed that they could be very special. They had several come back wins and by late April the team looked poised for a great season. Somehow, some where the wheels fell off the bus and the team played mostly horrible baseball the rest of the way out. Bud Black lost his job after being shown no vote of confidence in the beginning of the season and the rest was history.
The construction of the team last season gained national media attention but the team was constructed with star players and paid no real attention to chemistry or balance. The Padres defense was atrocious and the heavily right-handed hitting line up was constantly victimized by right handed pitchers who change speed effectively. Add in the injuries to Wil Myers and Brandon Morrow and the team fell apart. By the end of the year it was clear this team was in bad shape in the clubhouse.
No excuse for the team, but developing a winning recipe isn’t as easy as most people think. One ingredient in the mix that doesn’t blend well and the whole taste of the team goes sour. That is the difficulty in cultivating a winning baseball franchise. The Padres learned that lesson the hard way last year.
I commend the Padres management for doing something big last season in acquiring Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, James Shields and Derek Norris. The mostly dormant fan base was rejuvenated by these additions. Padres fans who had been so bitter about the past treatment of the franchise to its fans, forgave them. The team seemed committed to winning and the fans base appreciates that.
This season payroll has been slashed. Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, Yonder Alonso and Jedd Gyorko were all dealt saving the team a ton of salary. Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy will not be re-signed. Fans immediately started to cringe as we have all seen this dance before. These type of moves have a look of a team in full on rebuilding mode. Sadly fans are once again becoming bitter and holding resentment to the team.
But wait. It is still January. There are plenty of free agents available and plenty of unanswered questions about the team. I am not saying the team is going to go out and sign Chris Davis and Yoenis Cespedes, but they can find some decent complementary players to an already decent nucleus.
I know that the team has issues. Matt Kemp and Wil Myers will have to shoulder the load in the middle of the lineup. If the team could find a power hitting, left-handed option to hit in between the two of them, they would be on the road to a decent middle of the lineup.
James Shields according to everyone had a horrible season last year. He did however pitch another 200 inning season and had a sub 4.00 ERA for the fifth year in a row. He also set a new career high in strikeout percentage with 9.6 every nine innings pitched. He did not have a great year by any means, but if he improves at all on his numbers from last season, he could be easily a top 10 pitcher in the National League. Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner do not lack talent but each has yet to pitch to their full ability. Perhaps that comes for both this 2016 season?
My point is this team currently as it sits is not a horrible team. The team right now without anymore additions would probably win as many games as last years squad full of stars. Now factor in the team will add some key free agents and a shortstop. They should also get a boost from a healthy Wil Myers for a season. Suddenly things don’t look as bad as some people are insinuating, do they?
The 2016 team is not rebuilding. Stop thinking that Padres fans. In a season where the team is hosting its first all-star game in its downtown stadium, they do not want to have a horrible team. A.J. Preller is wisely being patient with the teams extra money and you can be sure that he will have a trade or two up his sleeve before the season starts. We have waited so long for a successful franchise, haven’t we? Nothing in life or the game of baseball is easy. Why should overhauling this franchise be any different? Just have patience and enjoy the show San Diego.
This team might not have the most successful upcoming season, but as long as the team begins to play with more cohesiveness then I will be happy. The farm system has been rebuilt in some degree with the trades made this winter. The Padres will also get three top draft pics in the upcoming draft. If Andy Green can develop a new formula and cultivate a “Padre way” then this franchise will be in good shape for years to come.