So the Taco Train has left the station but unfortunately for those of you in a hurry, it is moving slowly. It is a SLOW Taco Train and will take a while to gather steam.
Some of you fellow Dylan fans will catch my drift and like the original slow train, riding the Taco Train will indeed take some patience. Heck, I’ve been at this since the spring of ‘70 so not many of you have been thirsting for local baseball nirvana as long as I have.
Like most tribes forced to wander around in the wilderness for long periods one begins to wonder if we’ll ever escape. Will we ever arrive at the promised land or is it all just a big lie? Maybe we should just leave this tribe for some other tribe with better resources and more advanced navigation, stronger leaders and a more beautiful and storied tradition?
We want to be chosen ones too but despair creeps in, confusion, even outright depression. It’s hopeless, a big waste of time and money and worst of all, spirit. Spiritually we have become bankrupt, the patron saints of lost causes. There’s so many better things to do in a genuine promised land like San Diego. Like the tribes of Israel all we do is argue with each other and end up praying to false gods. We lose our way, forever lost, seemingly doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
Don’t fear however for the Taco Train is here.
Last time I told you about the new owners of the TT, one a passionate local mogul hungering for a championship for his home city, the other an outsider from L.A. who recognized a sleeping giant down south, literally a blue blood in the world of baseball with just the right sense to guide the train. As we all know, after taking stock of their dilapidated little train, one of the first things they did was hire a young, unassuming General Manager, A.J. Preller, to overhaul the train from top to bottom and lead it to its ultimate destination.
Preller was quickly labeled a “rock star” for his aggressive moves to immediately rebuild the train but I don’t think the label fits. Quiet, unassuming, almost shy, reticent with the media, apparently not in it for the accolades, these aren’t the common attributes of a rock star. For me he’s more of a gunslinger, always on the lookout for the enemy or a trade, ready for a quick pivot when the sun is too high or the train starts to back up, up all hours of day or night in an attempt to secure justice for the riders of the TT.
A quick side note. Word on the street is Preller is a fierce pickup hoops player. Gunner, tenacious defender, money player, they say he hates to lose. I’ve played more pick up hoops than I care to recall and by pickup basketball standards I was a big man, not always getting to control the ball as much as I would like. Of all the guards I wanted on my team, besides the ones who would toss it inside to me so I could work my Akeem Olejuwon, I wanted a hungry money shooting gunslinger who played just as nasty at the other end, not giving quarter and setting the tone for the team. I would have loved to play pickup hoops with A.J. (I tore my Achilles a few years back, my basketball career has basically gone all Ryan Howard)
When Preller took over, with President Mike Dee demanding him “to be bold” on a feedback loop from the Petco loudspeakers, the gunslinger came out blazing. Still finding his way, and probably also encouraged by his new hired hand from the Dodgers, Logan White, he made a trade which the train will have to overcome if it is to reach its destination, which hopefully won’t prove too big an obstacle: Yasmani Grandal plus young pitching, for Matt Kemp, arthritic hips, messed up ankle and all.
I’m not here to review every trade but right out of the gate the train took a detour. After a slew of similar mind altering trades the promised land was again promised, or at least hoped for, but the wandering continued, worse than ever. With the drought going on in California at historic levels the desert never seemed so parched or disorienting.
The gunslinger had lost his first duel.
At the end of the first year the Taco Train was the butt of more snark than ever. Ownership was chagrined. Fans, the tribes, quit believing in the one train, the one true Padre in the Sky. Preller had got run off the court in his first pickup game and everyone figured he would have to wait his turn before getting back into the game. But gunslingers only sleep with one eye closed and the great ones always keep on shooting. Before anybody realized what was going on, the TT is back on track, full steam ahead.
Kimbrel was traded for a jackpot. Benoit, all 38 years old of him, was traded for a young live arm. Odrisamer Despaigne (Odrisamer Despaigne!!) was also traded for another young live arm (Jean Cosme) who started the All Star game in low Class A (he got bombed in that game, but still). Fernando Rodney was picked off the scrap heap, retooled, and traded for an even better arm. We stockpiled so many arms with high upside in the domestic draft that every member of the tribe could seemingly have their own personal favorite. A glimpse of Canaan could suddenly be spotted.
Then came the crème de la crème, the haul of young talent collected on the international market. A.J. had earned his gunslinger chops in the acquisition of foreign players for the Texas Rangers, not only learning Spanish but always on the road, headed for another joint. He stockpiled so many great young players for the Rangers that they are set for years. Wearing his San Diego sombrero he and his gaggle of scouts and downtrodden desperados met the bad men in the black hats in the center of the town square, pulled out their pistols and metaphorically shot ‘em down, every single one.
He grabbed four of the top eight players, eight of the top 28, and a whole slew more in the top 50 and beyond. Many of them were bats, potentially big bats. Yes, young and unproven but some certain to stick. Especially if the faithful quit praying to false gods and helping to continue the almost impossibly bad mojo the Padres have lived with since their inception (more on that another time).
Like Moses peering over Mount Nebo into the Promised Land for the first time, there is suddenly vision. The map has been laid. There is no longer any need to wander but merely linger, hover over what is to come next. We have followed the road less traveled like so many people in Exodus stories before us, and the destination is near. The TT has left and its goal is clear: manna from the baseball Gods, Doubleday Heaven, the World Series trophy and (dare we dream) dynasty, Team of the Twenties.
Sure, sure, I get ahead of myself. I am a mere storyteller, a myth maker, probably the worst kind to listen to. Yet I have kept the faith and I believe it is being rewarded. We Padre fans sit here 42-56 in 2016 and a good three years away from the fruits of our labors but for the first time there is a plan and the Taco Train is following it. The TT’s owners and their gunslinger – our gunslinger – will be protecting us every step of the way. Like I said in my last piece, come on board, we have every kind of taco one can imagine, from fish to chicken, vegetarian to beef. You can join anytime but the fun is in the ride along the way. Lastly, while the train is moving slow you don’t want to be too late for, as my friend put it, one day we will eat the whole enchilada and you don’t want it to be all gone before you get here.