In most recent seasons, the last 14 in a row to be specific, Padre fans have been used to watching the postseason at home and jumping on other teams’ bandwagons for the playoffs.
However, this season, not only did the Padres make the playoffs, but they are one of the most exciting teams in baseball. They have a legitimate chance to do something that’s never happened for San Diego, win a World Series. If a baseball fan of an eliminated team were to pick a new team to follow for the 2020 playoffs, the San Diego Padres would be the optimum choice, and here is why:
In 2020, San Diego switched back to brown jerseys, and they are fantastic. The home jerseys are white with brown pinstripes, the road jerseys are brown, and the alternate road jerseys are a sweet grey with brown pinstripes. Oakland closer Liam Hendricks referred to the road alternates as “silken pajamas,” but the new threads are certainly a hit with most fans and players alike.
And then there’s the Padres’ shortstop, phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. For a solid month, Tatis Jr was the face of baseball. Solid numbers and a fantastic article by Jeff Passan vaulted the young infielder into the national limelight. At the time, he led the league in average exit velocity and was top five in just about every major offensive category. He also makes incredible and impossible looking plays on defense, flashing his patented smile and energy the entire time. If that wasn’t enough, he sent baseball into a frenzy by hitting a grand slam on a 3-0 pitch while being up six runs late in a game. The entire baseball world seemingly weighed in on the unwritten rules. Tatis is undoubtedly a player that will simply go out and play a very aggressive style day in and day out with a smile, and Padre fans love him for it.
That 3-0 grand slam also started the run of four consecutive games with a Padre grand slam, earning them the nickname Slam Diego Padres. The Padres have hit seven slams in total, more than any two other teams combined. This has less to do with opportunity, they are mid-pack in AB’s with the bases loaded, but more so to do with hitting more home runs. The Padres have been top five in team home runs all season long. Whenever a Padre has come to bat with the bases loaded, the home broadcast proudly displays the grand slam counter in anticipation of another.
Tatis hasn’t been the only player getting into controversy. Outfielder Trent Grisham came under fire after watching his home run off Clayton Kershaw leave the yard before he yelled words of encouragement into his dugout. That sparked the Padres to a comeback win over the Dodgers, though they dropped the final two games of the series. One thing is for sure: the San Diego Padres don’t care about unwritten rules. They come to play hard and have fun.
The Padres also have several players that should be in consideration for individual awards this season. As many as three players may receive MVP votes. The aforementioned Fernando Tatis Jr. looked like a lock for the award about 45 games into the season, but a late-season slump might let that dream slip away. However, Manny Machado and Wil Myers have both been playing at an elite level this season. Myers has the highest OPS on Padres this season, and Machado’s bat has been on fire to go along with his elite defense. Jake Cronenworth looks locked into the Rookie of the Year award; his defense at second (and a few games at first base) has been spectacular. Cronenworth led the league in batting average at one point this season and currently leads all rookies in fWAR at 1.7.
The front office should also be up for awards as well. Manager Jayce Tingler and his coaching staff have changed the culture in San Diego. Last season the team led the league in strikeouts, and this season they have been top five in on-base percentage all season. A new approach to analytics has undoubtedly improved this team, and Tingler is expected to be a finalist for Manager of the Year.
General manager A.J. Preller is a shoo-in for executive of the year. Preller managed to work the signing bonus system to land three top prospects in Robert Hassell III, Justin Lange, and Cole Wilcox. This alone would put him up for the award, but he also made considerable improvements to the team via trades and free agency. Acquiring Trent Grisham, Tommy Pham, Jurickson Profar, Jake Cronenworth, Jorge Mateo, Mitch Moreland, Greg Allen, Austin Nola, and Jason Castro for the lineup. He also acquired starting pitchers Zach Davies and Mike Clevinger to go along with relievers Dan Altavilla, Trevor Rosenthal, Tim Hill, Austin Adams, Taylor Williams, and Emilio Pagan. Last offseason, Preller signed Drew Pomeranz and Pierce Johnson as free agents. Not only did Preller acquire all of these players, but he did so while only trading one of his top five prospects in Taylor Trammell. The Padres still boast a top farm system even after graduating a lot of top talent over the last two seasons. A.J. Preller has been masterful at building up value in the farm system and turning that farm system into a legitimate World Series contender.
Padre fans are spoiled with arguably the deepest and most talented roster they’ve ever had. The lineup has legitimate hitters in all nine spots with a deep bench. Trent Grisham has been Gold Glove-caliber in centerfield while holding a .900 OPS throughout most of the season. Tommy Pham has struggled, but Jurickson Profar has been stellar the second half of the season. Austin Nola is good defensively while bringing a strong bat that team has longed for at the position for so long. Eric Hosmer has had a resurgence while improving his launch angle. The roster isn’t quite Murders Row, but it’s as close a Padre team has come to it.
The starting pitchers — when healthy — match up well with any team. Dinelson Lamet has a fantastic year, posting a 2.09 ERA over 69 innings. He may receive a Cy Young vote or two. Mike Clevinger is a proven top of the rotation pitcher with postseason experience. Zack Davies had a career year posting a 2.85 ERA over 66.1 innings. These three would give the Padres a great chance at a deep postseason run.
If Mike Clevinger and/or Dinelson Lamet cannot pitch in the postseason, that will be a significant blow to the Padres’ championship chances. The team would have to rely on Zack Davies, a struggling Chris Paddack, and possibly bring back Garrett Richards or Adrian Morejon to be a starter. However, it wouldn’t mean the Padres can be entirely written off. The team at full strength gives up the most runs in the first inning while scoring the most runs in the seventh and eighth innings. The Padres have won 20 games by comeback, most in the major leagues. The team has a never-say-die attitude and are never indeed out of a game until it’s over.
At the beginning of the season, Padre fans were expecting a lights out bullpen, but early struggles and injuries saw a team struggling to get outs late in games. In the second half, the bullpen was reinforced and finally became a top unit. Drew Pomeranz has been San Diego’s most consistent pitcher in 2020 and did not give up a run in his first 19 appearances, including four saves. The recently acquired Trevor Rosenthal hasn’t blown a save in a Padre uniform. Back from an IL stint, Emilio Pagan has regained the velocity he showed in Tampa Bay. Young lefty Adrian Morejon has proven to be a bullpen weapon this season. He may even become a starter next season. Austin Adams, Garrett Richards, Matt Strahm, Tim Hill, and Pierce Johnson are all expected to contribute to a very deep bullpen this postseason.
San Diego’s broadcast teams are also some of the best in the country. Mark Grant and Don Orsillo make up the television crew. Mark and Don are extremely good at being entertaining hosts without taking anything away from the baseball game. Don has made phenomenal calls on some historic Padres plays, including the “Slam Diego” games. Unfortunately the postseason games will be on national broadcasts and will not include Mud and Don. On the radio, Jessie Agler and longtime broadcaster Ted Leitner make quite the duo. Agler is phenomenal at play by play, and always has an awesome stat ready for listeners. Leitner has the best baseball stories, many about the great Jerry Coleman and Tony Gwynn, whom we all miss dearly. When the Padres play in the postseason, make sure you tune into the local broadcast, there are none better in baseball.
As the regular season winds down and the postseason begins, you may just find yourself cheering on the “Slam Diego Padres.” Just be sure to ignore the unwritten rules and don’t count them out until the very end.
Lifelong Padre fan born and raised in San Diego, currently living in Temecula. The editors make me sound smart.