Early in the 2016 Padre season Wil Myers hit a home run v. the Phillies but was not in the lineup the next day. Manager Andy Green was asked about this in his pre-game news conference and responded it was just a day off to keep Myers fresh in what was the beginning of a long year and to get some other players at bats.
One of the media members persisted, informing Green the last Padre manager of note, Bud Black, instituted a policy that if you hit a home run in one game you were guaranteed to start in the next.
Green stared at the reporter with incredulity. He had the utmost respect for Black and knew when he’d managed in San Diego he often didn’t have much to work with. Still, this bit of news defied all logic and went against Green’s strategic core. He informed the reporter he was sure Black had good reasons for implementing such a policy but he himself would not be operating under any such rule.
Andy Green is nobody’s fool.
Before we get to that, let’s step back for a minute. I admit my mind tends towards the symbolic and at times I succumb to the poetic when it is the pragmatic which is most at play. However, sometimes life is simply too poignant in the manner it tells its own story. The Padres were managed from 2007 through midway 2015 by a manager named Black, and lo and behold it was as if a particularly dark and black cloud hung over the franchise for that entire time. To wit:
In Black’s first year as manager we lost out on a wild card spot in the playoffs when our beloved Trevor Hoffman, a potential Hall of Fame closer, blew not one but two games back to back to finish the year. There’s so much to tell about this story. To prove the Great Padre in the Sky felt particular wrath against the Padres and its fan base at this time in our existence, the manner of how Hoffman lost those games must be mentioned.
In Milwaukee in the last game of the regular season the Padres led by one in the bottom of the ninth. Two outs, Hoffman on the mound, two runners in scoring position, one out away from the playoffs. Tony Gwynn, Jr., son of Mr. Padre himself, Tony Gwynn, at the plate. Tony Gwynn, Jr., ironically enough, was one of the worst hitters in all of baseball, despite the pedigree. What happens? He laces a clean single to right bringing in the two deciding, backbreaking runs.
Think about that for a second. The son of the greatest Padre of all time – this or any other time – a terrible hitter by any measure, against one of the two greatest closers in the history of the game, at the last possible moment of the 2007 season breaks the Padres’ and every one of their fans’ hearts with a single out of the ordinary poke of his stick. We haven’t been in the playoffs since. Score one for the Curse of Preston Gomez.
This forced a play-in game the next day with the Rockies, who we tied with in the regular season due to the loss to the Brewers. Again, Hoffman on the mound in the bottom of the 9th. This time in a tie game Matt Holiday comes barreling around the bases and there’s an excruciatingly close play at the plate. The dust settles, a moment’s pause from the ump where all animation becomes suspended. “Safe!”, the ump finally calls, Rockies win, they move on into the playoffs and ultimately the World Series (though they lost to the Red Sox).
Wait, Padre fans want to scream, replays clearly showed Holiday never touched home plate. He was out, the game should have gone into extra innings. Of course, this is the Padres we are talking about and at the time umpire calls could not be challenged or overruled. There is nothing anybody can do – no protest, no do over, no nothing. Hoffman blows another one, Padres get screwed again.
Even by Padre standards, a horrible 24 hours.
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