When you look at the 47-year history of the San Diego Padres you see a franchise that has always struggled to build a feeling of tradition. If you could put your finger on one particular problem that has crippled the team, it’s been their ability to cultivate a sense of history.
From the trade of Dave Winfield to the teams lack of interest in re-signing Justin Upton this past season, the franchise has constantly disappointed its fan base with head scratching moves. Now perhaps the Justin Upton decision was not a horrible move. Yes, Upton was the teams best hitter last season, but he wanted a huge sum of money and the Padres have multiple young players that can potentially fill his shoes in left. Jabari Blash and Hunter Renfroe are two players that are capable and their cost is substantially less than Upton.
The Padres get a hall pass on not signing Upton, but throughout the history of the team they have gotten rid of players as soon as they become valuable. The Adrian Gonzalez situation epitomizes the ignorant decisions this franchise has made in the past. It also represents one of my own personal worst moment as a Padres fan.
After losing an icon like Tony Gwynn to retirement, Adrian Gonzalez could have been the face of the franchise. The team had a chance to keep a local high school player in their midst, but instead decided to move him for prospects. It was a shameful time for Padres fans, and now the same Friars fan base has to endure him killing the Padres as a member of the hated Los Angeles Dodgers. It pains me seeing him in a Dodgers uniform. He should have retired a Padre, and one day been a hall-of-famer as a Padre. That’s all done now. There is nothing this current regime can do about the past ownership’s horrible decisions. Still, the pain is there for Padres fans and it doesn’t just go away.
The lack of tradition from this team seems to be an issue the new ownership group is trying to address. The Ron Fowler-led group has brought the Major League All-Star game to San Diego. The front office is in the process of building a Padres hall-of-fame at Petco Park as well. If you have been to the ballpark this year you will notice numerous murals depicting some of the greatest Padres in the team’s history. Also, there are several murals of baseball being played in the San Diego area. In the upper deck area there are two oversized team-signed balls from the two World Series Padres teams (1984 & 1998). Those are great fan experiences and long overdue.
It is a shame that it took the All-Star game this year for things like this to make their appearance in the 13-year-old stadium. The franchise has constantly dropped the ball when it comes to embracing the team’s past and indulging the fans with the Padres’ history. Time after time, the team’s history was ignored, but times appear to have changed.
The retired numbers are an old exhausted topic, but the idea that the team moved them without any kind of ceremony is suspect. The Padres should have known that some in the fan base would make a big stink about the change. Quite frankly, I had no problem with the move and they are in a far superior spot now, but the team needs to be aware of these PR nightmares beforehand. You hear barely any outcry now as the people who complained have now experienced the new placement for the retired numbers. The Padres were correct in their movement of them, but their relations with their fans once again is damaged.
All this brings us to the product on the field in 2016. It amazes me that through the first six Padres games this year, the team wore five different uniforms. How can you speak about a sense of tradition, yet have a ridiculous amount of uniforms? The uniforms are also due to change yet again next year. Yes. The Padres are going to change their uniforms next season. I can only hope they pick two or three styles (colors) of jerseys and stick with them long term. Enough already with the multiple color schemes.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard opposing teams fans make fun of the San Diego Padres and their constant uniform changes. It is something that as a fan, I cannot defend. It truly annoys me that the team constantly changes its look. I attempted to calculate exactly how many uniforms the team has worn in a regular season MLB game in their history, and got lost somewhere around 30.
‘Take me out to the ballgame’ is sung at every major league baseball game. The song has a historic relationship with the game, and that’s truly what the game of baseball is all about. History. Embrace your teams history and stick with it. If you want to change the colors, fine. Then do it, and stop being wishy-washy about it. Make the change and market it as a new beginning or a new sense of tradition. With that, the team and its fan base can concentrate on holding the players and the team accountable instead of focusing on details that have no importance to the team and winning a world championship (uniform colors, retired numbers placement, advertisement in the stadium).
It saddens me to think that the team’s sole motivation for constant uniform changes is money. It is no secret that all the change equals more sales in the uniform shop. However, a World Series title and sell outs every single game are far more beneficial financially for the team than constant changes to the team’s uniforms and merchandise. The team is figuring that out now.
It might have taken some time to figure things out, but this team does have a bright future. With players like Wil Myers, Cory Spangenberg, Derek Norris, and Brandon Maurer at the major league level, and Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Austin Hedges, and Javier Guerra in the minors, the team has a decent nucleus of talent. Factor in the six picks in the first 85 selections in this June’s draft, and the International Money that is supposed to be spent after July third, and the Padres could be stacked very soon at the minor league level.
Five different uniforms is about two or three too many. Let’s have a sense of tradition on the field that grows into something special. The San Diego Padres can overturn all the stigma attached to their team. For far too long baseball fans have looked down on this franchise. Building a winning franchise and developing a winning culture is no easy task. It takes a complete effort and a sense of pride from everyone who wears a San Diego Padres uniform. From the ballplayer on the field, to the Cracker Jack salesman in the stands, everyone must be proud to represent the team. Go Padres!