San Diego Padres
The Padres are moving into an exciting era, as evidenced by the numbers they are putting up in 2020. Their offensive metrics, in particular, are popping this season. They’ve consistently been at or near the top in terms of runs scored. The Padres have been building an elite farm system for the last five years and it appears to finally be paying off. Young stars like Fernando Tatis Jr, Trent Grisham (acquired last year from Milwaukee), and Chris Paddack are ready to shine. The organization has struck gold on the free-agent market as well, building a good veteran presence. They signed Eric Hosmer to an 8 year deal in 2018 and followed that by inking Manny Machado to a 10-year deal in 2019.
There’s no sugar coating it: the Padres franchise has not been a winner through the years. That’s why the fan base is so energized by the current roster. Established in 1969, the Padres have reached the postseason only 5 times. In two trips to the World Series, the Padres not only lost both times but lost 8 of the 9 total games they’ve played in the Fall Classic. The Padres won 90 games in 2010 and led the NL West for most of the season, but a cold September allowed the San Francisco Giants to catch and eventually surpass San Diego. The Giants defeated the Padres on the final day of the season to clinch the division. The Padres have not won more than 77 games in a season since then.
The team history may not be overwhelming, but at least one individual was. They called him Mr. Padre. Tony Gwynn spent his entire 20-year career in San Diego and his achievements are endless. There seemingly isn’t a pure hitting statistic in the game where he didn’t dominate. He amassed 3,141 hits, boasts a career average of .338, and won 8 national league batting titles. Gwynn, a 15-time All-Star, was a true San Diego icon. Prior to being a Padre, he attended San Diego State University. He then coached the Aztecs’ baseball team after his playing days were over. Gwynn tragically passed away from salivary gland cancer in 2014.
Other notable players include recent Hall of Fame inductee Trevor Hoffman, who saved 601 games in his career, and Dave Winfield, who may be better remembered for his time as a Yankee, but came up through the Padres system and went to 4 All-Star games before going to New York as a free agent.
Wheelin’ & Dealin’
The aforementioned Hoffman was probably the landmark acquisition over the years for the Padres, a team that has been involved in many memorable trades. San Diego has never been able to claim the riches other franchises as the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and Giants do, so they’ve often had to send high profile players out right before they’re due a contract extension. That was the case in 1993, when they shipped Gary Sheffield to the Marlins in exchange for Hoffman, then just a prospect. The same was true in 2010 when All Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was dealt with Boston for Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelley, and Raymond Fuentes. The Padres made a host of deals at the deadline during this shortened 2020 season, the largest of which was acquiring pitcher Mike Clevinger from the Indians for 6 players, including pitcher Cal Quantrill, outfielder Josh Naylor, and catcher Austin Hedges. San Diego looks primed for their first playoff appearance since 2006.
On the Rise…Again
Padres fans have been told a winner is on the way for years, but in 2020, general manager AJ Preller might be true to the promise. He has the backing of owner Ron Fowler, who has clearly opened up the checkbook over the last 2 years. First-year manager Jayce Tingler has the previously mentioned Tatis Jr., Machado, and Hosmer as cornerstone pieces of a team that should contend for the next 4-5 years.