Organized baseball is over 150 years old, and the history of the game and its traditions run deep through the veins of the United States. At the root of the game will always be the intangibles and skills necessary to be successful in this sport that mirrors life. Constant failures grip the game. As a player you must learn to get through these failures and move on. If you chose not to, as in life, the past will eat you alive. Though the game is about history and embracing it, the game also is about living in the moment and making adjustments. A player must have the proper mindset to be successful, especially if they plan on playing at the highest level where there is constant adjustments necessary.
You must be prepared to fail. Baseball players learn this skill very early in their career. Even the best players that have ever played this game have dealt with failure and embarrassment. Unlike most major sports the game is individualized quite often. Though it takes a whole team to be successful, there are many single moments within the game which are magnified. When a batter comes to the plate, the whole stadium and its occupants are focused on him and solely him. Same could be said for the pitcher who has to deliver the ball to the batter. Pressures like this can be enormous on a player. When scouting a potential player for your major league team, these intangibles often go unrecognized but are a definite necessity for continued success.
The San Diego Padres have continually wasted first round selections for the last 20-25 years. Robbie Becket, Matt Halloran, Kevin Nicholson, Vince Faison, Mark Phillips, Jake Gautreau, Matt Bush, Cesar Carillo, Matt Antoneli, Nick Schmidt, Alan Dykstra and Donovan Tate represent years upon years of failure. Sure the team has made decent first round selections in that time frame as well, but Khalil Greene, Sean Burroughs, Tim Stauffer, Ben Davis and Dustin Hermanson were not exactly house hold names either. They obviously do not outweigh the bad picks. More often than not the team has failed to recognize the intangible skills mentioned before that are needed to be successful. Drafting athletic players does nothing for a franchise if they do not have the will to succeed and get better.
Throughout the history of the San Diego Padres, the franchise has always struggled to develop a sense of stability and tradition. The Padres have always been a stopping off point for major league players. With the exception of Tony Gwynn (who basically flat-out refused to leave), the team has failed to keep its star players. Adrian Gonzalez is the perfect example of this. A home-town player with a hall-of-fame pedigree and the franchise makes zero attempt to re-sign him long-term and give him what he rightfully deserves. Its pitiful. It’s a disgrace to the sport. It has to change. This franchise can no longer be looked down upon by other teams. If they want relevancy, then they need to earn it. It needs to be cultivated from the front office on down.
I believe A.J. Preller is the man to do it. He has ideas and is not afraid to implement them. He has already proven a propensity to think outside the box. That kind of though process is needed to build the team. In reality the Padres franchise is at its infancy. They have little to no tradition to speak of and with that are a blank drawing board. A.J. Preller and the Padres current ownership group has the ability to form the team and its identity. They have the ability the mold a team and a franchise we can all be proud of for years to come. A franchise that our kids and their kids can be proud of. They are looking at the overall picture, not just the bottom dollar. Call me naive if you want, but I believe this regime actually realizes this and is excited to develop a “Padres Way”.
This whole ideal is not easily attained though. It will take hard work and it will most definitely take time. I would rather the job be done slow and be done right, then to try to make everything happen all at once. The farm system is really beginning to take shape right now. After the international signings, the Padres farm system will be even stronger. The upper farm system is rich in offensive players (Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje, Alex Dickerson, Austin Hedges, Jabari Blash) while the lower system is full of young arms (Logan Allen, Jacob Nix, Austin Smith, Enyel De Los Santos, Dinelson Lamet, etc.). This years draft brought two arms in Eric Lauer and Cal Quantril who will be quick to progress through the system. They will be in Double-A and Triple-A fairly soon. At the same time the team drafted Hudson Potts (Sanchez) and traded for Fernando Tatis Junior. Both are young offensive studs that will shortly be playing alongside Allen, Nix, Smith and company.
There is a plan and you see it. The plan is for a constant influx of talent arriving at the major league level. This first group of Renfroe, Margot, Dickerson, etc is just the beginning. Wait till the Padres are reaping the rewards of the international market where Preller excels. The Texas Rangers have a ridiculously deep farm system. Though Preller can hardly take all the credit for the constant talent, the Rangers produce major league players. He was vital in the scouting and signing of many of the players currently on their roster and in their farm system, you cannot deny that. We have yet to see his skill in that area. That too will take time though. Most of these kids are very young. 16, 17 and 18 year olds take time to develop, but you can get some major 5-tool players through this draft. Look at current developing stud Nomar Mazara from the Rangers, whom A.J. Preller and the Rangers front office signed to a $5 million dollar contract to in 2011 when he was 16 years old. The now 21-year old looks to be a major stud and the Rangers have a history of developing and signing players like him. There is no reason to believe that cannot be in the Padres future. The team has never developed quality players from their Dominican Academy and that is something that Preller is immediately changing. The international market is the future of this game. South Korea, Japan, and China are now being tapped as potential areas of cultivation for young talented ball players.
The fact Preller recognizes the franchises issues is a great thing. He is addressing them one problem at a time. There are other aspects to the franchise that need to be addressed as well if this team wants to be taken seriously in the MLB community. The over-dramatizing “show” aspect of Petco Park really needs to be toned down. Fans want credibility on the field and could care less about what is happening in the stands or at the food court. That however is for another time. Like I said… one issue at a time. Building the tradition and cultivating it is the first goal. This team has all the ability in the world. I will be patient and so should the fans, but the team must progress and not continue to falter. One more change in course or philosophy will be detrimental to an already fractured fan base. Pick a plan, pick a jersey color, embrace the teams past and its tradition and cultivate a “Padres Way” we all can be proud of. Sounds easy, right? Keep the faith.