After years of being an afterthought, the San Diego Padres are flirting with relevancy.
For years the San Diego Padres have been declared irrelevant before spring training and have proven the pundits correct early in each season.
This year at the All-Star break the Padres have a 45-45 record. Yes, that leaves the team a disheartening 14.0 games behind the Los Angeles Dodger. However, the last time the Padres had .500 or above record at the All-Star break was 2010.
The team went into the All-Star break on a high, coming off a series in Dodger Stadium with three wins and only one loss. The Padres hadn’t matched that feat in Los Angeles since 2004. Sandwiched between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies in the National League West they are only two games out in the Wild Card race. Sure the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, and D-Backs stand in their way, but who knows what this streaky team will do between now and the end of September. In fact, the Padres define streaky with six losing streaks of at least three losses, against six winning streaks of three or more games.
In the past, though, the losing streaks vastly outnumbered the winning streaks. The Padres haven’t finished a season at or above .500 since 2010 (90-72, second place in the NLW). Last year the team lost 30 more games than it won, finishing in last place in the division and 25.5 games behind the Dodgers.
The Padres began to creep back into view in the MLB landscape with Wil Myers’ $83 million contract, and the subsequent signing of Eric Hosmer at $144 million of guaranteed money. But both acquisitions pale in comparison to signing Manny Machado to the largest contract for a free agent in the history of all sports in the United States, not just baseball. Let that sink in (if it hasn’t already). In half a century of existence, the Padres have never come close to making that kind of splash. At 27, Machado is in his prime, unlike the other stars the Padres acquired, like Steve Garvey and Greg Maddox, who were on the downsides of their careers.
Add Fernado Tatis Jr. to the mix, and people begin to pay attention, people like Mike Trout (aka the best player on the planet). On Facebook Trout called Tatis the most exciting player in baseball.
Even Mike Trout thinks Fernando Tatis Jr. is the most exciting player in baseball.
Posted by San Diego Padres on Monday, July 8, 2019
Despite missing 39 days, Tatis Jr. wRC+ stands at 162, his WAR 3.0. He is performing on both sides of the ball, batting .327/.393/.620 and providing highlight reel plays in the field and on the base paths.
Eric Hosmer has provided the leadership the Padres expected, but he also has performed when it matters. He has a .391 batting average with runners in scoring position. Young pitchers like Chris Paddack, who shut out the Dodgers for 5.2 innings, have arrived and shown they belong. Hunter Renfroe is on a pace to hit 50 home runs, closer Kirby Yates on a pace to break Trevor Hoffman’s saves record.
All these factors contribute to the Padre’s newfound relevance. And the upcoming schedule could help. The Padres will face each of their division rivals in upcoming series but also the fifth-place San Francisco Giants (41-48). The team has what Jerry Coleman would have called a “golden opportunity” to become even more relevant thanks to upcoming series against teams like the Miami Marlins (33-55), New York Mets (40-50), Baltimore Orioles (27-62), Cincinnati Reds (41-46), and Seattle Mariners (39-55).
If longsuffering fans need more proof of relevance, the trade rumors surrounding the Padres do not involve the team giving up players for prospects but instead trading for pieces that will make a difference in the last “half” of the baseball season.