Here in beautiful San Diego California we have the sun, the surf, and all that comes with living in this paradise we call home. The city is commonly referred to as “America’s Finest City” and that is a fact. Living here year-around is an absolute joy despite the high cost of living, traffic jams and the occasional earthquake. The city itself is full of diversity, and prides itself on being laid-back and drama-free.
That might very well be true, but the injustice of its sports teams and the drama it has created grip the fan base. The frustration that not one of the major sports franchises have ever won a championship eats away at the very soul of its fan base. The Clippers, Chargers and Padres have provided fans with great moments from time to time over the years, but yet they have been mostly unsuccessful franchises.
The worst part is not necessarily the fact the teams have not won, either. The horrible reality is that the fans of San Diego have had to endure horrible ownership its entire time. With the exception of Ray Kroc and his wife Joan, the city of San Diego has had nothing but capitalistic owners with nothing but greed in mind while running their teams. Professional sports are a business, I get that. There is no way to sugar-coat it. However there are very few businesses where you can treat your customers like crap and they eagerly come back for more. Some SD sports fans have washed their hands of professional sports. I commend them for their integrity and hopefully in time they can be won back as fans. Others are at the mercy of the ownership because their pride for the city outweighs all. These fans refuse to root for the rival teams because they are San Diegans and even though they have had nothing but disappointment, the Chargers and Padres represent the city.
The Chargers currently want a new stadium. They have for a long time. Anyone who has been to Qualcomm recently will agree that the stadium is an absolute mess. It’s a dump, quite frankly. The city of San Diego has dragged their feet on getting anything suitable done. That has resulted in a horrible relationship which we still have today. The Chargers shouldn’t be so snippy though. The city granted them their expansion of Qualcomm stadium after a successful 1994 season in which the team made it to the Super Bowl (losing to the 49ers). That expansion, which sealed the stadium and increased the venue size to over 70,000 seats also sealed the fate of the Padres leaving Mission Valley for the Downtown area. That in itself was a difficult task, as people like Bruce Henderson, who lacks any vision, held up construction numerous times. In the end Petco Park was constructed, and nobody can argue the fact it was an excellent thing for downtown. The Chargers proposed stadium should further renovate a dilapidated area of East Village and increase tourism in and around the area for years to come.
The recent Joey Bosa situation reminded us all that the Chargers are an organization that constantly has drama surrounding it. Whether its Vincent Jackson holding out or the treatment or Junior Seau in his last few seasons, the Chargers have constantly been in the headlines for the wrong reasons. There have been different general managers at the helm during these PR nightmares, but one thing has been common. The ownership and their unwillingness to back down on any issues. There is no consideration for what is better for the team, instead they just prefer to flex their muscle whenever possible. The Bosa situation should have been resolved long before it was. In reality, it was pennies that held up this contract when you are talking about a billionaires wallet. But no, the team chose to pay hardball with their #1 pick in the most vital season on the franchises history. The impending vote is huge and once again the Chargers go into the season burning bridges with their fans. Some things never change.
The Padres on the outside look to be headed in the correct direction but there are rumblings that internally the franchise has issues. The baseball operations department took a major hit this week as A.J. Preller was suspended 30 days without pay for withholding and falsifying medical records essentially. A black eye on the organization, and not exactly what you want to see if you are a SD sports fan. Sure most teams probably to some degree do exactly what Preller did, but he had three different teams (Red Sox, White Sox, Marlins) reportedly complain about medical records. Major League Baseball had no choice but to punish him. Preller rectified the Marlins issue with Colin Rea by re-acquiring him in exchange for young fireball pitcher Luis Castillo (who the Padres coveted highly). The White Sox complaint seems mysterious though, as James Shields has made every start for them. His effectiveness is one thing, but he WAS able to pitch. In fact Erik Johnson went down with an elbow injury, so shouldn’t the Padres be the ones who are upset? Perhaps his elbow issue made the White Sox complaints moot. In this day and age of the modern game, most teams should probably do their own homework on a player. At one point in time of the game of baseball, a player was actually even called in for a physical before being acquired.
Learning of these complaints and the punishment handed out by MLB only further horrifies a fan base that has continuous hardships handed to them. The Chargers and Padres are linked together no matter if they accept that fact or not. Their issues and problems are almost mirror images of each other. Both teams have made it to their final goal only to lose to some of the best teams in sports history. The 1984 Tigers and 1998 Yankees both go down as two of the top-10 teams in the history of baseball. It is no matter that the Padres were overmatched in both series. The Chargers on the other hand were easily outplayed by the 1994 San Francisco 49ers who were essentially an all-star team. Sorry for bringing up painful memories, but these Bosa and Preller issues are the latest chapter in the city of San Diego’s sports misery.
There seems to be hope on the horizon though. The Padres have a young talented team and are just about to showcase their future. Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Carlos Asuaje made their major league debuts on Wednesday and Austin Hedges is also up with the team. This group is just the first wave of what should be continuous young talent arriving at the major league level. Despite Preller and his apparent wrong doings, the framework for success has already been laid out and the Padres will move forward full steam with or without him at the helm. Of course he is vital for further growth down the road, but the team is already set up for success with what they currently have in their system.
The Chargers are another thing. There is a huge amount of turmoil regarding the future of the team in the city. This November’s vote will be huge for the future of the team in the city that has hosted it since the NFL’s inception. Early returns on the vote do not look favorable and a lot of that has to do with the fact the team’s owner Dean Spanos has refused to admit to any wrong doing. He burned many bridges within the community and it is tough to see him ever doing anything about it. If the Chargers new stadium is approved and gets done, the two franchises will be set for success in the East Village area. That immediate area will be incredible to visit and it would be no surprise to see each team earn success on the field as they no longer have to deal with turmoil. Drama has been a constant theme. Not that professional sports teams don’t have their share of drama, but when you have had no success it looks foolish being teams in constant flux.
The Collegiate sports programs in the area are also on the rise. The San Diego State Aztecs football team is currently ranked 22nd in the nation and the basketball program is also a top-30 team. Both have taken the notorious party school into collegiate sports relevancy. The USD baseball team too has been extremely successful in recent memory, producing major league talent like Kris Bryant. The city of San Diego and their sports teams appear to be on the rise. It’s a shame that situations like the Joey Bosa contract holdout and the A.J. Preller suspension push their way to the national spotlight instead of the positive things about each franchise. The Padres are young and exciting to watch, while the Chargers have been entertaining with Philip Rivers leading the way for over a decade. SDSU and USD are growing athletic programs and there is even talk of an MLS team possibly calling San Diego home eventually. Once the success of these teams takes place, all the Bears, Giants and Mets fans of the city can finally put away their adopted teams hats and pick up a Chargers or Padres lid. That will not happen until the drama stops and each franchise focuses on the task at hand. Being a respected, successful professional sports program. Until then we will endure more Jerry Springer moments in the near future that will lead the teams further away from their ultimate goal.