By Nicholas McCann
The first Padres home series of the year against the Los Angeles Dodgers was a disaster. As an entertainment product, it was a horrendous roll out. The only thing that could’ve made it worse is if the Padres had ditched Fox Sports SD and forced fans to stream the games on Tidal. San Diego’s team didn’t score at all for three days and wore different uniforms each time out. They looked like a team that didn’t know what they wanted to be.
Then it rained.
Going into Friday’s matchup against the Colorado Rockies, the Padres were a national joke. And after the 30th frame of scoreless hell, they finally exploded and beat the Rockies two games in a row by huge margins. Everyone exhaled, but probably no one more than first year manager Andy Green. Last year at this time the central storyline to the team’s entire package was the emergence of the “Rock Star GM” framing of AJ Preller. It allowed us to believe we had a Bobby Fisher/Steve Jobs character operating three moves ahead of everyone else. We thought we had an edge. This year the focus is on Green and the hope that he can do something remarkable with a team that is building (not rebuilding) to something greater. Sure, it was just the first three games of the year that mirrored the sensation of drowning, but the fact still remains that the 2016 San Diego Padres are a team capable of going 30 straight innings with out scoring a run. There’s no way around that being a significant red flag. And to make matters worse, this truth was revealed to the other first year manager in the division.
The Dodgers’ new skipper Dave Roberts and Andy Green will always be judged against each other. It’s basically a race to see who can stay employed the longest. There’s no other way to look at it. The first franchise to reboot will be the loser. Most Padres fans are fond of Roberts. He played a short stint in San Diego and was a respected coach under Bud Black. More importantly, he has the type of personality that usually works here. He’s non-threatening and always seems like a stoic introvert up until the point when he needs to say the right thing. Then he flashes his million dollar smile and people say, “I like that guy.” Green is different publicly, but all signs point to him being just as savvy. People who are already over the moon on Green are drawn to his personality first. He projects youthful energy with every word that comes out of his mouth and it seems to be winning with those who desperately need a persona opposite of Bud Black’s.
The Padres play the Dodgers in LA at the end of the month and it will be interesting to see how or if Andy Green addresses the first series of the year. The main criticism that always came from Bud Black detractors was that he didn’t project enough fight outwardly in the media when the cameras were on. Green likes to craft sound bites about process and consistency, but we haven’t yet seen him get ejected from a game or clearly direct a pitcher to throw at an opposing batter. Do we need him to feed the rivalry and address the current state of it when the next series comes around? Dave Roberts most likely will not engage in this for two reasons: (A) he already has proven he has our number this year and (B) he comes from the school of Buddy. Black’s role in this dynamic is symbolic, but it still matters. Preller fired him and didn’t give Dave Roberts a real chance to be his replacement. Now the man who was Bud’s right hand man is at the helm of the hated rival and he’s got exponentially more talent than was ever given to Black to work with.
Over the next few years the Dodgers will be contenders and the Padres will be developing a young core. Roberts will need to get to the World Series and win while Andy Green will be defined by how fast he can get his franchise to the point where Dave is starting from now. They both will say the right things in their own ways. Dave is up three and Andy needs to come home and win. If the Padres need an identity, they can start by never again being what they were out of the gate.
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