Missing The Playoffs: A View From The Sideline
At the beginning of the season, the drive to my son’s preschool in the morning was complicated. Every day we would end up on the 15 North and head to Tierrasanta: the suburb where he went to school, and where I built my legacy.
This daily journey gave us a few moments each day to evaluate the state of the Mission Valley Stadium Site. He had sharp takes on the machinery being used during the destruction phase. Then later he would claim the old structure just magically disappeared. But mainly, he was confused why I was drawn to look over and mention something about it every single time we drove by.
Nothing inside him will ever care about what happened there.
Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. are in San Diego for their primes, and it has to be a real run. The city deserves a title from the Padres and falling short of getting a ticket to the tournament this year is forcing us to look back in an all too familiar way.
While the national buzz that came from being considered a serious contender was undeniably delicious this last offseason, the most refreshing aspect of the product the Padres have put forward since this core has come together has been watching the organization become untethered to nostalgia.
From the purchase in 2012 to the signing of Manny Machado, despite a few moments of on the field fun and the 2015 splurge of signings and trades, a gesture that celebrated a past that didn’t belong to this ownership group became their singular avenue to making us feel good.
Now, with the season destroyed, a 1998 Week fixated on old almost glories from the team would feel like violence against our community. This losing record and third place finish puts us back in the kind of square one that might soon assume the title “San Diego” as the brand name everybody knows. The old moves won’t work anymore. We felt the warmth of real relevance and that was taken away.
I’m not worrying about a one game playoff against a rival today. I’m tracking which internal firings will satisfy my need to believe the team I root for cares about improving itself. I’m doing this because I was wrong this time. And my wrongness has left me with egg on my face that’s a lot messier than what comes from just talking shit to other fanbases and losing a division. I had faith in the idea of AJ Preller. I thought if he could unlock something in the owners to participate in this sport in a real financial way, the complex problems that would stop other organizations in their tracks would never touch us.
There’s nothing worse as a fan than the pain of relearning something you already know. And it turns out the lesson of this season is that there are a lot of ways to be a bad baseball team.
On September 22nd, fellow TKFer Dallas McLaughlin and I went to the Giants game at Petco Park. The team was well on its way to being eliminated, but we both agreed that we should go see Vince Velasquez pitch so we could tell our grandchildren.
They were down 0-3 before we could get to our seats. The smell of death was everywhere as we sat a few rows back from first base. Surrounded by Giants people on all sides while the Padres battled Jayce Tingler Style, we tried to heckle the opposing team so their fans would understand something about this place where their dreams often come true.
Dallas called out Buster Posey for his lack of commitment to his team last year. I accused Brandon Crawford of looking like someone who would treat Neve Campbell from Wild Things like shit. We got some light chuckles from our section at first. There wasn’t much competition. An SF fan with orange rimmed glasses and a man bun had some Hosmer material we agreed with, but mostly left us cold.
By the end of the game, we really hit our stride and just started flat out making fun of how bad the Padres were to get laughs. Because he was driving, we decided Dallas should be the dominant voice and I would fill in the gaps. It was like riding a bike. We connected with the Giants fans on Bochy and booed a dodgers fan who came up to the first row to take a pic. It was easier for us to be in that space and make the Giants fans feel our sadness up close. After all, without actually saying it, both sides agreed that the early season belief we had in our team was ultimately funny.
The Padres lost the game and before leaving early into the night, we handed out TKF Koozies and promoted the podcast.
My son goes to kindergarten a block away from our house now, so we don’t have to do any more morning driving by structures that bring up the failures of our city’s sports teams.
Even though he’s just starting to understand sports, he knows he likes to watch Tatis. And while I like to watch him process this elite player’s gifts, it also feels like they both have zero relationship to the San Diego that lost an NFL team or has meant nothing on the national MLB stage for so many years.
My little guy was born during a tanking year and doesn’t remember it. I don’t want to explain it to him if this window doesn’t work out. He deserves to look forward. He deserves the right to some day have a 2022 Week used against him.
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