The numerous rain delays the San Diego Padres experienced on their swing through Cincinnati and Philadelphia have to be chalked up to bad luck.
In fact, looking back on the Padres history, the team’s luck has tended toward rotten. The first owner of the franchise, C. Arnholt Smith, actually ended up in prison, which set the tone from the beginning. In over half a century, the Padres have had many more losing seasons than winning. In fact, it took 14 years for the team to reach .500 and another two to rise above average.
Thankfully, subsequent team owners avoided the slammer, but until John Moores bought the team in 1996, neither the Krocs nor Tom Werner made the necessary investment in the team. The Werner group also embarrassed all of San Diego by inviting Roseanne Barr to perform the National Anthem, which she botched and then proceeded to grab her crotch and spat. To top it off, the group staged a fire sale in 1992 and 1993.
Businessman John Moores saw an opportunity, bid on the team, and invested in the Padres, which led to the team’s second trip to the World Series. However, the breakup of his marriage forced him to sell, and from 2009 to 2013, Jeff Moorad tried to collect the cash to make the sale. During those years in limbo, the Padres’ payroll was one of if not the stingiest in all of baseball.
Finally, Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler, the grandson of Walter O’Malley and nephew of Peter O’Malley, stepped up and bought the team. They hired A.J. Preller as general manager and patiently waited for him to succeed in putting together a team capable of winning. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen until 2020—the year of, wait for it, a global pandemic.
In the pandemic-shortened season, the Padres had their first winning season in 10 years. Even more encouraging, the team prevailed against the St. Louis Cardinals for the Wild Card and faced off against their long-time nemesis, the Los Angeles Dodgers. At the beginning of that season, their promising young pitcher Dinelson Lamet got the go-ahead to play with no limits.
In late August, general manager A.J. Preller gave up catcher Austin Hedges, outfielder Josh Naylor, shortstop Gabriel Arias, infielder Owen Miller, and pitchers Cal Quantrill and Joey Cantillo for starting pitcher Mike Clevinger and outfielder Greg Allen. Obviously, the target of the deal was Mike Clevinger. The 29-year-old Clevinger had the ace credentials to help the Padres reach the promised land, especially in tandem with Lamet. However, neither could answer the call, and Clevinger had his second Tommy John surgery in November. This year Lamet has pitched just 34.1 innings and is currently on the Injured List.
Making matters worse, Chris Paddack has not lived up to his promise. In 2019 his first year in the big leagues, he pronounced himself the new sheriff in town. That year he won nine with seven losses and a 3.33 ERA, 0.981 WHIP, and 124 ERA+. He hasn’t come close to that performance in the past two years. In 2021 he’s 4-5, 4.56 ERA, 1.233 WHIP, 80 ERA+.
Fortunately, the team’s investment in Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove has paid off so far. Musgrove even broke the no-hitter curse earlier in the season. The 2018 Cy Young winner for the American League, Blake Snell, also joined the team but has been mediocre at best, his ERA+ an anemic 74.
And while we’re on the subject of pitchers, the Padres traded away their ace and fan favorite, Jake Peavy, to the Chicago White Sox on that fateful day, July 31, 2009, just a year after he’d signed a four-year extension. Peavy won the Cy Young award just two years earlier. During his time in San Diego from 2002 to 2009, he compiled a 92-68 record with a 3.29 ERA. Jake Peavy, July 31, 2008, traded to the Chicago White Sox.
And how can we forget Game 163?
To decide the National Leagues’ Wild-Card team, the Padres faced the Colorado Rockies in a four-hour and 44-minute psychodrama. Neither Peavy nor Hall-of-Famer Trevor Hoffman pitched well, but the Padres kept pace with the Rockies. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball had not yet introduced a video review. Home plate umpire Tim McClelland delayed his call of Matt Holliday’s slide at home but finally gestured safe.
The Padres do hold the distinction of having a pitcher who was arrested for trying to enter a house through a doggy door. In December 2019, Jacob Nix did just that. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong house and was tasered by the resident and then arrested.
In 2017, one of the most exciting players not named Fernando Tatis Jr. chose the Padres as one of the teams he would consider as he moved from Japan to the United States. Alas, Shohei Ohtani, a two-way player, signed instead with the Los Angeles Angels.
The Padres may not have Ohtani, but they do have Tatis Jr. and a supporting cast that has amassed 50 wins. Despite the missing aces, the Padres have almost kept pace with the Dodgers and the shockingly successful San Francisco Giants. With 50 wins, the team places fourth in multiple power rankings.
Tatis Jr. became the first player since Tony Gwynn to win the fan vote at his position for the All-Star game. Three teammates, Yu Darvish, Mark Melancon, and Jake Cronenworth, will accompany him to Coors Field next week.
In September, the Padres will have an opportunity to go head to head against both the Dodgers and Giants. The team will play six games against Los Angeles and seven against San Francisco. No doubt, Preller has been working the phones, but he will have to be especially agile to finally break the long-standing jinx.