Month: April 2015

The Second Dodgers Series

The Dodgers played the Padres over the weekend. I had a nice little email chat with my friend Q. He is a Dodgers fan who lives in Texas. We have been in a fantasy league together since 2001. We see each other once a year for our draft. He has 3 championships and I have one. The year I won, I had Matt Kemp and he hit a homerun that pushed me over Q in the final. We’re still cool.

NICHOLAS MCCANN: Friday April 24th 9:35am PST

Dear Q,

I’m writing you because I want to stay grounded. You’re a Dodgers fan and I am a Padres fan. Within this context, I should hate you. However, deep down I know you’re one of the good ones.

The Padres are good this year and after the first round through the NL West, the team is facing your Dodgers back at Petco Park. The central figure in the rivalry is Matt Kemp. He has been a revelation so far. More than anything I want to see him destroy the Dodgers this weekend and send your kind back up the interstate 5 with their Manny Dreads in knots. Dodgers fans love to come down to our park and ruin our home field advantage. Sadly, it has worked in recent years. I feel like I can talk to you because you are in Texas.

How do you feel about the current state of the rivalry?

How do you feel about seeing Matt Kemp in our uniform?

Is Kershaw broken from last postseason?

Sincerely,

Nick

P.S. I hope the fact that we are playing each other this week in our fantasy league doesn’t effect our discussion too dramatically. I mean, I’m winning right now, so that’s cool.

Q: April 24th 2:45pm PST

Dearest Nick:

I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the Dodgers and your little team down there.

First some advice: Dude, forget staying grounded. You’re a life long San Diego sports fan. Grounded is all you know. You can wriggle in the dirt afraid to get your hopes up, but that’s no way to live. It’s still April, the Pads are playing well. Puff you chest up while you can. It is better to have loved and lost (because you suddenly realize your hitters are totally right handed and my goodness your outfield defense will likely be breathtakingly bad which is not an ideal build for playoff baseball) than not to have loved at all.

You are certainly in the honeymoon phase with Matt Kemp. And why not? He’s playing angry and it’s working. I’ve seen enough of Matt Kemp to know that it likely won’t last. Kemp isn’t a bull in a china shop; he’s a bull MADE of china and he will break. This we know because we lived it. We, too, have stood outside Matt Kemp’s window, in the rain, without an umbrella (ella-ella-ella) with our tears mixing with the raindrops lamenting what might have been.

To me, this matchup is more intriguing: Preller vs. Friedman.

Preller, the riverboat gambler, pushing all-in on the tournament’s first hand. Friedman, the small-market numbers genius, who after scraping himself through cash games, finds himself with an endless bankroll. Preller’s moves seem like no-brainers; on the surface, the Padres have “won” every trade they made in the off season. Friedman’s are more curious. Jimmy Rollins at the end of his career? Brett Anderson? xFIP hero and #twittergamelothario Brandon McCarthy?

Here’s the thing: assuming Preller is a genius sort of assumes that everyone else he’s trading with is stupid. Derek Norris has been good–but do you think Billy Beane is stupid? Upton here/Upton here/Kimbrel there. Do you think John Hart is stupid? Wil Myers, top prospect…..who has now been traded twice in 3 years. Do you think there might be a reason?

And Kemp. Does getting a former (should have been) MVP seem like a good deal for a semi-disgraced catcher who may never realize his potential? Yes.

But isn’t it a little too good? Do you think we’re stupid? Well…..do you?

In closing, I think it’s really precious what y’all are doing down there to try to jump up into the upper division. But there is no rivalry. Sorry. We hate the Fresno Grizzlies more than we hate you (and we just got swept by them, so there’s that). Take ten years, make the playoffs a few times and we’ll talk. Until then we’re Mr. Incredible and you are Buddy. You are dreaming of the playoffs. We take it for granted (but then we get anxious as hell).

And look who opens the series for us:

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Breaking our collarbone only makes us stronger. Greinke will eat your heart and smile.

The Dodgers beat the Padres 3-0.

NICHOLAS MCCANN April 25th 3:34pm PST

I need to think AJ Preller is a genius. I don’t have a choice. However, I think Billy Beane is overrated and the Dodgers have made stupid rich kid moves all over the place for the last few years. You guys bailed out the Red Sox on the Crawford/AGonz/Beckett nightmare, and it’s a complete reflection of your fan base’s stupidity. It kinda worked out, but only because you are insanely rich and Carl Crawford is walking right now (Hooray!). This is the problem with most rich people: You think you have everything because you’re smart. Dodgers fans think they are great fans because a couple billionaires bailed them out of the same hell Padres fans were dealing with.

I understand your sentiment. AJ Preller is “The Rock Star GM” and he is the cool kid at the moment. I understand the conventional belief that you need to build a team and not microwave it up. But we just want relevant games. That’s happening and it happened without writing a bunch of stupid checks.

Last night was a great baseball game. Zack Greinke is a great pitcher and he’s great in the exact way you want a pitcher to be great. He is smart and can paint with the ball. That said, I hate him. He looks exactly like the poster boy for Hitler’s ideal race. The Cobra Kai jokes are there for the taking every time he takes the mound.

But hey, we got smoked. Well played

The Dodgers beat the Padres 11-8

Q April 26th 9:21am PST

First I was “one of the good ones.” Today I’m part of a “stupid fan base.” You’re angry, I get it.

A few things:

  1. Average Annual Value of A Gonzalez, Crawford, and Beckett: $48 million.

Average Annual Value of Uptons and Kimbrel: $33.5 million.

I’m not saying it’s the same, but let’s not pretend John Hart isn’t sending Xmas cards to you guys for quite a while. And by the way, we needed that $20 million for our once-in-a-generation HOMEGROWN pitcher, so thanks for “winning” that Kemp trade for us.

  1. Which is stupider: thinking you’re smart for rooting for rich guys that spend money to win or thinking you’re smart for rooting for rich guys who don’t care about winning because they know the fans have low expectations and won’t do anything about it?

I’m on record as saying on this very website that I left the Dodgers when we had a crummy owner. So did a lot of us “stupid” fans. And, lo and behold, he’s gone. Maybe you should try it.

  1. But you won’t because here’s the bottom line: I think you liked being a small market team because it’s a built in excuse to fail. Of course the Dodgers win with all their money. How can wee little SD compete with that? Let’s just pretend we don’t envy them and pretend that the Doyers thugs represent the entire fan base instead of a loud horrible minority. Let’s pretend it’s impossible for a small market team to win and close our eyes when Royals, Athletics, Pirates, and Braves buck that trend.

When the Dodgers got smacked down in the playoffs the last two years, I have no excuses. We got handled. We have to face that failure. Well, guess what? You’re here now, too. No more hiding. The excitement you feel at being “relevant ” (you guys have less self esteem than The Offspring) comes at a price. When you don’t win the division this year, it’s going to hurt. The higher you rise, the harder the fall is. We know.

We can beat you in a pitchers duel–make all the Greinke Aryan jokes you want, we all saw the hate crime Cashner put on Puig’s knee in the 1st, think that would’ve happened to someone sharing his deer blind?–and we can beat you in a slugfest. How bout y’all decide on Sunday’s game? Dealer’s choice. After all, it is your house.

Q

NICHOLAS MCCANN April 26th 10:23am PST

You make some excellent points. I read over our exchange and I think I’m just a crazy person. This series is a bigger deal to my fan base than it is to yours and I want that to be different. I want you to hate us like you hate San Francisco and that, at least in the foreseeable future, isn’t going to happen.

Maybe the honeymoon is over with Preller’s crew. If the Padres lose today, they will be a 500 baseball team, and after the offseason, and the fun start, that will be a rough pill to swallow.

But hey, it’s only April. Thanks for walking me through this.

Love,

Nick

PS. If the Padres win today, disregard this email

The Padres won 3-1.

Q: April 26th 431pm PST

Congrats on your win. You beat our spot starter and the B squad, but hey that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Draft well for a few years, sign Justin Upton, and keep at it. You can be with us at the top for the next 10 years.

At least in odd years. Even years the Giants win. Despite having literally one good player. Shrug.

Q

The Dodgers won the series 2-1. My fantasy team, The University Heights Armada, beat Q’s team 332 to 312.

Follow on Twitter: @Nicholas_McCann and @superQ96

 

1st NL West Tour

For San Diego sports fans, this April has mostly been about being frustrated with the Chargers during the day and then partying with the Friars at night. Sorry Dean Spanos, I can’t worry about the Shakespearean tragedy that is your plight to force a city to pay for your new shop. While you’re busy trying to prove something to your father, I’ll be watching Odrisamer Despaigne possibly blossom into a star. The first tour through the National League West for the 2015 Padres was much needed fun. It was a chance to see San Diego’s primary rivalries in their current incarnations, and watch an identity take shape with the squad. Through the first 17 games of the season, it’s clear Bud Black has built around one constant element: Matt Kemp and Justin Upton are his three and four hitters. The two best hitters know where they are going to hit every day, and they, along with the players around them, have benefited.

The Padres didn’t win their first series against the Dodgers in LA, but Matt Kemp was great in his first visit back to the team he started his career with. When the Padres traded for Kemp, it was exciting that they had made their play for a star. Injuries were a question, but it didn’t matter. It felt like a pulse for a franchise that had been a zombie for the last few years, walking around as an easy to kill corpse. I figured Kemp would flash some power and probably pull a hamstring at some point. It was going to be Rihanna jokes and maybe a sniff of a wild card chance for a week in mid-June. But instead of stopping at the one big trade, AJ Preller built a real major league lineup around the star outfielder and set him up with the protection of Justin Upton, a stud entering a contract year. One of the many bright spots of the season so far has been Kemp’s selection at the plate. He feels like a well-adjusted baseball player, interested in making the smart baseball decision at the plate over displaying his already established power. Matt Kemp is hitting .333 with 1 home run and 14 RBI. The power will come, but he seems more than content with moving runners, hitting sac flies and taking walks when he needs to be a leader and keep innings alive.

The Padres’ second tier offensive weapons have pieced themselves around Kemp and Upton nicely. Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Yonder Alonso, and Will Middlebrooks have started in different spots, but have gotten on base and come up with key hits the entire first month. Wil Myers seems to have settled in as the lead off guy, and after a few jitters early on he hasn’t been a disaster in the outfield like most baseball pundits feared. Yonder and Derek Norris have been hot at the plate, and Norris has shown great speed on the bases. Barring injuries (something the Padres haven’t really faced yet), Will Middlebrooks is looking like he will settle between the 5th and 7th spots in the order.

Jedd Gyorko is the biggest question so far. The Padres are locked up with him longer than they want to be and Yangervis Solarte has proven to be a real asset at the plate and in the field. Alexi Amarista, Clint Barmes, Corey Spangenberg and Will Venable have been in and out of the lineup, but Black’s biggest problem is if and when he has to give up on Jedd. This isn’t the worst obstacle in the world to pop up in April. When somebody in the infield goes down, Solarte will fill in and get his at bats. But Jedd looks lost and it could end badly.

The Dodgers are in town and the stakes are as high as they can be in April. The winner of the series will have the division in their hands going forward. The Gyorko/Solarte question and the overall fear of seeing relief pitcher Shawn Kelley warming up are not problems that warrant sky is falling concern. On the surface it appears that there’s a hierarchy within the clubhouse. Whether Matt Kemp runs into a wall or the Padres fail to extend Justin Upton, this weekend we know who will hit in the three and four spots. And simply knowing that is enough for all of us to benefit in April.

Follow on Twitter: @Nicholas_McCann

Kris Bryant Weekend

The Padres went to Chicago for a three game series. They introduced themselves to Kris Bryant and beat him. James Shields smoked the little punk and it was great. I started an email discussion with my friend Nick Burmeister on Friday. Nick is the man behind the Padres Haiku twitter account. We both grew up in San Diego and we’re both children of Tony. Ted Leitner is our uncle.

NICHOLAS MCCANN April 17th 9:34pm PST

Hey fellow Twitter destroyer,

The Padres beat the Cubs 5-4 today, #KrisBryantDay. Chicago had a new toy to show off and James Shields, while not in his best performance, struck him out three times in front of Scott Boras, the country, and his Dad. Kris Bryant will be a star in this league, but San Diego didn’t let him blow up. I caught most of the game on the Mighty 1090am radio broadcast. Ted Leitner and Bob Scanlan were on point with everything they said throughout what I was able to hear.

I still don’t understand why Uncle Teddy is as polarizing as he seems to be around town. I think he understands the rhythm of the game. He knows the correct pauses and he’s goofy in a lame way that you want from a local guy who has been around forever. People always seem to criticism him, but I think he is above any scrutiny like that. He is our guy. More importantly, he is our dog whistle, operating at a frequency that only our fanbase can hear and appreciate. I might not know any better, but Leitner has stayed around long enough to stop me from really knowing anyone else. There’s merit in that.

I’m listening to the rest of the series on the radio. I ride with Uncle Teddy.

NICK BURMEISTER April 18th 9:21am PST

Chris should be spelled with a “C,” unless of course it’s Kris Bryant, in his case “K,” is more appropriate.

Yeah I like Uncle Teddy too. It might be because he was teamed with Jerry Coleman for as long as he was and I, like the rest of San Diego, loved and revered the Colonel.

I remember Ted on the Channel 8 News when I was a kid and hearing him rip into the NHL for allowing fighting. His hockey highlights were all fights. He was always super opinionated on the evening news sports segment when few sportscasters did anything except read scores. He was critical of Benito Santiago for not hustling. People didn’t like that.

Someone told me that they didn’t like that he sounded like five different people. Which is a valid point but not everyone can be as constant as Scully or boring as the Giants radio guy whose name I don’t know. Ted is who he is. My daughter is going to grow up with Uncle Teddy as her Colonel. That’s not awful.

People really hate Enberg, I get that. He messes up names and sometimes doesn’t describe the action clearly.

Scans is gem in the making.

The Cubs beat the Padres 6-7.

NICHOLAS MCCANN April 18th 6:43pm PST

I hate this Kris Bryant kid. I hate that Enberg, Mudcat, Scans and Ted Leitner can’t stop mentioning that he went to USD. We get it. We have a connection. At the time he was drafted, the old Padres wouldn’t have paid for him if they had the pick.

I think Bob Scanlan is pretty special. I always learn something when I listen to him. I feel the same way about Mudcat. I think Mark Grant and Ted Leitner are very similar. They both experienced their primes with other partners. Teddy will never work with anybody more iconic than Jerry Coleman and Grant will probably never achieve the heights that he and Matt Vasgersian had in the middle of the last decade. Let’s face it, up until Preller’s December (the title of my new alt-country album), Matty Vas was the most talented person the Padres had employed in the Petco Park era. I used to tune into Matt and Mudcat just for their show. Now Grant is way too in awe of Dick Enberg. It’s not comfortable. It always feels like Dick is just doing a victory lap at the end of an undeniably storied career. He doesn’t want Mark Grant to get in the way and Mudcat is letting him have too much control.

Bob Scanlan and Ted Leitner feel more natural. Today I’m listening to the game on the radio while watching on TV. It’s pretty great.

Also, Teddy reads ad copy like monster. Nobody can touch him.

NICK BURMEISTER April 19th 10:21am PST

No one has sold more Metafast and Ruth’s Chris sweet potatoes than Uncle Teddy. This makes him a paradox. At least that’s what I’m calling it. Paradox.

I don’t mind the USD mentions but I agree that it can get old. They slobber all over Strasburg still. They always mention any San Diego natives the Padres play against (See: Hamels, Gonzalez, Adam Jones). Do broadcast teams in other markets do the same thing? I lived in the NY:Philly market for a while and never heard them mention opposing players that were locals.

Do the Padres have any Boras clients? Didn’t Kevin Towers and Scott Boras have some sort of beef that caused Towers to ban all Boras clients? Maybe it was a Sheffield thing.

Ted and Scans were a great combo and so were Ted and Andy Masur. Andy had a way of calling Ted a bullshitter without offending him that was really unique. Also, I’m ready to move on from Enberg. He was one of the greats, but it might be time for him to hang it up.

Losing this game in extra innings was kinda blah. The takeaway from this game isn’t that Bryant is any good (he will be), or that the Padres lost (nearly won), it’s that the Cubs bullpen is suspect. This Cubs team is too young to win late in the season and without a reliable bullpen they probably won’t even make the playoffs.

The Padres beat the Cubs 5-2 and won the series.

NICHOLAS MCCANN April 19th 3:01pm PST

I love this Padres team. I’m so in the bag, it’s really scary. Teddy and Scans drilled it today and so did Mudcat and Enberg. These are our guys and when the Padres are good they don’t get in the way. This is fun. Hit me with a hot haiku, dog!

NICK BURMEISTER April 19th 5:59pm PST

If Padres win games

I’d listen to dying goat

Do the play by play

 Follow Nick on twitter @padreshaiku

A Series Duet: SD vs. SF

The San Diego Padres hosted the San Francisco Giants for four games. I started a conversation with my good friend Sean O’Donnell over the series. We emailed back and forth after every game. Sean grew up in the Bay Area and San Diego. He is a Giants fan and a Chargers fan. We have issues.

NICHOLAS MCCANN: Thursday April 9th 11:54am PST

Dear Sean,

I just posted my recap of the Dodgers series. You might have already read it. You seem like a person who likes to learn things. Look, I don’t have anything good to say to you in the trash talk department. My first impulse is, “Hey, it’s not an even year so you guys aren’t gonna win the World Series.” That’s my move and it sucks. Congrats, you have everything. What Madison Bumgarner did was great. I hope it breaks Clayton Kershaw.

Let’s have a fun weekend together. I’ll try not to say anything mean spirited about Timmy or the fact that you stole Bruce Bochy from me. I’m glad Tim Flannery left the Giants. I couldn’t stomach you guys having both of them.

It’s our home opener. Go easy.

Nick

SEAN O’DONNELL: Thursday April 9th 1:38pm PST

Oh hey Nicholas,

Of course I read your recap. I’m a big fan of your work! Plus I have a lot of downtime. As a stay at home dad, I spend the majority of my time trying to keep my son from hurting himself, and dwelling on the greatness of Giants baseball. And not necessarily in that order.

I’m excited for this weekend’s series. You guys are the hot ticket. Here’s a tip: Enjoy it! National focus on the NL West dies quicker than you can possibly imagine. People just forget. The Giants win the World Series every other year, with a lineup that looks bad on paper, and every year they get picked to come in 3rd in the division, because, “the lineup looks bad on paper.” We can’t win, except for the fact that we won, like a lot.

Your lineup on the other hand, looks like a fantasy baseball team. But it also looks like a massive headache. How could your squad possibly live up to the expectations? After the Kimbrel trade, the first thing I thought was that if the Pads don’t make the NLCS, Bud Black is done. Think about the incredible heartbreaker you’re in for if you guys don’t even make the playoffs. What about the very real possibility the team doesn’t gel, you guys are in last place at the All-Star break, and Preller has to return it all? So….yeah. Have fun taking all that baggage into the weekend! Go Giants!

In Bochy,

Sean

NICHOLAS MCCANN: Friday April 10th 7:56am PST

Let’s have a conversation about fedoras. I haven’t made the leap yet, but I’m headed there. To me, one starts wearing that style of hat because they want to project a certain level of danger and unpredictability. So far, the 2015 Padres have been all hype and not much of a threat to anybody.

The Derek Norris/Angel Pagan issue will be interesting going into tonight’s game. They are both saying the right things, but this series could devolve into a bean ball fest. We will see. For me, the highlight of the 1-0 victory by your Giants was after Pagan hit a triple. Angel jumped up and exploded with passion like he was Antonio Banderas in a Robert Rodriquez gun fight. The Pads got out of the jam successfully and it felt great. That’s all I’m hanging onto. San Diego’s offense was not dangerous and sadly predictable.

What’s tonight’s giveaway going to be – Opening Weekend Vape Pen Night? #SDVapeNight

SEAN O’DONNELL: Friday April 10th 5:41pm PST

Dear St. Nick,

How fun was that? Those fedoras were a nice and classy touch, too. Nice and classy, like when Derek Norris called Angel Pagan a “d*ckhead” for flicking gum at him. Thanks to Derek Norris, Angel Pagan is going to get beaned tonight, for doing something I got a referral for in 8th grade. Even though he didn’t actually do it, and we all know that(but I did do it).

But other than #gumgate, that was business as usual for SF. Great pitching, no offense, fun/agonizing to watch, and they win in the most unlikely manner(Justin Maxwell!). I’m just as excited for tonights game. Big Time Timmy Jim is taking the mound, provided he can get back in time from his DJ set at Coachella. Look man, no matter what happens, let’s admit it’s kind of fun that the Pads and the Giants are fired up. Not that any of it matters anyways, The Rockies are gonna win the division.

P.S. Spangenberg is in the lineup tonight. IT’S SPANG NIGHT. You feelin’ it?

NICHOLAS MCCANN:  Saturday April 11th 11:32am PST

Exhale. If the Pads got shut out again I would have ended this email chain. I mean, I might have called you and apologized and made excuses for why we haven’t changed at all on the offensive end, but I probably couldn’t go one talking about it.

Tim Lincecum looked really good, which is scary. If he can be a mid 3s ERA guy it’s going to a huge problem for the entire division. All weed jokes aside, as a baseball he is still a cool person to watch do his thing.

Also, I’m glad Angel Pagan and Derek Norris played nice. I don’t need to think about Gumgate, see #GumGate, or more importantly see #GumGate T-shirts paired with TEAM NORRY Fedoras around downtown. Baseball is fun right now and the division is exciting. Let’s keep it between the lines and sportsman like. I enjoyed when Kemp accidently tapped your back up catcher in the back of the head with his bat and it wasn’t a thing. The Giants and Padres don’t hate each other. We hate LA.

That said, we are winning the division and the rest of the series. Kiss my GRITZ!

SEAN O’DONNELL: Saturday April 11th 5:23pm PST

Good game. Was it? I don’t know, I fell asleep in the 6th inning. Not cause it was boring, but because it was midnight. Being an NL West fan on the east coast SUCKS. But Timmy looked good, real good. I was bracing myself for a 1st inning HR that never happened. I feel like any time I sat down to watch Timmy last year, he always gave up a 1st inning HR. To Paul Goldschmidt. Every time to Paul Goldschmidt. Didn’t even matter what team the Giants were facing. Paul Goldschmidt would magically appear and hit a HR. I hate that Paul Goldschmidt. At least Preller knew his limits and didn’t trade for that son-of-a-gun.

Tonight’s matchup has a certain familiarity to it. Bumgarner vs. Shields. Where have I heard that before? Just kidding, I remember where. They pitched against each other in last years World Series, when Bumgarner deflated the hopes and dreams of Kansas City like a balloon. Did you know that the BBQ in KC was inexplicably awful the week after the series was over? It was ruining tourism until they found out the problem: Billy Butler was crying in all of it.

But sure, let’s tee it up. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’ll end with a joke that my great great grandfather used to tell:

“Q: What does a burrito taste like smothered in Matt Kemp’s tears?

A: Ask Rihanna.”

Go Giants!

NICHOLAS MCCANN: Sunday April 12th 11:21am PST

I want what you have. There is no way around it. My team is “fun” now and it’s cool. Honestly, I don’t care if this idea that is the 2015 Padres works. That’s not important to me. It feels like they are trying and that means more to me than this little series in April. If the Pads win on this Sunday, it will be exciting. It would be easy for me to say, “We run this shit now,” or “Get out of our way, old guard!” I’m trying to pump the brakes. I’m trying to be reasonable.

I understand your perspective. We smacked you last night and it’s not that big of a deal. It’s all about the post season. Thanks for holding my hand through this.

SEAN O’DONNELL: Sunday April 12th 11:48am PST

Dear guy who roots for the winning team,

Congrats on last night! It’s like my great great grandmother always said, “Make a Matt Kemp/Rihanna joke, and Bumgarner will get shelled”. But kudos to your team, they played to the level of expectations, and maybe for the first time this season. When Padre fans nestled in their beds this offseason, they dreamed of 10-2 slaughterings of the World Champs, with their ace on the mound.

Although, it felt a little like overkill last night, didn’t it? Like when someone sees an ex, and they’ve lost some weight, and they’re trying to flaunt it. Like “ooooh, Bochy, look how many runs we are scoring, oooooh”. If I were Bud Black, I would be pissed. C’mon Padres, you dance with the girl that brung ya.

Anyhow. Jake taking the mound today should get some applause from his old fan base. He built that stadium. Now let’s watch him tear it down!

Giants forever!

NICHOLAS MCCANN: April 12th 4:40pm PST

A real text conversation with my Mom:

Mom: How is the new place?

Me: It’s great. #UptonFunkYouUp.

That’s how I text now. I love our lineup and I love beating the Giants. More importantly, I love beating Jake Peavy on a Sunday. Him and Bochy represent a past I would like to forget. I love those guys, but the inherent newness of these Padres is intoxicating to a degree that I’m struggling to wrap my head around.

This NL West is wide open. It’s a lot like Game of Thrones. I still feel like a White Walker trying to make everyone aware that my kind exists. We’re coming. Hold your dragons tight.

SEAN O’DONNELL: April 13th 9:33am PST

Mr. McCann,

What can I say? You took the series, and your 3rd baseman isn’t a hurt Casey McGehee. It definitely wasn’t the weekend performance I was looking for, but I take comfort in all of the early April adages. “It’s a long season.” “We’ve got to take one game at a time.” And my personal favorite, “Remember when we won all of those World Series?”

You should be proud today. Stick your chest out. Like I said in my first email, ENJOY IT. But remember, it’s like Cersei said: “When you play the game of thrones, you either win, or Bud Black gets fired.”

See you in May.

Follow on Twitter: @Nicholas_McCann and @SeanTODonnell

Check out Sean’s new album Spirit Junkie!

Solarte: A Good Problem

Last season when the Padres traded away Chase Headley to the Yankees for some money, a guy, and Yangervis Solarte, most people we’re upset if not downright pissed. I for one was not. Even if Chase went on to do great things as a Yankee, which is the norm for ex-Padres, I didn’t care. I never really bought in to the Chase “thing”, and the fact that he only had one good season, and two almost-average seasons out five and a half, didn’t help any.

With Solarte we were getting a player who could play almost any position on the field, and had a good amount of upside. A super-utility kinda talent who hasn’t peaked yet. And, I liked that. I still do.

When Solarte plays, he plays hard. For the most part he plays smart, and he plays everywhere. He hustles, and works, and plays scrappy. A poor man’s Darin Erstad, and a more useful David Eckstein. During Spring Training, it seemed no one in management could decide if he was a starter at third, second, first, left, or maybe even shortstop. He seemed to be in a position battle everywhere except catcher and pitcher. That’s the kinda dude you want on your squad.

Now, as the season begins, and the Padres are working out the kinks, there seems to be one kink that’s still un…kinked? Sure. Unkinked. While most talking heads are under the impression we need a new shortstop, I maintain we have one right now. Solarte played plenty of games at short for the Yankees last year, and even a few for the Padres in 2014. Didn’t make one error. It’s a small sample size, and I’ll be the first to admit he’s the not the ideal man at short, but who would be? I like Barmes, but his best days are well behind him, and Amarista is interesting, but obviously hasn’t gained the everyday confidence management is looking for. Going out and dealing for Starlin Castro or Javier Baez, might be a bit too ambitious, and if rumors like Jody Mercer are true, then why not stick with Solarte? Is it because we’d lose him as the super-utility guy limiting him to one position? I’ll take that hit. Not too mention you could platoon Amarista at second, lord knows Gyorko is still pressing. We wouldn’t lose any more prospects making a deal that might not work anyway, and, don’t forget – we have Spang!

The problem with Solarte, and it’s a problem every team wants, is that when he’s on the field he contributes. Whether it’s with his glove, his hustle, or his timely hitting. He contributes. The only thing stifling Solarte is Bud Black’s love of tinkering. He sits one guy for two days, then plays him for three, then sits him for one, then plays him for five, then sits him for two. The benefit of a Solarte is that he’ll take the tinkering, and he’ll still be ready. I can’t say that about the other guys.

Take yesterday’s big-win over Bumgarner and the defending World Series Champs. It was Solarte’s second start of the short season, after two games off in a row. Was he rusty? Nope. In fact there’s been a lot of talk already about the ever-changing lineups, and how Derek Norris should be hitting fifth, making someone like Solarte an ideal bat in the two-hole. They tried that yesterday, and guess what? It worked. Solarte went 3 for 4 with an RBI, and Norris 2 for 5 with an RBI. However, I’m sure Norris will get a day off tomorrow, so things will change up once again, and I’m sure Solarte will be the odd man out. Seems to be the story of his young career. But, the other side of that story is that he deserves to play regularly. I just hope he gets that chance. Every team wishes they had someone like a Ben Zobrist. Most teams either never get that chance, or overlook the scrappy talent. Teams wind up ruining promising careers, because that one particular square peg never fit in the round hole. Well, maybe its time we shave the sides of our hole, and make some room for a square peg that may just be an answer to a lot of our questions.

For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc 

Just Three Games in April

Dodgers and Padres fans are connected in lots of ways: Southern California, the drought of both water and playoff success, Adrian Gonzalez, and the obligation to confront the recent dominance of the San Francisco Giants. But moreover, in the middle of the last decade both fan bases got screwed by messy divorces involving their owners. Frank McCourt’s regime spun out of control and alienated LA fans, while John Moores tried to sell his team in San Diego and then couldn’t. Now here we are. This is the first season in a long time that the Dodgers and Padres are on somewhat of a level playing field with both franchises legitimately trying to win. It’s fun. Dodger Nation thinks the Padres’ Faithful are new rich idiots who don’t know how to be real fans and Padres fans think Dodgers fans are gangbangers who seem to conveniently skip over the fact that they lost interest before Magic Johnson and his Billionaire Boys Club bailed them out. Never the less, for Padres fans, the first three games happened at the dump that is Dodger stadium and we got to see a glimpse of what the AJ Preller dream fulfilled could look like.

In Game One, James Shields slightly out pitched Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp carried the offense with three RBIs. However, the bullpen blew the game, allowing Jimmy Rollins to channel his first Obama Administration self with a three run homer. The Dodgers won 6-3. It’s easy to over react. It’s easy to think we learned something. But patterns have to start somewhere and in the opener and on through the series, every time a ball was hit to centerfield, I got nervous. Wil Myers is a great athlete with a big frame and he’s a competitive person who wants to succeed. The big question this spring was whether or not Myers could cut it in the field, especially in the big open space at Petco Park. He lost a ball in the sun in Game One and dropped another ball late in the contest in Game Three. Maybe this was over hyped by the media when the trade happened, and compounded by Tampa Bay’s sheer willingness to get rid of him, but it’s going to take a great deal of consistent play to make us feel completely safe with him out there.

The obvious bright spot of the series was game two. The Padres offense came through and the centerpiece of the last minute Sunday night blockbuster trade, Craig Kimbrel, got people excited. Tyson Ross looked good until the 6th inning when he gave up two runs. With the Padres down one, it became a question of whether or not the new revamped offense could take back the lead. All off season the narrative had been that things will be different because the pitching staff will have more run support. This was the time to show it off and they did. San Diego’s offense broke open a sizable lead and then Craig Kimbrel was brought into close in a non-save opportunity. He was electric and the Pads won.

Adrian Gonzalez will always remind us of the organization’s inability to pay star players in the past. In the back of my mind, I always assume he will return to the Padres for a victory lap when he is 39. However, watching him celebrate beating the Padres is something that will never sit well and he got to do that in Game Three. After Justin Upton’s 1st inning 2-run homer, it was pretty much all downhill. Adrian hit three bombs and the Dodgers’ defensive shifts mostly worked out for them. Brandon McCarthy was extremely effective when he needed to be and their bullpen held off San Diego from coming back.

It’s easy to over react to the first series of the season. This is something everybody knows and everybody mentions. In fact, the reaction to the reaction often becomes louder than the initial impulse to freak out over the small sample size. We get it; you’re too smart to have fun with the start of the season. Regardless, I learned that Craig Kimbrel throws really hard, the outfield defense is still a question, and Adrian Gonzalez hates us. It’s probably better for the Padres to get slapped around early. The off season is over and now they have to execute the plan designed for them. Bring on the champs.

Follow on Twitter: @Nicholas_McCann

Game One Over, And What Did We Learn?

Let the fire sale commence! Kidding. I really am kidding. All weeklong I truly felt like there was no way we were going to win our first game, and honestly I’ll be surprised if we win one out of the next four games. They won’t be blowouts…at least I don’t foresee them being blowouts. They’ll be close, and one miscue or bad pitch or questionable defensive move will be the cause. A lot of nerves, a lot of hype, and a squad that’s still figuring each other out will always lend itself to disappointment. Not long term, mind you, but mild disappointment, like you just had the best ravioli of your life, then stubbed your toe on the way to your car.

Game one is in the books, and the only thing that went wrong was the thing that nobody thought would go wrong: the bullpen. We battled back with the bats, and our starter kept us alive. That sentence wasn’t said very often last season. However, “the bullpen blew it” was another sentence that wasn’t said very often last season. Oh, well. It happens. We have a great bullpen made better two days ago, so honestly we all need to just sit back, kick up our feet, and be glad we had expectations to begin with.

So, did we learn anything from game 1 of 162? Yes, we did. The smarter sportswriters, and bloggers, and talking heads all saw this season as make or break for pretty much one person, and that person is the one person who actually looked more frazzled than anyone else on Monday – Bud Black. I’ve written extensively for several sites over the years that I don’t think Bud Black is a big-game manager, and I don’t know if I ever will think that. I do believe Monday’s opener helps me prove that point, but it won’t be the apex of his eventual firing, or raise. Game One was a game we were supposed to win. A game most Padres fans (and brass) will tell you we needed to win, but ultimately it was a game we needed to look really good in. Win or lose, we needed to look mid-market, and we didn’t. There are not a lot of things a big league manager can actually do these days to control the outcome of a game. He basically ensures the preparation of his players, and then asks his players to trust that he will make the right decisions during the game. Bud Black has never struck me as the kind of manager who totally does this. He likes to tinker. He likes to change the lineup constantly, and play the odds. In years past this has mostly been out of necessity, but he still does it. I’ll be absolutely shocked if we see the same lineup twice in the first six games. By all accounts, this isn’t necessarily good or bad, but I’ve yet to see it work on any kind of consistent and successful basis for Buddy. He likes to shake things up, but only when it looks like it’s the absolute worst time to do so.

Bringing in Nick Vincent wasn’t the worst idea he’s had. It wasn’t the best either. You’re in a big spot. Opening Day, up by a run against your biggest rival, and against the best pitcher in Baseball. The decision to bring in one of your few holdovers from the last couple of seasons, instead of Benoit or Kelley, guys who have big-game experience in high-pressure situations, is kind of a mystery. It’s the move of a tinkerer. A guy who likes to shake things up when only he thinks they should be shaken. He’s the anti-Taylor Swift. And, I know Vincent has been good the last few seasons. He’s a good guy, a great young reliever, and is going to have a good to great year, but it was just the wrong moment. Of course Kelley had his issues yesterday as well, and ultimately got the loss, but I’d rather give a long time veteran like Kelley the ball, then head straight to a young kid, like Vincent, still finding his spot on a team that suddenly matters. Maybe it was a test to see how Vincent reacted to his eventual success or failure. I don’t know, but my biggest problem is that sometimes I don’t think Bud Black knows either.

Make no mistake, we lost one game, and I am in no way calling for Bud Black to be fired. I like Bud Black. I bought Bud Black a beer one time, and he ordered a Coors Light, and I knew he was a real man. I want him to succeed, and I want him to lead this team to success. Most people say about Buddy what they said about Bochy: Give him some talent, and he can put together a winner. Well, AJ gave ya the talent, Buddy; now show us what you can do. We’re all watching.

For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc 

The LA Open

It’s fitting that the season starts at Dodger Stadium. The 2015 Padres aren’t real until Los Angeles sees what they are. It’s better to get this out of the way early. The first three games of the year will showcase the three best pitchers from each staff and then the Padres will go home to face the Giants, the World Series Champions and the current measuring stick for the rest of the NL West.

Before the war begins, I need to get something off my chest. I need to expose the most embarrassing clip of video footage I have in my possession that pertains to the SD vs. LA rivalry.

When I was 12, my Dad and I spent the Saturday before the 1992 All Star Game at the Upper Deck All Star Fanfest held at the San Diego Convention Center. We milled around for hours, meeting old players selling autographs and checking out baseball card displays at every turn. Towards the end of our day, we stopped at a booth called Screen Training. This was an interactive exhibit that allowed participants to record a play by play call of a classic baseball moment. We decided to give it a shot with Kirk Gibson’s iconic walk off home run in game one of the 1988 World Series.

The personal artifact above from the ’92 All Star Weekend captures a time in my life when cynicism and angst were completely absent from my sports fan experience. In case you couldn’t get through it (which is fine), my high pitched unchanged voice playfully made fun of Tommy Lasorda’s Slimfast campaign and alluded to Gibson using steroids, even though I never believed that. I was young enough to geek out over a transcendent sporting event, but old enough to understand the value of using a catch phrase to build up the drama. I smashed the non-existent audience repeatedly with “It’s Eck time” several times. I couldn’t stop and never thought about why I should.

Over the last 23 years I’ve learned to hate the Dodgers and their fans. It isn’t just baseball anymore like it was before I hit puberty. In fact, it increases every year. I hate the Kirk Gibson homerun. I hate what it means for Dodger fans and I hate that it is undeniably an important piece of baseball history. I’m posting this video for two reasons: (A) it is hilarious and (B) because I need Dodgers fans to see it and make fun of me for it. I can’t move past it if they don’t get to take a shot.

The San Diego Padres had 5 players in the All Star Game that year (Tony Gwynn, Benito Santiago, Tony Fernandez, Fred Mcgriff, and Gary Sheffield). A year later the Great Fire Sale of 1993 would strip down the Padres to Tony Gwynn and a bunch of scrubs. A year after that, all the Major League players would go on strike.

Next year the All Star game returns to San Diego and I will be at the fan fest. Hopefully I can record a call of Clayton Kershaw choking in the playoffs against the Padres. If that happens, I’ll probably say something horrible like, “Oh no, I think Clayton just renounced God!” But the Padres have to get there first.

Happy Opening Day!

Follow on Twitter: @Nicholas_McCann

 

2015 MLB Predictions

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for me to be incredibly impressive with my accurate predictions for the forthcoming MLB Season. As always, the picks are real, and you are extremely welcome for the insider info. Please take my picks, go to Vegas, and put all of your money on what I think is right.

We’ll start with the League of our Forefathers: National

NL WEST:

Arizona Diamondbacks: After years of mediocre Baseball, and subpar seasons of rebuilding and selling off young talent for nothing in return, the Diamondbacks ask to officially change their name to the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles Dodgers of Irvine: After losing their first 20 games, the Dodgers announce “Rub Tommy Lasorda’s Belly Night”. The promotion goes awry when Tommy gets completely naked and runs onto the field during the 7th inning stretch yelling, “FERNANDO-MANIA HAS RETURNED!”

Colorado Rockies: Have not been heard from for the last six years. If you have any information regarding their whereabouts please e-mail ToddHelton@DanteBichette.geocities.com

San Diego Padres: Have done everything they can to eventually let us all down. KEEP THE FAITH!

San Francisco Giants*: After losing a few key players to free agency, the Giants replace them with castoffs and unknowns and somehow make the playoffs. A statue of Bruce Bochy is erected on top of Alcatraz. He is The Rock.

NL CENTRAL:

Cincinnati Reds: Jay Bruce hits .220 with 30 homeruns. Joey Votto hits .290 with 79 RBI. Billy Hamilton hits .183 and steals 92 bases. Johnny Cueto wins 13 games and strikes out 202 batters. The team collapses of monotony and finishes 3rd.

Pittsburgh Pirates*: Are just sooooooooo close!

Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo decides to give himself a Mohawk, wear nothing but cut off shorts and tank tops, and demand that everyone calls him “The Riz!” Joe Maddon likes the idea and pitches a reality show where he and The Riz are unlikely roommates in a downtown Chicago loft. The Riz Goes Mads is a huge hit, and the Cubs lose 98 games.

Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun is once again caught for steroids, but this time it really wasn’t his fault. You see, Jonathan Lucroy dared him to eat all the steroids in the locker room, and at first Braun was like no way, but he’s always been super serious about dares, so he tried to pretend like he was eating them, so he wouldn’t look like a wimp, but then ended up actually eating them all by accident.

St. Louis Cardinals: Are so boring that it took me three minutes (an actual three minutes) to remember they were in this division. Listen, I know two guys who love the Cardinals…So, Sam and Jimmy, I wish you all the luck Matt Adams will have versus Left-Handed pitching this year.

NL EAST:

Atlanta Braves: For the first time since the 90’s the Braves aren’t relevant. We can all sleep a little better at night.

Miami Marlins: Christian Yelich surpasses everyone’s expectations by hitting 45 homeruns and knocking in 139 RBI. The Marlins then sign him to a 20-year $874 million dollar contract. Both of his arms are tragically bitten off by an actual marlin on “Bring Your Own Marlin Night”.

Philadelphia Phillies: Finally trade Cole Hamels…for Cliff Lee. Everyone is confused, and no one is happy.

New York Mets: To drum up interest in the new season, ownership starts a nationwide contest called ‘Pitch for the Mets’! Anyone is eligible* (*must be willing to have Tommy John surgery immediately)

Washington Nationals*: The Nationals win over 100 games and go on to the World Series! Bryce Harper drinks soda for the first time and disappears for games one and two. When he finally does show up, he’s married, has no memory of the last three months, and burns all of Max Scherzer’s shoes.

NL WILDCARDS: Padres & Cubs

NL CHAMPS: Nationals

Now, on to the League of Miscreants and Vagabonds: American

AL WEST:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Josh Hamilton is officially listed as a character from The Wire.

Houston Astros: Listen, you can put the Astros in the Premier League and they’d still be the worst at Baseball.

Oakland A’s*: Surprise the Baseball world once again by winning 90 games and not surprisingly celebrate their great regular season with a 1st Round exit from the playoffs. Billy Beane is found on top of the Oakland Bay Bridge singing “Everybody Hurts” and screaming, “Brad Pitt was me!!”

Texas Rangers: After losing 45 out of their first 60 games, the Rangers clean house. They trade Yovani Gallardo for three double-A relievers, Shin-Soo Choo for Michael Cuddyer, Jr., Elvis Andrus for Elvis Grbac, Prince Fielder for more uniforms, and sign Jurickson Profar to an extension. The strategy does not work, although at least one or two dudes thought it totally could have.

Seattle Mariners: To better connect with the city, the team forces all their players to choose either Nirvana or Pearl Jam songs for their walk-up music. Robinson Cano is fined $10,000 when he defiantly chooses Mudhoney’s “Chain That Door”. [Please note: This joke, and these references would’ve absolutely killed in 1993]

AL CENTRAL:

Detroit Tigers*: After letting Kate Upton throw out the first pitch the team becomes cursed. They lose every other game, and somehow nude photos of every player surface on the Internet. Justin Verlander’s demise is finally explained, but everyone agrees it was totally worth it.

Kansas City Royals: After a miracle 2014 season, the Royals are unable to repeat the magic. Ticket sales plummet, and at dinner on July 30th your father is overheard saying, “Now, this is more like it.” Eric Hosmer once again shows a lot of potential.

Chicago White Sox: After spending a busy offseason signing some high profile free agents, it’s unanimously agreed that no one cares and it was all futile. Jeff Samardzija spends all of June crying in the clubhouse when it’s revealed that absolutely no one knows how to spell his name.

Cleveland Indians: Sign Lebron James as a publicity stunt, but when he shows up ready to play, the team just goes with it. He is very bad, and once again the debate begins on who’s better: Jordan or Lebron. Having coached Jordan in the minors, Terry Francona publicly comes out in support of Jordan. Lebron has Francona fired, and takes over as manager. He immediately signs Johnny Manziel, and the Indians go on to lose an unprecedented 300 games; thus completing Lebron’s finite revenge on Cleveland’s sports fans.

Minnesota Twins: Torii Hunter does not work out.

AL EAST:

New York Yankees: When Chase Headley is named the starter at third base, A-Rod goes into a roid rage. He breaks all the Hall of Fame plaques in two, eats the bases, and uses Joe Girardi’s legs to beat Didi Gregorious to death. Somehow the Yankees still don’t release him.

Baltimore Orioles: Have another great year, and absolutely no one notices.

Toronto Blue Jays: Heading into the All-Star break in first place, the Blue Jays are riding high, then go on to lose their next 40 games. In an attempt to regain their fan base they invite The Kids In Hall to perform post-game for an entire weekend. Every game is a sellout, but things take a turn when Josh Donaldson is injured as a guest vocalist on “These Are The Dave’s I Know”. [Please Note: This reference is great.]

Boston Red Sox*: After failing to sign every single free agent available, the Red Sox are forced to start some of their young talent. It works out fine, and things go well.

Tampa Bay Rays: After losing Andrew Friedman and Maddon, many feel the Rays mystique is gone. To fix this the team convinces Chris Archer to wear Maddon’s famous thick-rimmed glasses. This inadvertently turns Archer into an elite pitcher, and he wins the Cy Young. The celebration is cut short on a very sad episode of The Riz Goes Mads when Archer is caught stealing all of Maddon’s glasses. Archer is sent to prison, where he starts an all-new reality series –Three Strikes, I’m Out – chronicling Archer’s journey to find redemption, and the perfect curve.

AL WILDCARDS: White Sox and Angels

AL CHAMPS: Red Sox

WORLD SERIES CHAMPS: Nationals

Well, there you have it: a completely flawless and analytic look at the 2015 MLB Season. Yes, I have the Nationals winning it all, which is highly unlikely, but so far I’ve been .500 in my picks, so there. SHUT UP.

Happy Opening Day!

For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc 

Dean’s Team

I watched Game One of the Chargers 2014 season on Monday night at my parents’ house in Tierrasanta, a neighborhood two miles away from the team’s headquarters. Before it started, my Mom and I watched MSNBC’s coverage of the Ray Rice elevator video while sitting on the couch with our family’s two little black dogs: Berry and Tom. The damning tape had been released that morning and there were discussions about the NFL happening on networks that it should never be on. This made me nervous. In my parents’ living room we watch MSNBC in the evenings and think about the big picture. After telling my Mom that my wife would arrive shortly before kickoff, she asked me point blank, “Have you ever thought about hitting my daughter-in-law?”

“No,” I replied sharply, startled and unsure about the location I chose for watching the start of the season. “The game is almost on, can you not do that?” I felt like Michael Dukakis in the 1988 Presidential debate where he was unfairly asked about his wife hypothetically getting raped. What was I supposed to say? The worst questions are the ones that only have one answer. It was 30 minutes from kickoff, but I wanted it sooner. I needed to watch football to save me from talking about football.

As far as the actual game, things were feeling pretty good mid-way through the 3rd quarter. The Chargers, after struggling on offense in the 1st half had scored twice, making it 17-6.  “It’s okay if we lose to Seattle next week,” I said to my Dad, who wasn’t responding. “At least we got this one.” The man who explained football to me fell asleep on the couch shortly after halftime. Around the same time, my wife went home to our place and my Mom went to bed.

The Cardinals scored to close out the quarter. Then, after a few horrible drives by the Chargers, Arizona marched down the field and scored, leaving San Diego two minutes to get into field goal position. The Cardinals blitzed and blitzed and blitzed some more on that final drive. Philip Rivers was forced to make quick throws and change the angle of his release. The Chargers lost by one point.

I sat with the loss on my parents’ couch for a few moments. The postgame wrap up show was just noise. It all felt like a broken record: The Chargers lose in a close game and then I get sad. “It’s just football,” I said, possibly out loud. Turning to the right, I noticed that my parents’ dog, Tom, was looking right at me. He had been on the couch the whole time. Tom is a rescue dog. Somebody beat the crap out of him a lot. Now when you look at him you can see that he only has one emotion: terror. The other dog, Berry, looks exactly like Tom, but she is exuberant and full of life. My parents got her from a friend. Her vertical leap is crazy and when you walk in the door she flings herself at you with complete disregard of her body. Berry ran off when my mom went to bed. Tom, on the other hand, stayed until the end with me. The little guy has been living with my parents for 5 years now and his life has been filled with love and safety. But Tom is broken. He’s perpetually frightened of the world in a way that he can’t hide. Somebody stole what Berry has from Tom and now he is forced to see that and be compared to it every day. My Dad was still asleep nearby. I didn’t want to wake him and explain what had just happened in the game. Besides, Tom and I were engaged in a staring contest. I blinked first.

I am not an abused person, but when I root for San Diego sports teams, I love to play the victim. If the Padres don’t spend money, I feel cheated. If the Chargers fall short of making the playoffs, I blame outside forces for controlling the degree of my happiness. But none of this is real pain. Not really. I might be able to have a moment with my parents’ dog, but when he stares at me, it isn’t because he relates to what I’ve gone through with my sports teams. I’m a dude, and coming from his formative life experience, dudes have a tendency to beat his ass.

In 1994, my Dad-who falls asleep during Chargers games now- had a ticket to see the divisional playoff game against the Miami Dolphins with one of his friends, but decided to give me the ticket instead. The Chargers won while my Dad listened on the radio in the parking lot. A week later, in the AFC Championship Game, the Bolts beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh and my Dad and I, along with tens of thousands of fans, went to Qualcomm to welcome the Super Bowl bound team home. At that rally, local morning radio icons Jeff and Jer lit Jerry Rice’s jersey on fire and it all made sense. Like second generation Chargers owner Dean Spanos, I’ve been given a lot, probably more than I deserve.

Dean Spanos thinks he deserves a new stadium and he wants the city of San Diego to write an estimated 600 million dollar check to help pay for it. He knows voters won’t do that and he’s pissed about it. Over the last decade or so Spanos has painted himself as a victim, posing as the owner of a struggling business that is siphoning cash left and right, trying to compete in an evolving sports landscape with a subpar infrastructure to host games. However, he hasn’t sold the team or opened up the books in any significant way. The NFL’s media rights deals keep going up and the owners share all of the revenue. In turn, the Chargers keep extending their lease, while holding a possible move to LA over the people of San Diego.

Dean Spanos knows that if he were to sell the team right now with the current situation at Qualcomm Stadium, it would go for a great sum of money, but the amount left on the table without a stadium resolution in either LA or San Diego, would be astronomical. It would probably be somewhere north of the same 600 million dollars that the tax payers are being asked to come up with. Since his latest State of the City address in January, Mayor Kevin Faulconer has attached his entire political equity on coming up with a creative solution to raise the money. After the Mayor brought to this to the forefront, the PR coming from the Chargers has been counterproductive and cynical. Their game plan has been this: Wait to see what the city comes up with, snipe at any morsel of optimism, and look at other options with nifty hashtags:

The injury cloud hit the 2014 Chargers hard. Philip Rivers fought through pain all year despite having virtually no consistent protection to count on. The team narrowly missed the playoffs, and while the San Diego Padres transformed into a possible contender, the Chargers embarked on one of the most frustrating and confusing off seasons in the history of the franchise. Rivers does not believe in #Carson2gether. He has strong reservations about moving his family to Los Angeles and has publicly made it clear he will hold off on working out a contract extension with the team past next year. Heading into the final season of his six-year, $91.8 million contract, Philip is due $17,416,688 for 2015. It is possible he wants to be traded. The Chargers have scheduled a workout for 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, even though San Diego doesn’t draft until No. 17 in the first round when Mariota will be long gone. The Tennessee Titans, who hold the No. 2 pick, are coached by Ken Whisenhunt, a former offensive coordinator for Rivers and the Chargers. It’s also possible that Rivers wants to play out the 2015 season with the only team he’s played for and see where things are with the stadium, the health of his own body, and the relationship between the fans and the franchise. He’s made his money and his family loves San Diego. What would be the upside to signing on for a few more years of turmoil? He doesn’t want to move his large family to LA for obvious reasons, but he also doesn’t want to be a star player on a team caught in limbo. To the south people will hate the team for leaving and around the LA area there could be a huge rejection of the Chargers. #Carson2gether has all the makings of disaster if it’s even a real thing. Phil knows this and doesn’t want to link his legacy to being the leader of the team who left.

It’s fitting that things have worked out this way. The player the Chargers got because Eli Manning wouldn’t sign is opting to take control of the end of his career by not signing an extension. What Eli did was more jarring at the time, but it should be noted that Manning and Rivers have both made moves to shield themselves from the decision-making of the organization. And what did Eli really do? His Dad thought Spanos and his team would limit his son’s career and Eli agreed. We all took it as an offense to our city, but really it was an accurate assessment of how things work in Chargerland. Two Superbowls later, the Mannings turned out to be spot on. Phil just further confirmed it.

Regardless of who is right, or what the intention of the organization is, a tipping point has been reached. It’s not fun to think about the Chargers anymore. Dean and his cronies have made following the team’s free agency and talking about the upcoming draft feel like something for a chump to do. More importantly, Dean Spanos has revealed the chilling truth that no sports fan wants to admit: we don’t own any of this. Fans can go to Qualcomm, wear the colors, create lasting memories, cry when their team loses and scream with joy when they win, but a professional sports team is just an asset controlled by an owner who wants to increase the value of his property. That’s all it is and that’s all it will ever be.

The Chargers are Dean’s team and he wants San Diegans to buy in now so he can make more money. But how do we know what football will be over the next 30 years when the next Spanos in line wants another stadium to replace this potential new one?  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell continually makes mistakes that increase the griminess of the product, top players are retiring early left and right because of complicated head injuries, and youth participation is in rapid decline all over the country. Junior Seau, the most significant Charger of the 90s, invested a lot in football and then he shot himself in the chest. Stadium proponents will tell you that a new NFL stadium will keep San Diego relevant as major modern city. However, the truth is LA hasn’t had a team for 20 years, the San Francisco 49ers didn’t build a new shop in The City, and the New York Jets and Giants, play in New Jersey. A city’s modernity shouldn’t be defined by its participation in a professional sport that is becoming more and more taboo for its children to start out in. The Chargers might leave, but we won’t lose anything. Dean’s got us in a staring contest. He thinks we should relate to his need for a new stadium, but really he’s just a dude who owns a sports franchise. And those dudes tend to hurt us. It’s okay if we blink first.

Follow on Twitter: @Nicholas_McCann

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