What went wrong with the Padres in 2021?

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After a hot start, the San Diego Padres are certainly struggling and all but done with the season. But what went wrong with the team in 2021 in a time that seemed so positive? 

At one point during the 2021 season, the San Diego Padres sat 17 games above .500 in the standings. It was early August, and the Friars seemed to be a lock for the playoffs.

Currently, the team is three games above .500 and battling it out for the last playoff spot. There are three teams ahead of them for the remaining NL Wild Card position. Quite frankly, things do not look favorable for them achieving that goal either. The remaining schedule is demanding, and it would take a miracle for the Padres to play in the postseason.

But what went wrong with this team?

How did a team that seemed destined for success fall flat on its face?

There is no swag in San Diego any longer. That is the most concerning thing for the Padres right now. For the first four to five months of the season, the Padres had fun and provided joy to baseball fans everywhere. The team smiled, laughed, and joked while playing the game, and no deficit seemed insurmountable. Brand new fans of the San Diego Padres were created, coming out of the woodwork as the franchise stepped into the national spotlight.

In recent weeks, playing baseball has looked like an absolute chore for the San Diego Padres. Their plunge in the standings indicates this fact. The game of baseball is a grind. There is no doubt about that. Some factors can influence the chemistry of a ball squad. For whatever reason, this team does not have the same pep to their step that they once had. There is no joy in San Diego.

Some want to point fingers at Jayce Tingler. At the same time, others display anger towards the general manager of the team. A.J. Preller did well to construct this roster, but it is really strange why the team has failed in the last few months. There is no fight in this team currently. No desire. They are just going through the motions. It’s painful to see.

But, why? What went wrong with the Padres? Why aren’t they having fun?

Injuries have been a significant factor for this team. There is no debating that.

Padres Eric Hosmer
Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Virtually every pitcher in the starting rotation has succumbed to injury. Joe Musgrove is the only pitcher to make his start each fifth day in 2021. Dinelson Lamet and Adrian Morejon were lost almost immediately as the season began. Yu Darvish and Blake Snell both battled inconsistency, and each has endured nagging injuries in 2021. Austin Nola, Drew Pomeranz, Fernando Tatis Jr., Trent Grisham, and Jake Cronenworth have missed time due to an injury as well.

You can point the finger at injuries, but there seems to be more to this story.

The clubhouse seems to be in disorder, and that came to be around the trade deadline. During this time, there were whispers that the Padres were attempting to trade Eric Hosmer. Not only did they want to trade their first baseman, but also eat a lot of his contract to rid themselves of Hosmer. There were even talks of including Robert Hassell III in a deal with Hosmer to expedite the situation.

For Eric Hosmer, these rumors got back to him. In an on-field interview with Jeff Sanders of the Union-Tribune and other media members in late July, Hosmer was asked about these rumors. His response was to snap at Sanders and leave the field immediately. Here is the video of the interaction.

The Padres were 58-44 at that point and in cruise control. Their odds of making the playoffs were around 90 percent.

Since that July day, the team has gone 18-29 and totally collapsed. Could these rumors be the root of the problem?

Playing the game of baseball is difficult. It is nearly impossible to play well and perform if you do not have the correct frame of mind. In my opinion, the clubhouse was affected deeply by this as their sense of job security was ruined. If a player like Hosmer can be dealt, then essentially anyone is tradeable. The Padres were displeased that these rumors came out. Unfortunately, the modern era of sports journalism is about getting the scoop first. Sources are out there, and virtually any deal that is in serious negotiations is rumored beforehand.

Rumors are just that. Players do need to ignore these things. However, they are human. When a team is playing well, it is probably wise not to rock the boat. I can certainly understand wanting an upgrade at first base, but sometimes you just need to let it ride with the players you have on your roster. The Padres are in a bad place right now. The season is not over, but it feels that way.

The damage has been done. It seems far too late to fix the damage. It will likely take an offseason and a few changes to the roster to reach their goal potentially. For now, all Padres fans can do is wonder what happened to this once-promising team.

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