San Diego Padres: A Team Finally Worth Rooting For
The San Diego Padres‘ no-hitter marked a momentous shift for the franchise. This is finally a team that deserves the national spotlight — one that has never shone brightly in San Diego.
Remember when the Padres were bad and wore blue? Some San Diegans probably shudder at the mere memory. Streaks of losing seasons, a long playoff drought, the painstaking reality that a World Series was (for many years) far out of reach. Prior to 2015, the Padres were the only team without a player to never hit for the cycle. Prior to 2020, they hadn’t punched a ticket to the playoffs in over a decade. And up until last Friday night, no Padre had ever thrown a no-hitter.
It wasn’t too long ago (2014 to 2019, to be exact) that the Padres finished six consecutive seasons 26th or lower in the majors in many categories. Batting average. On-base percentage. Runs batted in. Chase rate. Strikeouts. You name it, the Padres were among the worst.
But now the Padres are good and wear brown. They’ve hit milestones most franchises have — a cycle, a recent playoff berth, a no-hitter — and a first World Series title now in sight.
Even though the evolution from bad to great had more to do with the talent that A.J. Preller and his staff acquired than their new and improved uniforms, these milestones signify something greater: San Diego is ready to win it all.
Two Cycles Are Better than One
Four months after his hiring in December of 2014, Preller exchanged a total of 24 players in a three-day span — the most in major league history. Two of those acquisitions were Matt Kemp and Wil Myers.
Then, on August 13, 2015, Kemp made history by becoming the first Padre to hit for the cycle, doing so against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Nearly two years later, on April 10, 2017, Myers became the second.
San Diego had gone 7,443 games without a cycle. In a span of 215 games, they had two.
— MLB (@MLB) April 11, 2017
Preller’s overnight spending spree marked the beginning of the Padres’ rebuild. They knew they needed to win more games and establish themselves as a competitive ball club. Of course, the Padres’ rise was slow and somewhat steady. Their winning percentages never climbed above .500 until 2020, but the two years they hit for the cycle contained their best records since 2014.
Finally, a Trip to the Playoffs
Six years later, queue another Preller overhaul and, ultimately, a playoff berth.
In 2020, Preller exchanged an entire roster’s worth of players (26) after a disappointing season the year before. He broke his own previous record of the most trades in a three-day span. This burst of activity served him well; the Padres went on to produce their highest winning percentage in franchise history and their first playoff appearance in over a decade.
The Padres defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card Series, their first postseason win in 22 years. Even though the season ended with a loss in the NL Division Series, it marked a shift in San Diego sports’ history.
Their success in 2020 turned heads across MLB. Gone was the losing lineup that Preller inherited in 2014; in was the revised roster of a winning team. The Padres were finally recognized as real World Series contenders. The blockbuster trades that Preller made in the offseason, plus the 14-year contract extension of Fernando Tatis Jr., further cemented their legitimacy.
Hometown Hero Throws the first Padres No-Hitter
Now it’s 2021. While San Diego has yet to bring a World Series title back to the homeland, they did manage to check another important item off baseball’s bucket list: a no-hitter.
Before Joe Musgrove took the mound last Friday night, the Padres remained the only team in the majors without a no-hitter. Fifty-three years and 8,205 games later, Musgrove finally broke the streak.
“It almost seems like it was meant to be,” said Musgrove in a post-game interview. “It doesn’t feel real.”
His dreamlike state following his no-no was in large part due to the fact that this moment was truly a dream come true. Musgrove was born and raised in San Diego County and grew up going to Padres games. He had season tickets out in right field at Petco Park, and his favorite player was Jake Peavy. He went to Grossmont High School in El Cajon, Calif., and was committed to play at San Diego State before being drafted to the big leagues.
Ten years later, he was traded to his hometown team and made history.
His battery mate — Victor Caratini — was a wizard behind the plate and helped Musgrove record all 27 outs. Musgrove had 10 strikeouts, 10 groundouts, and another seven outs in the air. He threw a career-high 112 pitches and used all six pitches in his arsenal at least seven times. His slider, cutter, and curveball were particularly effective; he threw those breaking balls 80% of the time.
And nothing was the same. pic.twitter.com/tUomQD4NIe
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) April 10, 2021
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