DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article do not represent the opinions of, well, anyone, but let’s dive into how the impossible could be possible anyway.
The greatest thing about sports is the relative uncertainty going into any new season. Everyone is 0-0 again. Every single team is in the hunt. Every team is at full strength and every squad is ready to battle it out for the chance of playing for a World Series title.
It is silly to assume that any team is a non-contender before the season even starts. All one has to do is look back into sports history and relive some of the greatest underdog stories.
The most recent and most amazing underdog that comes to mind is Leicester City in 2015-2016. Their odds of winning the Premier League were 5,000-1 before the season began. Anyone crazy enough to bet on them with those odds was likely checked into a mental institution by their friends the following day.
That crazy bloke who did bet on Leicester City is now a millionaire.
Traveling even further back in history, one will find the amazing story of the 1969 New York Mets. In 1967 they had suffered a brutal year, losing 101 games. Two years later they found themselves nearly flipping that record and winning 100 games. As is the theme of this piece, they were major underdogs against the Orioles in the World Series, who touted three future Hall of Famers. Somehow, someway, the Mets were able to complete their miracle season with a World Series title.
These instances are certainly rare, but they do happen occasionally. Do I honestly believe the Padres can win the World Series in 2018? Of course not. Do I think it is possible that they sneak into the playoffs somehow? It is possible. Let’s discuss.
Everything, and I mean absolutely everything, has to go the Padres way for them to find themselves in a NL Wild Card playoff game. First and foremost, none of their top tier players can end up on the DL for any significant period of time. The players I am referring to include; Wil Myers, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Austin Hedges, and Dinelson Lamet. It has flown under the radar of the national media, but the Padres have suffered their fair share of key injuries over the years. Not that it has mattered in recent seasons.
Second, the Padres need to have breakout years from a number of different players — specifically Hedges and Renfroe. Both of these young bucks have had their struggles at the plate, but they have also shown a lot of promise. If Myers and Margot are doing their job setting the table at the top of the lineup and Hedges and Renfroe find their stride in 2018, this offense could be sneaky dangerous.
On a similar note, the offense cannot slump all at once. The Padres have had atrocious offenses over the last five years, finding themselves in the cellar of nearly every team offensive category. Players are going to end up in offensive droughts, but it is imperative that this not act as an epidemic in the lineup. The saying goes, “hitting is contagious”, but the reciprocal is also true. Baseball is not fun when your team can’t score runs. On the bright side, the Padres have a fresh face in Matt Stairs to guide these young hitters in 2018. One can only hope he brings a new, unique philosophy to San Diego that resonates well.
The Padres are going to also need a ton of help from teams around the league and within their own division. As it stands right now, the Dodgers are the favorites to win the division. The Giants have reloaded their roster with some veterans, but it has yet to be seen if this strategy will yield positive results. The Rockies and D-Backs also had successful campaigns last year so the Padres would need for them to go through some weird, unlikely degression. Hey, it could happen.
Essentially, they need for the Dodgers to run away with the division while beating up on the Rockies, D-Backs, and Giants. They also have to pull their own weight to remain competitive in the wild card hunt. Taking a look back at three years worth of wild card winners, the average amount of wins between those 12 teams was ~90. Thus, the Padres would need to win 20 more games than they did this past year in order to have a chance.
Unlikely would be an understatement. Improbable is more appropriate. However, we do not have to go very far back to find another MLB team accomplish the improbable. Just last year the Minnesota Twins were able to secure a playoff berth after a season in which they lost 103 games. These things DO happen.
Finally, the Padres need some sort of catalyst to shine. I myself am still unsure what I mean by this, but with every miracle, there is always some factor that proves to be crucial but that nobody saw coming. Whether it is a player or particular game or a coach, something has to give. If I were to make a prediction, it would have to be a young pitcher the Padres bring up early in the season. Every year there is a team that brings up a player who immediately produces. It is about time that the Padres are that team.
There are a million other factors that need to bounce the Padres way for them to even have the slimmest of chances of making the playoffs. Nevertheless, we cannot count out our guys until the dust has settled halfway through the season. The players do not go into a new season with the mentality that they are going to lose 100 games (at least we hope they don’t). They go in wanting to win it all. In the famous words of Kevin Garnett, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”.
Yes, it would be crazy to place any sort of bets on the Padres this year. I highly advise against that. But the world of sports is crazy. Upsets happen. Underdogs win championships. Reigning dynasties fade and new dynasties are born. Crazier things have happened. Maybe it is our time to be struck by some divine power. Why not us?