Talk of being patient is not exactly what you want to hear if you are a fan of the San Diego Padres. The team has continually disappointed its fan base in several different manners. The fans have still been supportive to some degree, but the whole group is obviously fickle when it comes to the Padres.
As a child I can remember my heart being broken as my favorite Padres player Kevin McReynolds was dealt to the New York Mets for Shawn Abner, Stan Jefferson and Kevin Mitchell among others. McReynolds was fresh off a season where he hit 26 home runs and drove in 96 runs in 158 games played. He also had a batting line of .288/.358/.504 and at the age of 26 looked to be one of the faces of the franchise and most-importantly a right handed compliment to Gwynn in the outfield.
McReynolds had some great years for the Mets and was really one of the more under-rated offensive players in his era. Between the years of 1986-1990 McReynolds averaged 25 homers, 96 RBI and a .280/.335/.420 batting line. He also did all this while being a small town guy from Arkansas in the big city of New York. I’m convinced he would have had better numbers here in San Diego with less scrutiny. I view Wil Myers in the same light as McReynolds and I sincerely hope this regime will keep him and build around him.
Building. That’s what it has always been like for Padres fans. Building of some sorts. Whether its re-building from the ground floor up or building a team that is just good enough to compete. The franchise has always been under some sort of construction. They have thrown around some money half-heartedly in the Dominican Republic for a Padres academy. Rymer Liriano was the prized student from that camp and little else was produced for their efforts to date. They have thrown money at over-priced names on the free agent market like Mike Piazza and Greg Maddux over the years. These attempts are detrimental to the team in the long-run and thankfully this current regime appears to realize that.
Why did past ownership sign Maddux and Piazza? Simple… To try to show the fan base they are trying to win. However signing veterans like that to a team that was struggling to make the playoffs in the first place does absolutely nothing for the long-term of the franchise. In fact, it cripples it. The Padres were not World Series contenders in 2007. The team was good, but they had way too many holes to consider it a contender. At some point you have to look yourself in the mirror and know who you are. The result of finishing just out of the playoffs is continually getting low-level first round picks. Cesar Carillo #18th 2005, Matt Antoneli #17 2006, Nick Schmidt #23 2007 and Alan Dykstra #23 2008 were all bust level picks. Not that picking low in the first round was the entire issue. Obviously the Padres scouting department was horrendous at the time as the team made horrible first round picks, year after year.
The Padres gave Greg Maddux $10 million a season for the 2007 and 2008 season. The team finished third in the division the first year and last the next. Plain and simply put you cannot try to make a contending squad out of a team full of mediocre talent. The current regime learned that with their impulse addition of James Shields before the 2015 season started. Sure every once in a while you can catch lightning in a bottle and have a decent season with a bunch of over-achievers that rally around each other for a common cause. That can happen at any time to virtually any team if the recipe of players is concocted in the correct manner. Not an easy task, and by no means not a way to run your team every season. As a major league franchise in this day and age, your team either needs to be a team full of young players building towards the future or you must be an absolute dynasty-like team full of all-star talent. There is no in between. If you are in that wasteland in between these two type of franchises then you are destined to fail.
The Padres had been in that wasteland. Acquiring players like Ray Lankford, Jim Edmonds, Mike Piazza, Greg Maddux, Ryan Ludwick and Orlando Hudson to try to put fans in the seats is a no way to run a successful team. Sure veteran players like that are nice to have, but each of these particular veterans were brought in passed their prime and each had unreal expectations put on their shoulders. In this Padres era of the mid to late 2000’s the team continued to spin its wheels while at the same time securing no plan for long-term success. Players that were young and on the verge of free agency on the Padres team were sent away. Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez should have been retained and paid their fair market value, while at the same time improving the farm system with new productive talent. That didn’t happen. The team has failed ever since.
With this modern era led by A.J. Preller, you see the plan. You see the intention to build a successful long-term contending franchise. Drafting and signing your first 13 MLB draft picks and signing at least 16 International players in the span of a month is an absolute boost to the farm system. These young players will make the organization better and with that you see that this Padres ownership group understands you need a core of solid young players first before you can develop a successful team. It starts at the bottom and the Padres have certainly addressed that issue.
So with the plan in place, Padres fans are going to have to be patient. The Fort Wayne Tin Caps team is full of quality young players. Some are beginning to trickle their way to the Lake Elsinore team. You can really see the future of the San Diego Padres arriving soon. Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Carlos Asuaje are all in El Paso and each will be at Petco Park soon. Michael Gettys is really starting to swing the bat this season and at the same time show some better plate discipline. Jose Rondon, Nick Torres and Austin Allen are all having nice offensive years too. The Padres farm system is slowing getting better and you have to imagine that the team will be acquiring more young talent in the coming months. Most important thing of all is these young players will be introduced to a new team philosophy. Something that has been missing for a long while. A “Padres Way” must be developed and cultivated.
Derek Norris, Ryan Buchter, Brett Wallace, Alexei Ramirez, Andrew Cashner, and Melvin Upton Jr. will all be shopped around as the team continues to look for young players at positions of need. Even Drew Pomeranz could be dealt if a team pays the asking price for the young left-handed pitcher. Pomeranz is nearing his career highs in innings pitched and the team could very well decide to sell high on the pitcher. Again, if a team overpays, then you have to make the trade. The Padres are in no position to be picky. If a deal provides financial flexibility and includes gaining new prospects then it is certainly worth considering. This should not be construed as a fire sale however. Please don’t use those words when describing the current Padres situation and what might happen.
Though the Padres management would never admit it, they want you to keep the faith. They understand your anger and frustration with this team and they are willing to go the extra mile in ensuring that this team ends the misnomer that this franchise is a losing one. With a hugely developing farm system and more potential prospects on the way, it is very easy to get excited about this team and their future. Wil Myers provides an immediate super-star and the team could very easily build around him. With a few key trades and some salaries being shed, the Padres could contend sooner than people think. It will take some A.J. Preller magic to finish this overhaul and get immediate results, but it could happen. A nucleus of Manuel Margot, Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges is a great starting point. Keep the faith Padres fans, the team isn’t that far off from being a perennial competitive team in the difficult National League West. I mean we have waited this long, what’s a few more seasons as long as the job is finally done correctly. So keep the faith and just remember how sweet the victory will taste when we finally get a taste of it. Go Padres!