The rise and fall of the 2000-2010 San Diego Padres
After the 2006 season, the Padres sent Josh Barfield to the Indians in exchange for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. He would play a big part in why the Padres won 89 games in 2007, with 18 home runs and a 110 OPS+. The Nevada alum eventually endeared himself to Padres fans as they chanted “Kooz” when he came up to bat. He put together three solid seasons in San Diego, totaling 59 home runs, a 103 OPS+, and 5.4 total WAR.
The Friars added to the bullpen ahead of the 2007 season by trading for a reliever named Heath Bell. He became the setup man for Hoffman early in his Padres career and was the heir-apparent for Hoffman once he left for Milwaukee.
The Oceanside-born right-hander did not disappoint once he took over the closer role in 2009, leading the National League with 42 saves and earning the first of three All-Star bids. He eventually became the Padres’ best closer not named Trevor Hoffman, racking up 134 saves over five seasons. His 2010 campaign is one of the best by a Padres reliever, with a 1.93 ERA and 47 saves in 67 games.
Like the Piazza signing before the 2006 season, the Friars brought in another aging legend before the 2007 campaign, this time on the mound. Greg Maddux came to town with eight All-Star selections, four Cy Young awards, and 16 Gold Gloves to his name. Although he was not his Hall of Fame self in San Diego, then at 41 years old, he still put together a respectable season with 14 wins, a 4.14 ERA and 2.6 WAR, helping the Padres nearly make the playoffs.
Amid the winning season of 2007, the Friars made several moves to improve the team. Although he was a controversial figure, Milton Bradley gave a much-needed boost to the Padres offense when they acquired him from Oakland in June. He spent just 42 games with the Padres but hit .313 with a 1.004 OPS and 168 OPS+.
The Padres decided to deal reliable reliever Scott Linebrink to the Brewers in exchange for a few players, one being fellow reliever Joe Thatcher. It paid dividends for San Diego as Thatcher pitched parts of seven seasons with the Friars, boasting a 3.18 ERA and 118 ERA+ from 2007 to 2013.
Needing another bat to boost into contention, the Friars traded for Diamondbacks outfielder Scott Hairston. He made an immediate impact on the 2007 club, with a .981 OPS in 31 games.
The Arizona native eventually played four seasons in San Diego, contributing with a solid glove and a clutch bench bat, totaling 6.8 WAR in just over 300 games in San Diego after returning via another trade before the 2010 season.
The Padres were once again fueled by a hot May, going 18-9 and finishing the first half at 49-38. Famously, the season ended in a dead tie with the upstart Colorado Rockies for the Wild Card spot, and it caused an extra play-in game for the playoff spot, hosted by the Rockies. The game lasted 13 innings and saw the Friars with an 8-6 lead in the top of the 13th and Trevor Hoffman on to close it out and seal the postseason spot.
The Rockies rallied in the bottom of the 13th and tied the game at eight thanks to a Matt Holliday triple. Jamey Carroll hit a fly ball deep enough for Holliday to try and score from third, and the umpire ruled that he was safe, despite the fact that Holliday touching home plate is debatable at best.
Be that as it may, the Padres lost a chance at a third straight playoff appearance.
One of the initial “falls” of this era of Padres baseball was the deal that sent prospect David Freese to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for aging slugger Jim Edmonds. Edmonds had put together a fine career, with four All-Star bids, eight Gold Gloves, and over 350 career home runs. However, his stay in San Diego was brief and disappointing, as he hit a measly .178 in just 26 games. Meanwhile, Freese became an everyday player for the Cardinals and turned into one of the most famous playoff heroes in recent memory with his clutch performance during the 2011 postseason, earning himself NLCS and World Series MVP.
Freese continues to play to this day and was an All-Star in 2012. It’s difficult to think about what could have been had the Padres not made that trade.
Another painful “what if” scenario was the signing of Mark Prior, former pitcher for the Cubs. He took the league by storm in 2002 as a rookie and finished third in Cy Young voting in 2003 with a whopping 179 ERA+ in 30 starts. He was notoriously injury prone and never got healthy with the Padres, never throwing a regular-season pitch.
Jody Gerut was a welcome signing for this squad, as he hit .296 with a solid 133 OPS+ in 100 games in 2008. He was dealt in 2009 for Tony Gwynn Jr., which provided mixed feelings for fans who enjoyed watching Gerut play but also brought San Diego sports royalty in the son of Mr. Padre to San Diego.
Tony Gwynn Jr. played an excellent outfield defense and played a useful role in his two seasons in San Diego, with 5.1 WAR.
The 2008 Padres bottomed out, going 63-99 after two division titles and a narrow miss of another playoff spot. The departure of Cameron before 2008 hurt the outfield defense and thump in the lineup. Hoffman had a very uncharacteristic season, with just a 101 ERA+ and 3.77 ERA. This led to the Padres letting Hoffman walk after the season, much to the dismay of Friars fans.
What hurts the most about Hoffman’s departure is that they had to watch him not only put together another All-Star season with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009. He also reached the highest height of any closer in history, as he notched career save number 600 in 2010 in a Brewers uniform, a number that had never been touched to that point in baseball history.
After that disappointing season, the Padres made another unpopular move by trading shortstop Khalil Greene instead of trying to help him through some mental trials he was facing. Greene was just two seasons removed from a 3.5 WAR-season. The Friars entered shortstop purgatory (spelled by a brief stable career by Everth Cabrera) until the arrival of Fernando Tatis Jr. 11 years later.
However, it was not all doom-and-gloom for the Padres after that crushing play-in game loss to the Rockies, followed by a massively disappointing season in 2008. 2009 brought a new hope, which was aided by the signing of former World Series MVP David Eckstein.
At 5-foot-6, 170 pounds, Eckstein was small in stature but mighty in his approach to the game. He immediately endeared himself to Friars fans with his tough at-bats and skillful fielding. In two seasons for the Padres, Eckstein batted .263 with 2.4 WAR. He was a big part of the lineup in 2010 that got the Padres to 90 wins.
However, another hit came to the franchise when they dealt their former Cy Young hurler Jake Peavy to the White Sox at the July deadline. Painfully for Padres fans, Peavy would go on to pitch seven more seasons, earning another All-Star bid in 2012 with a 3.37 ERA in 219 innings.
He eventually won not one, but two World Series titles, one being with the hated San Francisco Giants in 2014. The Friars sure could have used him as an extra boost to finish the job and make the playoffs in 2010.
The 2009 Padres improved off of the horrific season of the year before and won 75 games.
Even though this season began a new decade, it was the last good year of the 2000s era Padres.
This version of the Friars were very entertaining, coming out of nowhere to be in contention for the N.L. West crown all season long. The team burst out of the gates to a 51-37 record heading into the All-Star break and in first place in the division.
Former MVP and six-time All-Star Miguel Tejada arrived with the team to give a spark at shortstop, and he put together a respectable 1.2 WAR and 104 OPS+ in 59 games. He provided some life to the team that started to fade as summer heated up.
Needing to make another addition before the deadline, the Padres swung what is now a very lopsided trade that also contributed to the demise of that era of Padres baseball. They traded pitching prospect Corey Kluber in exchange for Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
On the surface, the move made sense- Ludwick was just two seasons removed from an All-Star and Silver Slugger campaign in 2008. He had a 125 OPS+ through three seasons with the Cardinals before 2010.
However, Ludwick cratered with the Padres and completely broke down, helping contribute to the Padres limping to the finish line with a 12-16 record in September. He batted .211 down the stretch with a punch-less .631 OPS in 59 games.
In 2011, his struggles continued and was promptly released by the Padres during that season.
Meanwhile, Kluber developed into one of the best right-handed starting pitchers in the game. He won a Cy Young in 2014 with the Indians, with a 2.44 ERA in over 235 innings and 269 strikeouts. In 2017, he won a second Cy Young award with a major league-best 2.25 ERA and five complete games with a league-best 202 ERA+. The Texas native has been selected to three All-Star games to date.
The Padres lost steam as summer heated up, and the San Francisco Giants began to surge behind them. The Padres entered the last game of the season down by one game to the Giants, whom they were playing with a chance to tie. However, they lost the game and the division, ending their postseason hopes.
After the 2010 season, the final blow of the franchise’s solid run came when the team opted to deal hometown star Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox, leaving a massive crater at first base after his three straight All-Star appearances and two Gold Gloves.
This deal is doubly painful as it merited future All-Star Anthony Rizzo from Boston, who was then shipped in 2012 to the Cubs, where he would go on to three All-Star selections, three Gold Gloves and a World Series title.
After that, most of the main players for that exciting run from 2005 to 2007 had gone, replaced via trade or let go in free agency. A lot of pieces the Padres got rid of became or continued to be All-Stars and heroes for their respective teams.
Meanwhile, the Padres are yet to have another winning season after that 90-72 campaign of 2010.
There were some memorable moments with exciting players throughout the 2000s for the Padres, which included those two division titles and nearly a third postseason run. Every franchise has its ebbs and flows, rebuilds, and contention years.
Here’s hoping the Padres are entering another era of contention in 2020 and beyond.
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.
It’s a shame Padres didn’t want to pay Adrian Gonzales. We had him and let him go. He could of been the padres all time best payer.
Nice recap of the Padres over those years. Brought back forgotten memories. Many fun and exciting years provided by our Pads to go with all the frustrations.