Why Padres fans should still watch the 2021 MLB postseason

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sadly, the San Diego Padres will not participate in the 2021 postseason. However, there are still several reasons to tune in. 

Yes, all Padres fans are extremely disappointed with how the 2021 season ended for the Friars. Instead of building on last year’s postseason run, the team fell flat on their collective faces. Unfortunately, Padres fans are accustomed to watching the playoffs without seeing the “SD” logo in the bracket, as the Padres have made the playoffs just once in the last 15 seasons. Chances are, Padres fans are also baseball fans in general and will at least tune in for the big games on the playoff slate.

There are plenty of rooting (or booing?) interests for Padres fans this postseason. Look no further if you are wanting some ideas on who/what to watch for as the postseason kicks off Tuesday night.

Former Padres players

Several teams have former Friars contributing to their new team’s success. As we all know, Padres general manager A.J. Preller, for better or for worse, is a wheeler and dealer. This has created shrapnel of former Padres property strewn throughout baseball.

Hunter Renfroe has bounced around since being traded from the Padres following the 2019 season. After spending 2020 with the Rays and making it all the way to the World Series, he now suits up for the Boston Red Sox. Overall, Renfroe had a solid 2021 campaign in Boston, with 31 home runs and a 112 OPS+. He splits time in the outfield with Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez (who’s health is in question for the start of the playoffs). He likely will get a good chunk of at-bats if the Red Sox advance past the Yankees in the Wild Card Game on Tuesday.

Yes, it’s the Giants, but Alex Dickerson is not only a former Friar, but a hometown kid. Disclaimer- this is not me recommending you root for the Giants. However, it’s OK to root for the success of one of San Diego’s native sons, Giant or not. The Poway native hit 13 home runs in a reserve role for the NL West champs and will likely be a bench piece for the NLDS against either the Dodgers or Cardinals.

The Brewers have two former Friars thanks to the trade that sent Trent Grisham to San Diego. Padres fans should thank Milwaukee, by the way, as Grisham posted 5.7 bWAR in his first two seasons in San Diego, which is higher than Luis Urias and Eric Lauer combined for the Brew Crew. Urias had himself a solid season, with a whopping 23 home runs, after his previous career high was four. It’s clear some current Padres players are still very fond of “Wicho,” if you follow them on social media. He will likely be in the starting lineup for several of the NLDS matchups with the Atlanta Braves. Lauer made 24 appearances for Milwaukee and 20 starts. He finished strong in September with a 2.23 ERA in six starts down the stretch. If the series stretches on past three games, Lauer may get the chance to start a playoff game.

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays are another team with plenty of Padres flavor. In fact, if Padres fans are looking for a team to root for in this postseason, Tampa Bay might be it. Manuel Margot played outfield for the Padres from 2016 to 2019 and now roams the outfield in Tampa after being dealt for the services of Emilio Pagan. Like Renfroe, he played in last year’s Fall Classic for Tampa and will get another shot at it. He played in 125 games with a 2.8 bWAR this season. Catcher Francisco Mejia split time with All-Star Mike Zunino for the Rays. He played in 116 games over parts of three seasons for the Friars before being dealt to Tampa in the deal that sent Blake Snell to the Padres. He posted a solid 109 OPS+ in a limited role and will likely be the backup catcher for their postseason run. The crown jewel piece of that deal for Snell was right-hander Luis Patiño. After being a prized prospect in Preller’s system for several seasons, he finally got his shot to stick on a major league roster in 2021 for the Rays. He had his ups and downs, as he is not yet 22 years old, but allowed just one earned run in nine innings as a reliever. That is where the Rays may have him if he is on the ALDS roster.

Depending on how you feel about catcher Yasmani Grandal, the current White Sox catcher could make an impact. It has been seven years since he last suited up for the Friars, so this might be a non-starter. Craig Kimbrel is also a former Friar, from 2015, now on the South Side of Chicago. Former Friar or not, Kimbrel is entertaining to watch as one of the more dominant and eccentric relievers of the last decade.

Hate-watching the Dodgers and Giants

Let’s be honest. No Padres fan wants to watch the Dodgers or Giants hoist yet another Commissioner’s trophy. The two hated franchises have four titles in the last 12 seasons. The Dodgers are going for the repeat championship and that is something no Padres fan can bear to watch. Actively rooting against the two NL West rivals might entertain some San Diego fans.

Also, if you want to throw in the Houston Astros to your “booing” list, go on ahead. Let’s not forget they are still looking for their first clean title after their 2017 title was marred by scandal.

Easy players and teams to root for

Every year, there are several players or teams in the postseason that are just plain easy to root for. Either they are full of likable characters, aging legends looking for one last ride, or they have never won a title before.

Although he is with the Dodgers, Albert Pujols is nearly impossible to root against. We are watching a first-ballot Hall of Famer before our very eyes. Yes, he isn’t the three-time MVP he once was, but there is still some pop in that old bat. Is it wrong to root for him to hit a home run or two and still have the Dodgers crash and burn?

Nelson Cruz is along that same vein. An aging slugger who is extremely difficult to dislike. While he doesn’t have quite the same resume as Pujols, his numbers are still stellar for his age. Not counting the shortened 2020 season, he has hit at least 32 homers in seven straight seasons, all of which during his 30s. He turned 40 years old this year and swatted 32 homers between the Twins and Rays. The seven-time All-Star has 449 career home runs and is building a Hall of Fame argument of his own. He is one of the most significant sources of power for Tampa Bay. Plus, Cruz is still chasing that elusive first ring after his nightmare Game 6 of the 2011 World Series in the outfield. His misplay on a fly ball had the Rangers going from an out away from a title to watching the Cardinals storm back and take it from their grasp. Cruz needs redemption in the worst way.

Freddie Freeman is also very high on the “likable” scale. First of all, his own son prefers Fernando Tatis Jr. as a baseball player over his own father. The 2020 NL MVP carried the Braves when Ronald Acuña Jr. went down with a devastating injury.

Tim Anderson is a stud at shortstop for the White Sox and has the flair and personality that rivals San Diego’s own flashy shortstop. He’s capable of a big homer in a big moment and he will unleash a memorable celebration to boot.

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As mentioned, the Rays are perhaps the easiest team to root for if you are a Padres fan. They have the most former Friars on the roster, they lost to the Dodgers in the World Series last year, and they continually frustrate the two most hated teams in baseball in their own division- the Yankees and Red Sox. The AL East champs are still looking for their first World Series title after losing last year’s series as well as their initial chance in 2008 against the Phillies.

It’s always easy to root for a team who has never won a title. In 2019, it was the Washington Nationals. Now, the Rays and Brewers are the two title-less teams in this year’s bracket.

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