In advance of our first run at the Friars, John J. Fleming wrote a great piece about a nondescript 50-year-old team in one of the most beautiful climates on earth. I’m here to tell you the rest of the story.
John’s absolutely right when he concludes:
For half a century, the Padres have, for the most part, given their fans almost no reason to care about them. And yet they do, because, in a sentiment which has increased with the departure of the Chargers, the Padres belong to them.
For a brief time in recent history though, the Padres gave their fans a reason to care very much. The 2014 Padres squad was a lot like those that preceded it; they finished 77-85, good for third place in the West, mostly because the Rockies and Diamondbacks combined to lose nearly 200 games. San Diego’s offense was paced by the likes of Seth Smith, Rene Rivera, and Yasmani Grandal, and ranked dead last in the NL in a lot of offensive categories. The rotation was much better and featured prime Ian Kennedy, a healthy Tyson Ross, and the original Andrew Cashner back when he was still sort of a thing. Still not enough to fuel postseason dreams. Much like the good folks in San Diego would’ve expected.
Enter A.J. Preller. The team bounced whatever loser was running the front office in August, and gave Preller a directive to put together a contender. The offseason that followed was one for the history books.
Preller traded twice on December 18, shipping out Grandal, Zach Eflin, and another prospect to the Dodgers for Matt Kemp and a backup catcher, and snagging Derek Norris and Brandon Maurer from the A’s for RJ Alvarez and Jesse Hahn.
The next day, Preller engaged in a 3-team blockbuster, shipping 3 players to the Rays, Joe Ross and a PTBNL to the Nats, and picking up Wil Myers and a few dudes. The PTBNL? Trea Turner. The same day, they shipped four more guys to Atlanta to snag Justin Upton and a prospect, traded Ryan Hanigan to the Red Sox for Will Middlebrooks, and signed FA still-starter Brandon Morrow.
Minor moves proliferated in the coming days, until Preller inked Big Game James Shields to a 4-year/$75M contract on February 11. The moves continued into April, when Preller shipped four guys and a competitive balance draft pick to Atlanta for Craig Kimbrel and Justin’s brother, Melvin Upton Jr.
The Padres’ transformation was complete, shortening their window somewhat for a shot at actual playoff games. They were a trendy pick to usurp the Giants as the Superteam Dodgers’ second fiddle, and some edgy rascals even had them picked to take a wild card. Preller was universally praised for his ambitious overhaul efforts, probably because trades are fun to write about, and baseball writers like guys who give them endless #content. Preller’s remake of the Padres was fun, and serves to illustrate the answer to the talismanic question of impatient fans, “What if my team really went for broke this year? What if the front office actually cared?”
The 2015 Padres were an unmitigated disaster. By May 1 they had ceded second place in the division to the Giants permanently, and battled the D’Backs for third until a late season collapse finished them in fourth. For all his efforts, Preller was rewarded with 2 fewer wins than the preceding year’s lackluster squad.
Preller set to work again, this time bent on selling off everything that wasn’t nailed down to improve the farm system, when he wasn’t stealing Cardinals farmhands in the Rule 5 draft. His quick reversal was rightfully lauded, limiting the damage from his ill-advised push for contention. And the Padres put together one of the very tip-top farm systems in the game. But something ugly was still lurking beneath the surface.
On September 15, 2016, Buster Olney broke the news that Preller had the Padres’ training staff maintain two medical file systems; one for the team, and one for use with trade partners. The public files contained only information related to injuries that actually resulted in DL trips, while the eyes-only Padres files had every gory detail of a player’s aches, pains, and medications. Olney’s report chronicled the rage expressed by officials with the Red Sox, Marlins, and White Sox to the commissioner’s office. Preller was suspended thirty days, and the Padres were fined an unspecified amount, for Preller’s actions in connection with the deal that sent Drew Pomeranz to Boston. And nobody ever trusted A.J. Preller again.
And it is for this normative reason, in addition to the manifold empirical reasons, that I say: The Cardinals should destroy the Padres. Our team is better than their team, and A.J. Preller deserves every loss his team can notch.
* * * * *
The Cardinals play the Padres in three games at Busch, tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday. Each game starts at 7:15. The Padres are 31-36, on the outside of an incredibly competitive NL West and looking in from fifth place. They are bad at hitting and bad at pitching. They have a great collection of names, though. Breakout CF Franchy Cordero is on the DL right now, but they just replaced him with a Franmil Reyes. Travis Jankowski is still on the team. Christian Villanueva has cooled down from his Harperian start to the season, but still carries a respectable stick. Eric Hosmer and his hilariously inexplicable contract is pacing the team’s offense, and he’s rewarding Preller richly for his faith. Wil Myers is still on the DL.
The probable pitching matchups favor the Cardinals heavily. Jack Flaherty takes the mound tonight against 27-year-old righty Jordan Lyles. Lyles’ last turn out had a stink of desperation, as he lasted 4.1 innings and gave up 8 runs on 11 hits to the Braves. This isn’t out of line with his recent performance or his peripherals. Advantage: Flaherty.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals will send Miles Mikolas to the hill, against good ol’ TBA. I don’t know much about TBA, but Miles Mikolas probably has him beat.
Finally, on Wednesday, Luke Weaver will take the hill opposite Eric Lauer. Lauer is a lot like Lyles except left-handed and 4 years younger, which is another way of saying we should win this game, even if Weaver struggles a little. Bad Weaver is better than Lauer at his best. Or at least he should be.
A sweep would be awfully nice. The Cardinals sit 3 back of the Brewers and 2.5 behind the Cubs. Both groups of reprobates are playing one another, so we are guaranteed to make up a game on one of them for each win we notch on the Padres. Make it so, fellas.