TALK about soothsaying…
As far back as June, 2014, that venerable publication, Sports Illustrated, predicted which team would win the 2017 Fall Classic.
The Houston Astros.
And to put another exclamation point on this amazingly accurate choice, the cover star of that edition was George Springer – who just happened to be the 2017 Most Valuable Player after a record-smashing series with the bat.
In the middle of 2014, the Astros were on their way to a 70-92 season and a fourth-place finish in the American League West.
But that was a huge turnaround from the previous campaign when they stumbled to an appalling record of 51-111.
So maybe the clues were there in 2014.
A year later, they had a winning mark of 86-76, good enough for second in the division and a place in the postseason.
A Wild Card victory over the New York Yankees set up an A.L. Division Series showdown with Kansas City in which they eventually succumbed in five games to the World Series-bound (and subsequent champion) Royals.
As disappointing as it was for their fans, clearly progress had been made.
They missed out on the playoffs in 2016, finishing the year in third place in their division with a slightly worse record of 84-78, but it was another winning season nevertheless.
Positive momentum was with the team and, boy did they ride that in 2017.
A magnificent regular season of 101-61 powered the Astros straight into the Division Series against the Boston Red Sox, whom they dispatched in four games.
The Championship Series with the Yankees was much closer and Houston had to battle back from a 3-2 deficit before prevailing in seven.
And this set the stage for this truly memorable World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which went the distance with Houston emerging victorious to start a party that will likely continue in the Lone Star State all winter – and rightly so.
So where does this leave the Padres?
Will The Sporting News feature, say, Hunter Renfroe on a future cover and predict the Padres to be World Series champions anytime soon?
Are there any clues that might give us long-suffering Friars fans some hope for the future?
Well, maybe there are.
But steps forward, albeit small ones, have been taken.
A 68-94 season and bottom-place finish in 2016 was improved upon this past campaign with a 71-91 mark where the San Francisco Giants, with all their big names, actually ended up in the cellar.
There are a raft of talented young players coming through the Padres’ roster who are starting to catch the eye at ‘The Show’.
The aforementioned Renfroe certainly has the tools to be a real star, and there are others too who could become household names – and not just in the greater San Diego area.
With the addition of perhaps some more experienced heads in the clubhouse to join the likes of Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte as the recognised ‘veterans’ – despite the fact they only began their Major League careers in 2013 and 2014 respectively – maybe baseball pundits will be casting an eye on developments at Petco Park over the next few years and wondering whether the Padres ‘will do a Houston’ and win it all…
We can but hope. But watching the Astros finally break their duck to claim their first World Series crown at the second time of asking can only act as a spur for the Padres – after all, that list of teams never to have secured the sport’s greatest prize has now been reduced by one.
And being a member of this ‘club’ alongside the Mariners, Rangers, Rays, Brewers, Nationals, and Rockies is not a particular noble fact on your curriculum vitae…
After this 2017 campaign, it’s now 11 straight seasons without an appearance in the postseason for the Padres.
So in 2018, the club’s golden anniversary season, wouldn’t it be great to think the team did actually play more than 162 games?
And who knows what could happen from there?
Hey, we can all hope and dream. After all, as that old baseball saying goes, there’s always next year…