Realistically, the Padres are going nowhere this season and that hasn’t changed. Sure, since the All-Star Break they’ve been a better than respectable 11-7. Sure, that accounts for a .611 winning percentage that would top the NL West presently if spread out through the entire season. The Padres have averaged 4.67 runs a game since the All-Star Break, a far cry from the “worst offense in history” that they were (and still may be) just a few weeks ago.
And yes, this is all over an extremely small sample size.
But fans would be excused for getting excited over the recent play of the Padres. Whether it’s players getting healthy, new blood in the lineup, a regression to the mean, or a combination of all of these things, the Padres are playing better. The team stands to get even better still in the near future with the return of Andrew Cashner (though with more names due out from the Biogenesis scandal, who knows if and who the Padres may lose soon).
Add to that the Padres have finally ended their search for a new GM by hiring AJ Preller from the Texas Rangers, a young, energetic, forward thinking baseball mind by all accounts. For a season marred by poor play on the field and tragedy off it, the last month has been a breath of fresh air. So it’s no surprise that fans have been happier recently. Dare I say, we might actually be enjoying this team a bit recently.
But should we be?
Presently, there are 9 teams with worst records than the Padres. They are projected to finish 76-86 as of this writing. That would be good enough for the 9th pick in next year’s draft. That would be 4 picks higher than in this year’s draft in which the Padres took Trea Turner and so far, so good. For fun, I took a look at who this year’s #9 pick was. It was Jeff Hoffman, selected by the Toronto Blue Jays. Considered a top 3 talent his draft stock tumbled slightly following Tommy John surgery. Add to that the intriguing possibility that this year’s overall #1 draft pick, Brady Aiken, did not sign with Houston, leaving the possibility that the San Diego product may be available again next year, and there is some reason to PERHAPS play for the draft pick over playing to win right now.
But that’s not how fans operate. And I’m not sure it should be. As a fan of the Padres, I want them to be good. I want them to be good now, tomorrow, next year, etc. Now, most the time they aren’t. And the logical part of my brain knows that for the Padres to get better they need better players. Players that can be acquired in a variety of ways, including the draft. If the Padres do end up going 76-86 this year (by the way, that would be the 3rd season in a row with that exact same record and would be only .5 games under the Vegas O/U pre-season) they will have likely ended the season 3rd in the NL West and around 8-10 games back of the Wild Card. So basically, exactly where they are now.
Yet the fan in me looks at the Wild Card and sees the Padres 8.5 games back and remembers the 2012 Oakland A’s who overcame a 5 game deficit in just 9 games. Based on that logic, 8.5 games in nearly two months should be a breeze! Of course, that isn’t logical. By definition, fandom is a version of the word “fanatic” which means, literally “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal.”
It’s a battle between logic and long-term thinking and fandom. But here’s where I land. One, my rooting for the Padres, despite how many lucky shirts, hats, or seating positions I utilize, will not effect the outcome. Two, this season has been awful, off and on the field. We deserve some joy, even if it’s minimal and short lived and comes out the expense of the future. Three, refer to number one.
And perhaps most importantly, I’m a fan. I can’t turn that off suddenly because the Padres might have the 10th pick instead of the 4th pick in next year’s draft. I can’t watch a game and hope they lose. It’s virtually impossible.
So root, cheer, hope and be happy for the wins. Sure, glance at the Wild Card standings (just take note of the amount of teams that need to be leapfrogged and not just the GB column). And whatever will be will be.
Baseball’s a game. Games are suppose to be fun.