A couple of years ago a buddy of mine and I were coaching a little league baseball team. It was our in-town intramural league and we were just out of college with a lot of time on our hands. It was one of those leagues where they use real MLB logos as the teams. I remember we were hoping for a fun team with a lot of exciting young players, such as the Cubs or Astros. Or maybe we would get a cool hipster team like the Rockies. For some reason this mattered to us but it wasn't meant to be. We got the Padres, arguably one of the most boring sports franchises of all time.
The best thing you can say about the history of the Padres is they had Tony Gwynn, one of the best pure hitters to ever live. In a lot of ways Gwynn was the perfect Padre. He was boring, soft-spoken, and that meant he didn't receive as much publicity as say Ken Griffey Jr, Pedro Martinez, or other greats from his era. Gwynn also didn't hit homers the way McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds did. But anyone with a brain knows how unbelievable Gwynn was. This is a .338 career hitter who won eight batting titles and was hitting .394 in 1994 before the strike ruined his shot at .400. Gwynn was so good there are people out there who believe to their core he was going to do it too.
San Diego made it to their second World Series with Gwynn in 1998 when they won a franchise record 98 games, but they were swept by the 114 win Yankees in four games. More recently there was a mid 2000s run for the Padres. Highlights from this era of Padres history include Jake Peavy winning the Cy Young in 2007 and San Diego losing an epic one-game playoff to the Rockies that year. Oh, and Adrian Gonzalez hit 40 homers in 2009. That was cool right? Yeah...that's about all the highlights we have though.
If you're a Padres fan this is what you've had to look forward to lately. And all that was basically a decade ago! San Diego hasn't been to the playoffs since 2010. Since then their yearly win totals have gone 71, 76, 76, 77, 74. 68, and 71. Holy shit Padres if you're that bad just tank for a few years and get good again! Oh wait you have been tanking? Yikes. Let's break down what to expect from the Friars come 2018 (spoiler: they're going to be incredibly mediocre again).
What did they do last year?
San Diego went 71-91 last year. It was the continuation of a rebuilding plan set out by GM A.J. Preller, who just got a contract extension through 2022. While tanking is becoming a serious problem for the league it's a smart move for the Padres to continue this plan. Highlights from 2017 include Will Myers hitting 30 homers and Manuel Margot's promising rookie season. Myers also hit for the cycle. Woo!!!
Did anything change?
Not really. The biggest off-season addition the Padres made was hiring a FanGraphs writer to build a Research and Development department for the team. It's always smart to hire smart people like Dave Cameron, but generally you hope for your team to make actual on field changes over the winter. The Padres were surprisingly very in on the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes until they weren't. They've been linked heavily to Eric Hosmer, which doesn't line up with the tanking (oops I mean rebuilding) plan, but signing him is still an option.
Why should fans be excited?
The Padres have six prospects in the latest Baseball America Top 100. The best of these is Fernando Tatis Jr, who was ranked ninth overall. In 131 games between Single-A and Double-A last season the 18-year-old shortstop posted a .877 OPS to go along with 22 homers and 32 steals. He just turned 19 in January so his youth means there's still a ways to go, and he might eventually outgrow shortstop, but this is still a guy Padres fans should be rallying around. To make it even sweeter, Tatis was the prospect Preller received for James Shields back in 2016. Talk about a steal.
Backyard Baseball 2018 Representative:
Starting this series off with a boring one (cmon Padres!) but it has to be Wil Myers. Somehow he is the most recognizable name on the Padres roster. It's tempting to go with the up and coming Manuel Margot, but Myers' track record gets the nod here. I don't think he would be a popular character to use, however. If anything Myers might be the favorite to win the "Marty Cordova Pro Player In The Game But Who Is Irrelevant Award" of Backyard Baseball 2018.
Wil Myers BB18: