I know this isn’t really the time to bring it up. No one wants to feel sad or get angry when we’re all currently residents of Slam Diego, but I think it matters.
It’s important to know that sometimes it all works out, especially when this was not exactly the intention, but possibly, kind of, maybe it was?
In 2014 the Padres were in the middle of another crap season, nothing was working, the team was a mess, Bud Black seemed like a great idea, had had success but looked lost with the likes of Cameron Maybin, Rene Rivera and Chase Headley. Our pitching staff was basically Ian Kennedy, Jesse Hahn and the idea of Tyson Ross.
We were headed for another sub .500 season, and Josh Byrnes was let go. Uncle Ron and Papa Pete replace Brynes with a young, analytic-minded international talent super stud, AJ Preller.
Sure, he carries around a deflated basketball, doesn’t brush his hair, kind of cheats, and it’s rumored still has his mom pay his bills, but the fanbase was pretty excited nonetheless. Especially, when he did the unthinkable that winter: He did a reverse fire sale.
Some people were pissed. I was not one of them.
By 2015 the San Diego Padres looked vastly different. We had a mashup of former and current all-stars, and said goodbye to a lot of young talent in the process. One of these new additions was the often argued about and never agreed upon, lifetime Dodger, Matt Kemp.
Kemp was older than ever in 2015, coming off one of his better seasons in 2014, but still had questions about where he could actually still play. His one and a half seasons in San Diego weren’t awful per se, but they also weren’t incredible. He basically had Ryan Klesko seasons, but was never the “Surf Dawg”.
This is where our story begins. Not, with Klesko, although I’m more than happy to write that 3,000 word essay at some point.
There was a lot of expectations for the 2015 Padres, although experts warned the experiment would be a failed one. Sadly, the experts were right.
Halfway through the season Bud Black was fired.
The Pat Murphy Experience was not a hit, and the team ended with a 74-88 record.
This 4th place finished caused a fallout we all feared. Justin Upton left for Detroit, Jedd Gyorko was sent to St. Louis for Jon Jay, Pat Murphy was replaced with AJ’s first official hire Andy Green, and we started hearing a lot about Jabari Blash. We essentially traded Yonder for Drew Pomeranz, signed Alexei Ramirez and then Fernando Rodney to replace Craig Kimbrel who we had just traded for a prospect haul no one saw coming featuring Carlos Asuaje, Manny Margot, Logan Allen, and Javy Guerra; beginning the revamp of a farm system AJ had depleted just one season before.
If the 2015 season was looked at as an experiment, then the 2016 season was the leftover crap in the petri dish.
Green was inexperienced, and liked to fist bump his wife. Wil Myers and Solarte were the lone bright spots, and James Shields was hanging out with Sevendust.
I can remember being so made at this team. Just the audacity of a front office that thought I would maybe be okay with rooting for this.
But, we still had legit superstar Matt Kemp on the team, and he actually had a pretty good offensive season in 2015. There was some hope that he could, maybe, possibly, kind of still anchor this team.
From the get-go James Shields and Andy Green never got a long (Andy was a Slipknot guy), and Shields was shipped off to the White Sox in EARLY JUNE (I legit forgot this trade happened so early in the season, man they hated each other.) and in return we got Erik Johnson and an extremely young, off-the-radar prospect, Fernando Tatis, Jr.
The season tanked further. Drew Pomeranz was traded for Red Sox uber-prospect Anderson Espinoza, and it looked like a rebuild was beginning to happen. Brad Hand had emerged, and Fernando Rodney, who was having a nice season, was shipped to Miami for Chris Paddack. Oh.
The weird Cashner/Rea to Miami deal happened and then didn’t, but also did, and the Padres wound up with Naylor, but missed out on Luis Castillo. Oh oh.
Although offensively Kemp was still better than a lot of people on the team, it was very clear a rebuild – sorry – A BUILD – was happening. Kemp had also fallen out of favor with everyone. The team, the city, himself, his weight. We sent him to a real baseball city in Atlanta for a player who was accused of domestic abuse who we immediately released and ate that player’s giant salary. We traded Kemp so we could lose more money. In the business we call that a “Please God LEAVE”.
However, trading Kemp for negative money was the clear sign that the experiment was over. It was done. 2015 was now a distant memory. We could move on and let AJ work, and really see if he knew what he was doing.
The next few seasons we spent no-money, and went through prospect after prospect watching most of them fail while also believing in Jered Weaver. AJ had great drafts, worked the international markets, and started to create a farm system that kept on climbing the rankings. Which, is honestly what I believed he wanted to do in the first place. Rebuild the farm system he inherited the way he wanted it. Instead of going after “sure fire” top prospects, draft and sign a bunch of guys with potential. If you throw enough darts at the dartboard one will hit the bullseye. Spend elsewhere and bet that it’ll pay off in the Majors.
Then, slowly spend on big league free agents and build a roster. First Myers, then Hosmer, then Manny. Build, tinker, build, tinker, build.
If we never splurged and made a splash back in 2014. If we never ended up with Upton (who we knew was walking after 2015 anyway), Derek Morris, James Shields, and the jewel Matt Kemp we would have never believed we should’ve been successful. We could have been watching Trea Turner and Max Fried and Matt Wisler be average for our still-manager Bud Black. We would’ve never wound up with Pham and Cronenworth. Never would’ve landed Grisham for Urias. Never would’ve hit on Paddack or our lord and savior Bebo.
If that 2015 squad was a success, if Matt Kemp could’ve hit to his highest potential, we wouldn’t be here right now. We wouldn’t have this young team full of excitement. Full of grand slams. We would’ve had a great 2015, lost Upton, had an average 2016, sold off the team for parts as now all their value would’ve been worse as failing superstars rather than good players on a bad team. The fact that 2015 failed was the success.
Of course there is no way to prove this or even assume it’s true. I’m just stating what happened coupled with theories and 20/20 vision. Who knows if it would’ve played out a different way, and chances are it would have, but that’s what’s fun about all this.
I like think of 2015-2020 like The Shawshank Redemption. The start of 2015 was when Andy Dufresne finally accepted where he was. He made the library incredible, he got the kid to pass his high school diploma, things were looking good – there was a plan. Then the kid got shot. The plan changed. From 2016-2019 Andy had to crawl through two football fields of shit and God knows what, but finally, in 2020 he emerged into freedom. The pouring rain washing away the past with nothing but blue skies and sandy beaches ahead.
You remember the name of that little town where I could use a man who knows how to get things? You remember? Say it. SLAM DIEGO.
For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc