There have been many words said and written about the Padres’ 2021 campaign, but perhaps the best summary comes from a Victorian author who never saw them play.
Buoyed by a 2020 season in which they reached the NLDS, general manager A.J. Preller made several off-season moves to improve the club. These deals included signing a veteran closer (Mark Melancon), acquiring three veteran pitchers (Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell, and Yu Darvish), and locking in their young superstar (Fernando Tatis Jr.) with a 14-year contract extension.
These moves gave second-year manager Jayce Tingler an abundance of talent to work with, and it paid immediate dividends in the first half of the 2021 season. There was much to celebrate, including:
the franchise’s first ever no-hitter by Joe Musgrove;
an exciting offense fueled by Tatis’s MVP-caliber season;
an unlikely grand slam by journeyman pitcher Daniel Camarena against future HOFer Max Scherzer; and
the breakout stardom of Jake Cronenworth who joined Tatis, Melancon, Darvish, and Manny Machado as ASG selections.
The good times were definitely rolling, and Machado introduced a custom-made “swagg chain” to the team in May. We all loved watching it spin.
The Padres entered the All Star break with a 53-40 record and were well-positioned for a NL Wild Card berth against the Dodgers in spite of injuries to several key players.
But then a downward spiral took hold, and fans watched a once-promising season slip away. There will be an entire off-season (perhaps more) to dissect what went wrong. In the meantime, our hopes for this particular team – this particular year – have been crushed.
Fans react to the collapse
Fan support for the Padres has been stronger than ever this season. The team played to sold-out crowds at Petco Park more often than not, and the atmosphere at the ballpark was almost universally described as “electric.”
But as the second-half losses accumulated and the clubhouse problems became known, the dreaded, deep-seated sense of frustration that Padres fans are all too familiar with took hold.
Maggie, a 50-year old lifelong Padres fan, expressed the anguish felt by many in an off-day Twitter thread that she posted following the sweep by the Cardinals that left the Padres 3.5 games behind in the NL Wild Card race.
The #Padres heartbreak this year is different. The low feels worse because the hope was so much higher than in any other year, and the hope lasted longer. Even after the split with the Giants I STILL had hope.
I am used to, this time of year, focusing on “something” to enjoy games, knowing we weren’t going to the postseason. Be a spoiler for the Giants or the Rockies? Sure. Will Franmil sing? Will Josh Naylor’s hat fall off? Hahaha that’s so funny! $5 beer Friday night? Sweet!
Petco Park is my happy place. I have loved it there since Opening Day 2004. But I’ve got tickets to 4 of the last 6 games this week, and I don’t know if I can even go.
Now I’m wondering if some of the players are still in it. Will they give the fans everything they have? I’ve never stopped loving and supporting my Padres in 40+ yrs of terrible baseball (and I couldn’t, let’s be honest). But this let-down hurts more than ALL the others.
I’m so stoked that we have Manny and Tatis for the long-term future – but damnit, I’m pissed about having to be hopeful about the FUTURE. Again. Just like every year.
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