The San Diego Padres traded for Wil Myers ahead of the 2015 season and couldn’t have imagined what the next five years would look like.
Hercules. Simba. The Beast. Anakin Skywalker. All of these Disney characters found themselves down and out, even despised, only to find their inner strength when needed most and come through in the end.
The Padres seem to benefit from trades involving James Shields.
Myers struggled in 2014 with the cliché “sophomore slump,” hitting .222. Newly minted general manager A.J. Preller saw the immense potential in Myers that winter and swung a trade for the tall righty that involved three teams, including the Padres sending Trea Turner to the Washington Nationals. This was part of the shopping spree in Preller’s first offseason at the helm.
The other pieces failed and left. Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and James Shields all had underwhelming Padres’ careers, even brief ones before leaving. Despite an injury-ridden 2015 campaign, Myers stayed.
In 2016, it seemed like he was finally regaining his Rookie of the Year form. The Padres were hosting the All-Star Game, and Myers got off to a hot start, hitting .286 with 19 home runs before the All-Star break, earning himself a chance to be an ambassador at the Mid-Summer Classic for the host team and participate in the Home Run Derby. After his moment in the sun, he tapered off the second half to a .223 average, and the Padres floundered as a team once again, eventually losing 94 games.
After his All-Star campaign and ahead of the 2017 season, the Padres and Myers agreed on a contract extension for six years, $83 million. His yearly salary jumped from $5.5 million from years 2017-2019 to $22.5 million in….2020. This was a sign that he was expected to be a leader and the best hitter on the team for years to come.
In 2017, he battled to validate that contract and hit a career-high 30 home runs. However, the team still lost more than they won, and his contract was becoming a topic of discussion heading into 2018. For the next two seasons, Myers was mired in mediocrity at best. In those two seasons, he hit .245 with a very average 102 OPS+ with 1.8 total WAR. Things bottomed out in 2019 when he hit .239.
The Padres have also asked him to play five different defensive positions throughout his time in San Diego, which would make it hard for any player to find a groove.
Fans began wringing their hands about his looming big contract numbers. It seemed at multiple times, Myers was on the brink of being traded. In 2018, he was caught on audio while playing video games complaining about former manager Andy Green, which further put him in the doghouse in the organization and with most fans. His appearance is usually that of disinterest and complacency, even if there is a fire burning hot underneath.
Whether it was his comments on North Carolina Mexican food, his unkept appearance, his lack of pizazz at the plate, fans turned on Myers quickly and turned hard after the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Fans were desperate to include him in any trade to dump his salary. Then 2020 started.
All of a sudden, Myers was the fourth or fifth-best hitter in the lineup. The weight of being the leader and face of the franchise was long off of Myers’ shoulders. 2020 came with expectations for the Padres as a team, and Myers was perhaps on his last leg. From the first series of the 2020 season, it was clear Myers had a different mentality and approach at the plate. Whether it was a new manager, as Jayce Tingler never moved him around the diamond-like Andy Green did, or just a change in approach. Myers hit .302 in August with a .960 OPS. He also participated in the Slam Diego frenzy, hitting a grand slam in Texas, the second in a string of four straight games with a slam for San Diego.
A telling stat of how Myers’ season and frankly, career has turned around this year is his hitting with runners in scoring position. With runners in scoring position, he is hitting .357 with a whopping 1.267 OPS. He has come to bat with the bases loaded six times this year and is hitting an unreal .667, going 4-for-6 with two grand slams.
With the regular season in the rearview mirror, Myers’ numbers declare this his best season of his career. His slugging percentage (.606), OPS (.959), and OPS+ (159) are all far and away the best of his eight-year career.
It all came to a head in Thursday night’s do-or-die playoff game at Petco Park. The Padres had their backs against the wall, facing elimination at the hands of the same team who prematurely ended playoff runs for San Diego in 1996, 2005, and 2006. The only thing that stood between the Padres and oblivion was Fernando Tatis Jr...and Wil Myers.
First, some people forget that Myers got the scoring started in Game 2. With the squad trailing 4-0, Myers lined a ground ball to third base, and only a fantastic play from Tommy Edman prevented it from being an even bigger play. A run scored, and Myers beat out the double play attempt, and the lead was cut to three for St. Louis. The Padres would score one more to cut the deficit in half before the inning ended.
Then in the seventh, just after Tatis and Manny Machado went back-to-back to tie the game at 6, Myers led off with a line shot home run down the left-field line, giving San Diego its first lead of the entire playoff series and capping the dramatic comeback. However, the drama was far from over. Tatis launched yet another home run to make it 9-6 in favor of the Friars, but some suspect pitching and defense allowed the Cardinals to come back, and they cut the Padres lead to one at 9-8 heading into the bottom of the eighth. After a Jurickson Profar single, Myers came up with two outs and San Diego desperately needing an insurance run or two. Myers sent a ball sizzling into center field, boosting the Padres’ lead to 11-8.
It was more than a baseball that Myers sent over the wall. It was history, as he and Tatis became just the second set of teammates in MLB history to each have a multi-homer game in the playoffs, the other two? Some dudes named Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Not only that, but it capped off Myers’ redemption story. The heroic music played (if not in our heads) as he rounded the bases for his second home run and is a gigantic reason why the Padres play a winner-take-all game for the first time since 1984. After all the trash throw Myers’ way by friends and foes alike, he now has his moment in the sun.