As I’m typing this, 22-year old call-up prospect Joe Wieland is being batted around the park by a long list of Dodgers. The night before, in one of the most anemic relief pitching performances in recent memory, I witnessed Joe Thatcher promptly toss four straight balls to a bases-loaded, 2-out bottom of the 9th in what can only be described as a “walk-off walk.” It was one of those moments where you question fanhood, dedication, and the psychological faults with the sport of baseball itself – where you through your hands up and attempt to articulate why you’re spending a Friday night watching a bad team fall apart. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
It’s even more beguiling given the state of the franchise. The Padres’ lineup is populated mainly by replaceable no-names that might very well find themselves as a trade-sweetener by the deadline. But we are running with a top-5 farm system, in one of those “we’ll
make a run for it in three years” scenarios. This is especially evident when the front office had no issues dealing guys like Heath Bell, Mike Adams and Adrian Gonzalez over the last year. It’s exciting knowing that our organization has some discernible upwards momentum, I mean we could always be the Astros, but watching an irrelevant team struggle every night isn’t the easiest thing to justify – especially when most of our future stars are dangling in the minors. It leads to an incredibly specific existential crisis, without any easy answers, but here are some things to look forward to next time you consider turning the T.V. off.
Survival of the Competent
As the Padres attempt to find their definition in the coming years, a lot of the hopeful, never-quite-developed everyday players on the roster might find themselves out of a job, or at least out of the majors. Will Venable and especially the ice-cold Nick Hundley are simply not getting better in meaningful ways. This is fine when concrete replacements aren’t waiting in the wings, but that isn’t the case for the Padres anymore, that trade for Yasmandi Grandal wasn’t for nothing. This means a number of perennial back-of-the-lineup guys are more disposable than ever before, more than ever they have to perform. Venable is used to the pressure, he’s spent his entire career facing relegation, but it’s a brand new crisis for Hundley – there’s a macabre joy in watching men pushed to their very last resort, and it’ll be a theme all season for the Padres.
The Trading Block Carousel
Trading for Carlos Quentin left a lot of baseball scholars scratching their heads. The Padres had made it abundantly clear that they weren’t aiming to win with their current starters, so why give up two prospects for an all-star with one year left in his deal? You could say the same things about Huston Street. It’s hard to precisely articulate the goals of the front office, but we can say with decent certainty that these two names will be top trade-targets come deadline time. As byzantine as it is, it’ll be fun watching the politics as teams try their damndest to negotiate last-minute deals for one last little boost into World Series contention – and sometimes that desperation can end in plenty of lopsided trades. The Padres better be on their hustle game, because if not, and Carlos Quentin ends his time in San Diego after one year, it’ll go down as one of the dumbest trades in Padres history.
March of the Prospects
Look, we all watched Wieland, a great minor league pitcher, get promptly destroyed by the Dodgers, and Yonder Alonso isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire right now. That’s okay, acclimation to the majors is a slow process, and it’s not that fun to watch. But at least we can say that we were there. Won’t you look smug when you can tell all the bandwagoners that you watched our future aces all the way back in the 2012 season? Yeah it’s a lot of pain, but that’s what fandom is all about. For all your Padres news be sure to follow me @luke_winkie and be sure to like our Facebook page. I also contribute at Austin Chronicle, Austinist, The Onion, Paste, Prefix, Under the Radar, MusicOMH, RA, TLOBF.