Alright, Padres, we’re interested.
I’ve always been interested because I’m a baseball fanatic and the Padres are my team. When I say fanatic, I mean the kind of Baseball-America reading, minor-league playoff watching, prospect-monitoring, rec-league coaching, season ticket-holding, fanatic. I played my first game at the age of four. Until my arm falls off (which may happen soon), I’m going to get near a field as often as I can.
But, not everyone cares about the Padres—sometimes even their fans. They are tired of hearing the same things from the front office with promises that this time, it’ll be different. For years, Padre’ fans languished as a combination of ownership and front office incompetency burnt them. The dawn of the baseball analytics movement illuminated how far away the Padres were.
Butts left the seats.
Eyeballs left the TV.
For a number of reasons, ears left the radio as well.
Sure, some Padres Twitter ever-fans kept talking like hope was just around the corner. “The MLB squad is better than most people think,” they said. They said it every year, though, and objective fans knew the team wasn’t close. In fact, the Padres name was becoming synonymous with “cheap” and “losing” in MLB. Those terms were well deserved. Fans would say things like, “payroll spending should be withheld until we are competitive,” without acknowledging circular reasoning of such a statement. It was a lot of Pollyanna and good hometown loyalty without much holding ownership accountable. We weren’t supportive, we were enablers.
But alas, hope has actually dawned, and it starts at the top. Ron Fowler would be one of my favorite owners in baseball even if I weren’t a Padres fan. He speaks directly to the fans. He’s accessible, plain-speaking, and willing to spend money to make the team better. His partner, Peter Seidler (the quiet giant), has dedicated himself in reversing the problem of homelessness in San Diego. A.J. Preller has whiffed on a few things (Kemp, Shields, etc.) and hit on others (Tatis, and the mine of prospects the Padres now possess). But what I love about him is he keeps trying. He is unequivocally unafraid of failure. Great leaders have that trait. Occasional failure is the tax on success. I love Andy Green in the dugout—what a grinder.
The table is set at the top, to me. But, what about the team?
This year’s rendition of the Padres’ major league squad is genuinely interesting. They are young, quick, athletic, and energetic. They smile as they play. They have power and presence. Every position has a likely starter who plays a fun style of baseball. They are interesting.
Though I’m often critical of the Padres—all in love, I must say…this team is getting close to contending. I don’t mean in the, “just wait until all of our 16-year-olds get to the majors,” way. I mean…I think if the Padres want to, they can make a legitimate playoff run next year based on their current MLB personnel and those likely to join from the minors soon.
They strike me as a .500 team this season with their ticket symbol pointing up. Vegas currently has them tied with several other teams for second-to-least likely to win the World Series. For this season, they have something more important to their long-term future: they are interesting. That is what gets people to re-engage. Fans need to be part of the rebuild by re-engaging.
We have reason to. Choose nearly any player or position, and there is a storyline. Here are a few:
- Many Padres fans are down on Wil Myers. I am not. I think he’s in for a great year. In fact, I think he could quietly have an MVP-caliber year. Will he rebound? How will he do in the outfield?
- How will Hosmer change this team?
- Does Clayton Richard have another solid season in him?
- Will Luis Perdomo realize his potential…or is this just what he is?
- Will Dinelson Lamet further develop a credible change-up and step toward becoming the ace?
- Bryan Mitchell, Strohm, Erlin, Rea—who will step up here?
- Who would you keep: Spangenberg or Asauje?
- Which outfielders would you trade…and for what?
- Hunter Renfroe: the next Rob Deer or Mark Trumbo? Who is he?
- How good can Brad Hand be?
- Will Hedges realize his potential at the plate, not just behind it?
- Which prospects make it to the Majors this year?
- How will Chase Headley respond to being back in San Diego? Does he stay or get traded?
- How will Andy Green grow as a manager?
- Will Manny Margot step into his future as a star?
- Chris Young and Tyson Ross…do they have anything left?
- Was Jose Pirela a fluke? Or, is he a diamond in the rough?
I’m not even slowing down yet. There are a lot more storylines where these came from. The Padres aren’t going to the World Series this year. The Padres aren’t going to the playoffs this year. But they are interesting this year.
Wear your gear. Show up to the ballpark. If you can’t, put the game on your radio or TV. Watch and listen…because this is getting interesting.