Can you hear that?
It’s the sound of hundreds, if not thousands of Padres fans telling each other just how much the Friars suck this year. “They’re terrible!” “They can’t play defense!” “They’re a bunch of old has-beens!” “They’re all young nobodies!” “I can’t stand to watch this team strand another baserunner!” These frustrated fans aren’t wrong. They really aren’t, but at the same time…they are?
You see, the Padres are in fact not a good team this year. They show flashes of greatness, and then show long stretches of the team everyone assumed they were getting in 2016. Except me. I maintained this offseason that the Padres would finish in second place. Somehow, I still believe it. Call me a believer, and then make fun of me for a long long time. However, the Padres are playing relatively well, and have even managed to sweep the NL West leading Giants, and take two of three from the Nationals. They aren’t as “shitty” as some people would like them to be, and they are nowhere near great. They’re just in the middle. The gray area. They call it ‘hovering around .500′ for a reason – it sounds boring and inconclusive.
But, to say they just suck is wrong. Because, the Padres is an entire organization, and I’m finding a hard time deciphering which part of that organization sucks.
The Padres on the field squad have actually put up some of the most explosive offensive numbers in Major League Baseball throughout June and July. Guys like Wil Myers and Matt Kemp started to hit like we always want them to, a dude named Schimpf is playing at a level no one was expecting, and even ol’ Mumford and Sons, Derek Norris, decided to wake up – if only for a few brief beautiful moments. Add in to that mix Solarte’s oft overlooked and solid play (never overlooked by me, cause I am always right), some timely pitching, and Melvin Upton’s tradeable stats you actually have a team that’s kind of fun to watch! Fancy that. Seriously, flipping fancy it. As a lifelong Padres fan I’ve sat through teams that have had a similar record and expectations and have not been fun to watch (i.e. 1986-1992, 1999-2003), and it’s been pretty exhausting. Statistically, over the long run this team is at best a .500, maybe third place finisher if everything breaks right. That is not good. However, that does not suck. You know who sucks? The Rays, The Reds, The Diamondbacks, and the Braves. And, you may say, “Well, Dallas the Braves are actually rebuilding, and they have been honest with their fans about that, so really it doesn’t suck, and I have a sandwich in my hand and I’m eating it and blah blah blah…” and that actually brings us to the next category –
THE FARM SYSTEM:
Remember last offseason when we gave away a bunch of young prospects and players for guys like Kemp, the Upton’s and Kimbrel? Remember when everyone lost their minds, and no one could fathom how we’d recover before Jesus came back to smite Petco or at least rescue us from season three of True Detective? We gave up Wisler! We gave up Turner! We gave up…Jace Peterson! Yes, we did. And, perhaps it’d be nice to have those guys back, but personally players like Margot, Guerra, and Asuaje make me a little more excited. Especially since Turner is starting to profile more as a speedster and defender, and maybe that’s it. Add to this list the deals made for Paddock and more recently Anderson Espinoza, and I’m starting to like this farm system a lot. Next in line is the influx of international talent, and draft picks Preller has been able to sign, and well…let’s just say I don’t miss Jace Peterson. Whether the front office will admit it or not, like the Braves we are rebuilding, and AJ Preller is charge (for the most part) of that rebuild. Since AJ had a hand in the prized Rangers farm system, I’m gonna give him a longer rope than normal. Looking at the young talent we have, I’m gonna say we don’t suck. Minus the James Shields deal, and I’ll get to that.
THE COACHING STAFF:
I like Andy Green. You kind of have to. He’s a young manager without a ton of experience, having the same amount of success with this team that Bud Black and Pat Murphy had with last years “All-Star Squad”. Players seem to like him, and he’s a happy guy who also likes to show some emotion. Can’t really be upset with that, and based on record alone he doesn’t suck…at all. In fact, he might be a good manager someday. McGwire is harmless, if not probably a lot of fun to have around, and Zinter is obviously having a positive impact. The only question mark on this whole crew is Balsley, which is weird for fans to hear. Last season and this season pitchers aren’t seeming to respond, or maybe he’s lost his influence. Either way, something is going on, and while that alone doesn’t suck, it is a bummer.
He’s not Kevin Towers, and that doesn’t suck.
Here is the only part of this organization that might…perhaps…not totally, but maybe…suck. A lot of times we forget that Fowler and Co. are a relatively new ownership group in sports. They have a certain bravado to them that reminds you of all the reasons you hate rich people. They are utterly confident in their decision making, and thats final. They do have the right to be, as it is their team, and they can do and say what they want. So, really they don’t suck, they are just kinda…sucky. But, let’s look at this crew: Fowler is the “voice”, and fought for that privilege. I’ll give him credit in that he’s a better voice than any Spanos young or old. He obviously has a short temper and expects results although he isn’t completely sure on how to get them. Neither is Seidler, and that’s when things get troublesome. More on that in a second. Fowler was the catalyst for the Shields deal, which is unfortunate, because man…let’s just assume Shields was able to pull together an okay June, we could’ve gotten so much more for him. Instead we got a player you already forgot about, and Fernando Tatis’ kid. You remember Fernando Tatis, right? He’s that player whose baseball card you keep for nostalgic reasons although you never rooted for him, you just liked his name, and you miss that time in your life. Of course the Shields deal was more of a salary and personality dump than anything else, and when Shields left the team under the careful watch of Sevendust, we all immediately got it.
Sure, Fowler is riding the line of active owner, and frustrated owner, but at least he’s active and I like that. Seidler, the future voice, is a little different. He’s the real “owner” and he knows it. He only pokes his head out when something weird happens. He’s the Michael Corleone of this family (Yes, that makes Fowler “Sonny”, and Dee a mix of “Fredo” and “Tom Hagen”) and that’s a good guy to have around. When he talks you feel like something is actually being addressed, but you never totally trust him. That brings us to Mike Dee, who had a sizable campaign launched a couple of months ago to have him fired. He’s not well-liked by a lot of fans, but very well-liked by ownership, and that means he will be here until someday he betrays Seidler in nightclub in Cuba, and then goes fishing on a boat by himself. Here’s the issue, Dee has made the team more profitable, maybe not by much, but he has, and that’s all that matters to most owners. He’s made an inferior product a tourist destination, which is impressive. It’s like if Disneyland got rid of Space Mountain and Frontierland and Pirates of the Caribbean, and people still kept coming anyway. The team has had more odd scandals than most this season, and has about a .500 record dealing with them, which is fine. Food at the ballpark is awesome, which is great, and the scoreboard is the size of La Mesa now. The experience is just that – an experience. Not necessarily a Baseball experience, but an experience nonetheless. The part of this executive team that does suck is when they all try to get involved in player decisions. Dee says he doesn’t get involved, but we all know that’s not true, and ultimately who cares. However, when you hire AJ Preller, you let him do his thing. Trust him. It’s pretty obvious they haven’t. There was a theory going around that they hired Preller at the last second because he abandoned his strengths and sold them on building a winner immediately, which any ownership group obviously wants to hear. AJ just didn’t have any experience doing that, and made moves that were fun, but questionable. My addition to this theory is that AJ tried to build a winner, while secretly revamping a not-so-great farm system, which was his plan all along. I like this theory, so I’m buying into it. If the executive crew can find a way to stay out of things for another season or two then this team might have a chance. The issue is most of us know that isn’t possible, and yes that does indeed kind of suck.
For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc