Ok, I’ll concede the article title is very “click-baity.” It’s actually quite comprable to any article you’ll see on Donald Trump during this election cycle. The title is always super “click-baity” right? And you read the title, and think “There is no possible way he actually said that.” Then you click on it, and read the direct transcript, and sure enough it’s ACTUALLY as outlandish as the title suggests. Well, the things the San Diego Padres have been doing the last few years are as incompetent as the title suggests. You have your organizations of recent futility right? The Rockies, Twins, Rays and Astros are all candidates. But they seem to actually be doing things that make good baseball sense. The Padres? The Padres have basically been doing the opposite, and now they reap what they sow.
San Diego Padres: Baseball’s Most Incompetent Organization
Oct. 3, 2010- The 2010 Padres were refreshing. They had extremely dominant pitchers, with a cog in the lineup like Adrian Gonzalez. They squeaked enough runs across and blew you away with pitching every game. The Padres had run away with the division at the all-star break, and were seemingly headed towards the postseason. That was until Buster Posey got called up to the San Francisco Giants. Then the trade deadline came, and all of a sudden the Giants had equally as good of a bullpen. San Diego then went on a 10-game losing streak, where the Giants actually only picked up four games. And yet somehow, they let the division slip. The Giants won on the last day, fueled by Jonathan Sanchez’s exploits at the plate and the mound. They had lost the NL West on the final day, missing out on the postseason. Then the relatively un-thinkable happened.
Breaking Apart the Success
The 2010 Padres’ starting rotation had only one pitcher over the age of 30. The 2011 rotation? Got older and they lost/replaced two of the five fixtures in the rotation. Mat Latos and Clayton Richard, who went a combined 28-19 in 2010 and 2011, combined for a putrid 14-23. The everyday lineup? All but two had been switched out. The biggest loss? Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez had been the best player that franchise had seen since maybe Tony Gwynn. And guess what? They let him walk. Now? Gonzalez terrorizes them on a monthly basis with the Los Angeles Dodgers. So from a team in 2010 that had a chance to win the division, any recognizable signs of success were gone. They have to have done something right though within the next four years though?
More Of The Same
In the 2011 offseason the Padres traded Mat Latos for Edinson Volquez. Volquez had a breakout 2011 season for the Cincinnati Reds, and Latos seemed to be trending downwards. Volquez went from hero to relative zero, racking up an ERA of 4.14 and a WHIP of 1.451. Latos? Went on to go 28-11 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, in an extremely hitter friendly ballpark. A major lost trade, and the Padres ended up finishing five games under .500. In 2013? Volquez was even worse, and they finished in the same exact spot. 2014? The only difference was the absence of Chase Headley. He wasn’t a Yankee yet, but was hitting a paltry .229. A stark contrast to his 2012 season. The pitching was pretty good, with the second best team ERA in the NL. Unfortunately the team just could not score runs. Naturally they had to attempt to fix it though, right?
Revamp, and Rake with Righties
AJ Preller took over as GM at the end of the 2014 season and started the off-season with a MAJOR splash. Preller traded for Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Derek Norris AND added James Shields to bolster the pitching through free agency. They also acquired Craig Kimbrel from the Atlanta Braves as well, essentially gutting their farm system. They actually ended up two losses worse, and fourth in the NL west. While they scored 115 more runs in ’15 than they did ’14, as a pitching staff they gave up 154 more runs. I remember watching their opening day game against the Giants via MLB.TV. The Padres’ broadcast team was ranting and raving about how San Diego was finally going to get a chance to be the baseball city that they aspire to be. Unfortunately for them, it just didn’t pan out as many experts thought it would.
The 2016 Mess
As of now, not one of the players they acquired for the 2015 season is still in the organization, and they traded a few of the pitching staff fixtures from 2012-2015. If you started watching the Padres in 2015, this team would be completely unrecognizable. Devoid of prospects and high caliber talent, the only team worse than them are the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are emulating the 2015 Padres to perfection. They traded Matt Kemp, for a prospect that was a bust, and immediately DFA’d him. They got B and C class prospects for Andrew Cashner and James Shields. So now where do they go?
A Bleak Future
As of now, the Padres only have four prospects ranked in the top 100 by Baseball America . Their division rivals? A combined 16 prospects.* With a team that is going to be competing for a higher draft position for the next few years, the Padres are better off focusing on their farm system. Will they? Probably not. That doesn’t seem like the way Preller likes to do things. If they continue to make changes, and trade away prospects instead of growing a team like the Rockies or Astros have, this team will continue to fade away into the abyss as a franchise. They owe it to the city of San Diego to put together something world class.
The City of San Diego Deserves Better
The last time San Diego won a professional sports title was 1963, when the San Diego Chargers won the AFL title. Since then, San Diego has seen two separate professional basketball franchises come and go, and a multitude of minor league hockey franchises as well. The Padres arrived in 1969. Thanks to the recent efforts of the Chargers to move to Los Angeles, the Padres seem to be the only franchise willing to stick in the city. San Diego is easily one of the best cities in America. It has a great waterfront scene, along the bay and Navy Yard. It also has an incredible downtown nightlife, with the Gas Lamp District nearby. Petco Park’s downtown location has played into the addition of “downtown activity.”
Petco Park has added many bars, and fan “hangout” attractions in recent years, and still can’t get people in the seats. San Diego aspires to be a “baseball town.” They have the infrastructure for it, so now they need the team. They deserve the team. It took a while for the Giants, their northerly rivals to get to where they are today. It took investments in the farm system, and not trading away major prospects when they didn’t have a core of players to begin with. As the team went, so did the area around the ballpark. The waterfront area where the Giants played used to be a bad area of San Francisco. Now? It’s one of the places to be after 5 p.m. San Diego could be that way. They just need a front office and leadership that is willing to do what it takes to build a lasting legacy.
A Pipe Dream
Hopefully, one day, San Diego will be the sports town it has the potential to be. Even the Baseball town it aspires to be. Until the mentality of the front office changes, or all the leadership changes, the Padres will continue to be known for their dismal history. They have two choices: continue to be known as “AT&T South” for when their rivals come to play, or become the shining baseball mecca it dreams of being. We won’t know where exactly they are headed right now. But unless significant changes are made in leadership, they will continue being the red-headed step child when it comes to Baseball on the West Coast.
*Baseball Americas’ Top 100 prospects’ teams have not been updated including the trades in the article that is linked. These numbers take that into account.