The 2017 San Diego Padres exceeded expectations, despite finishing 20 games under .500. Their record was 71-91.
It’s strange to say that a team that finished 33 games behind the winner of their division, and 16 games behind the winner of the second wild card team, exceeded expectations.
However, it is fair, and accurate, to say that about the 2017 Padres. Before the season began, mainstream sports media predicted this team to finish last in the National League.
It was a fair assessment, given the amount of youth in the starting lineup, along with veteran pitchers in the starting rotation who probably didn’t sign with better teams because those teams didn’t call.
The Padres were the subject of criticism for putting four catchers and three “Rule-5” players on their 2017 Opening Day roster. One of those catchers, Christian Bethancourt, was being converted into a “super-utility” player. Bethancourt was to be expected to pitch, as well as play catcher and hit in the lineup. Needless to say, that experiment was a miserable failure.
The Padres did not finish in last place. Not in the division. Not in the National League. There were nowhere near the worst team in 2017, a title given to the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants (both teams finished at 64-98). The Padres were seven games better than both those teams in the standings.
The team was actually better in terms of win-loss record than six other teams. They will have the No. 7 pick in the 2018 MLB First Year Player Draft.
A team’s success starts at the top and trickles down. It’s one thing to have the clichés that people like to throw around: talent, clubhouse chemistry, veteran leadership, etc.
However, players don’t coach themselves. They don’t show up and automatically gel with their teammates. A coaching staff is paramount to how good (or bad) a team will be each season.
When a team is playing well, the manager gets the praise. When pitchers are on their game, or if they’ve made vast improvements, the pitching coach gets the credit. When a hitter corrects his swing, the hitting coach gets the credit.
The 2017 Padres coaching staff had their hands full going into the season. Not only did they have a young team, they had a sports media ready to highlight their poor showing in the standings.
The Padres were able to avoid becoming the laughing-stock of the league. The youngsters showed up each day ready to play, and they wanted to let people know they wouldn’t be pushed around by other teams. That is a reflection of coaching.
Green completed his second year as the head Friar. Under his watch, the team won three more games than in 2016. This was with a roster composed mostly of players with minimal MLB experience. That improvement is minuscule, but Green still is deserving of receiving credit. Remember, this team was expected to be worse than they actually were. Under Green’s leadership, they finished above their rock-bottom expectation.
The Padres had games where they were out of it by the fifth inning. They didn’t quit. They played until the final out. They made plays on defense, tried to manufacture runs, and, at times, tried to rally their way back from a large deficit. Again, this is a reflection of coaching.
Looking at post-game interviews, Green wasn’t afraid to call out players when they did something wrong, and point out the things they did right. In one game, Myers hit a deep fly ball that he thought would clear the wall. It didn’t, and he had to settle for a long single because he jogged down the baseline. He was taken out of the game. Myers had the highest salary on the team this season, but he was treated the same as everyone else.
Green caught a lot of criticism from Padres fans after the Anthony Rizzo incident. Everyone remembers that. Rizzo made a slide into home plate, but actually slid directly into Hedges. Hedges was injured by that play and taken out of the game. Rizzo acted as if he did nothing wrong, and Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon acted as if he was delighted by the whole thing.
Green called it a “cheap shot,” and called on MLB to hand down a punishment. He said his concern was that if nothing had been done, other teams would take it as a sign that an egregious slide of that nature into Hedges, or any Padres catcher, would be tolerated. However, no punishment was given to Rizzo.
Green was right to defend his catcher in that situation. That isn’t why he received criticism. The criticism came from his decision to not retaliate. Fans wanted to see a Padres pitcher bean Rizzo when he was at the plate. It never happened. Green defended his reason for choosing not to retaliate, saying that such a decision would not be prudent. To probably the dismay of some, he was right.
In another incident, on June 30, Green got into it with Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. It started with Alex Wood accusing Jose Pirela of stealing signs and relaying them to other Padres hitters. Both managers left their respective dugouts and confronted each other. Both were ejected, but the altercation didn’t stop. Roberts ran towards Green as he was walking away and shoved him. Green turned back, and that’s when both dugouts cleared. Nothing else happened, but it was all the talk the rest of that weekend. Green didn’t back down from the manager of the best team in baseball. He and his team stood their ground.
Green was exactly what this young team needed this season. He’s young, energetic, passionate, and unafraid. He has shown to have good baseball knowledge. He has made some poor decisions this season, like relying too much on the shift, or leaving a pitcher in longer than he should have.
Regardless, he has done a good job as the head Friar. He was given an extension in August that will keep him as manager through the 2021 season, which is well-deserved.
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Mike is the sports editor for the Fayette Advertiser, and has been with East Village Times since 2015. His work has appeared on Bleacher Report. He is an avid Padres fan who is keeping the faith and trusting the process.