Then came a new twist, a new dance, the Hosmer Dance. (Watch me, I’m doing the Hosmer Dance as I speak.) Eric Hosmer was rumored to be on the Padres’ radar via free agency. Again, what? We already had a big money first baseman, Wil Myers. Not only that, we weren’t ready to throw money around. We’d be ready in 2019 at the earliest. Why throw money around now? This would send the Taco Train off the rails, akin to taking the engine out of the shop before the repairs were complete.
Plus, it was argued Hosmer, despite being recognized as a quality player, was too inconsistent, both offensively and defensively, didn’t hit for enough power for his position, and what’s worse, was represented by Scott Boras, Padre enemy number one when it came to agents and contract negotiations. Critics had a field day mocking and openly ridiculing the Hosmer Dance (do you see me dancing?) as it proceeded apace.
Then, suddenly, for better or for worse, he was ours. The Hosmer Dance had tangoed its way to San Diego. The Kansas City square dance around the bases, the rock and roll pelvic shimmy, the hip-hop hop and hip, had come to town. Time was now.
I’m in a chat group of fellow like-minded Padre fans, and as the dance was going on, I was asked what the difference was between signing and not signing Hosmer. I said without Hosmer we win 77 and remain far off from relevance. With him, I blathered half-cocked, we win 84, are on the edge of the wild card race and get our own little slice of heaven here in the promised land that is San Diego.
Ignoring me and my references to heaven on earth, my comrade asked – rightfully intensely skeptical – Hosmer is a seven WAR player? (Basically, the incomparable Mike Trout is the only consistent seven WAR player in the game.) I responded screw WAR, forget about WAR, WAR is based on old paradigms. Hosmer on the Padres makes everybody better around him and brings peace to the land. A good culture – no, an exceptional culture – led by future manager of the year, Andy Green, with Hosmer as point man in the clubhouse, can bring out the best in everyone. Potentially, anyway. I’ve played on many teams with an average, if not bad, culture. We never lived up to our potential. Hosmer isn’t a seven WAR player, he’s a seven PEACE player. Give it up for 2018, once again.
The only problem with my prediction (well, no doubt there are potentially many problems) is we play in the toughest division in all of baseball, bar none. 84 wins will be tough to attain for any team in the division not named the Los Angeles Dodgers. With our pitching staff, we may end up winning 64. Or fewer. Still, as it always has been, heaven on earth is an appealing promise. As I like to say in my most appealing moments: long live heaven on earth and keep it real on the other side.
My main worry is signing someone from the outside and expecting them to be a leader of, essentially, strangers. Much less THE leader. That’s tricky. Early indications are it is going well – Wil Myers seems genuinely relieved and enthusiastic that Hosmer was already taking over duties which Myers admitted he was unprepared and ill-equipped for last year. However, only time will tell.
Still, y’all ready for the Hosmer Dance? Grab your partner and put your dancing shoes on. It’s time to dance.
Which leads us squarely into 2018. My fellow EVT contributor, Tim Spivey, who I believe takes these things more personally than I do and is without a doubt more realistic than I am, labeled this team, after all these sad, strange, moribund years, exceedingly “interesting” and basically “must watch”. Tim usually thinks the Padres are total crap and not worth a nickel of your money.
The national media has taken notice as well. After what seemed like a decade-long moratorium on all-things Padres, with nary a word spoken about us unless in derision or to mock (who could really blame them?), San Diego is suddenly hot. There was the Galvis trade, of course the Hosmer Dance, don’t forget the Brad Hand extension, and finally more good news yet for the organization above and beyond 2018. The Padres were judged to have the number one farm system in all of baseball which, next to a World Series ring, currently is the most desirable thing in all of baseball. For many in the industry, farm systems are more important than the major league product itself! Anyone following the team the last few years knew our farm system was strong, but numero uno? This is huge. The Padres are deemed the best at something everybody in the league yearns to be best at: prospects! We have more legitimate big-time prospects than our President has sexual harassment accusers. Real news!!
In fact, we have so many prospects we traded away one of them for a shortstop with one year left on his contract and we didn’t trade our best reliever to acquire more, and we STILL have the number one rated farm system in baseball. We got prospects.
2018 has prospects too. Franchy Cordero, our 10th rated prospect (10th as in there are allegedly nine better), has a good chance to break camp with the big club. If you saw Franchy play last year when he was called up for about a month to plug a hole due to injury, and you were paying attention, you realized Franchy, BY FAR (in my opinion), has the most natural talent on the team. More than Wil Myers, more than Manuel Margot, more than the ghost of Tony Gwynn which lives in Petco and in all our brown and gold hearts, more than anyone. He had one flaw: he struck out too much. Not just a little. A lot. He was sent down to triple-A for more seasoning, and boy did he get it, destroying triple-A pitching, before topping it off by being named the Dominican Winter League MVP, no small feat. The Padres are sitting on a goldmine in Cordero. It will be fascinating to see if Franchy can cut down on his strikeouts in 2018 and start to realize his potential. With him, the sky literally is the limit. (Did I mention, he is only our tenth rated prospect?)
Anyway, I could go on. Adding to all this exciting news coming out of the off-season, the Padres hired Dave Cameron, founder and editor of the sabermetrics gospel rag, Fangraphs, for the last half decade must reading for every single member of every front office, essentially giving him the opportunity to build his own department within the organization, come up with his own theories and analysis, and do whatever he can to make the Padres a winner. You’re kidding, right? The Padres hired Dave Cameron? Adding Dave Cameron to your front office is a little like adding Albert Einstein to your staff of scientists and directing him to do a little “research.” Whole new universes could emerge. Entire new civilizations could be born. It’s unclear how much power Cameron will have, but Preller & Co. wouldn’t have brought him in if they weren’t going to listen to him, and in a game of inches like baseball where EVERYONE is looking for an edge, having Cameron on the team gives the Padres one more leg up.
I write this in a fevered dream-like state, having just dreamt I hugged Jerry Coleman as if our lives depended on it, having come off a Padre off-season which has been like a dream. Will I wake up? Will you? Will the Padres? Who wants to wake up from a beautiful dream? The only downer – and it is a huge downer – was the sudden death of Dick Enberg, another longtime voice of the Padres, and maybe more importantly, the voice of many and varied national sports and a towering native son of San Diego. Only the good die young and despite being 82, Enberg remained eternally young in heart and mind, and it is truly a great loss. It breaks my heart that some of the greatest of all the Padres family – Coleman, Gwynn, Enberg – will not be around to see the Taco Train pull into the championship station one day soon.
Still, this 2018 team, at minimum, will be interesting, as Spivey put it. They are suddenly worth paying attention to, as the national media will ascribe. (Piss on the national media, I say, for the most part vultures looking for carcasses rather than canvasses.) But dreamlike? The Taco Train has picked up steam this off-season, gathering passengers, smoking down the tracks (Dylan reference). After so many years, the Padres are no longer falling down on the job as I had accused Jerry in my dream. After so many years of cheapness, incompetency, outright disregard, and sheer inanity, they finally appear to be “true” to the cause. The train conductor says we can reach our destination. It may still be a way away, but we will reach it, the wheels have been set in motion.
So, hug the one you love the most and reconcile with the one you love the least. Heaven on earth depends on it.
As do you. Come dance with me to the Hosmer Dance. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you and I had prospects.