A little over a month ago, we here at Padres Public saddled up to The Bar, took our seats, and made our best guess at how the Padres would fare in 2014. I made a couple statements in that discussion that I thought, at the time, were fairly measured and logical. Let’s take a quick look:
Vocal Minority (Nate)
In a world where health and general upgrades are all you need to win a championship, this team is ready to make that run. Unfortunately, that isn’t the real world, and this team, even with better health and general upgrades, is set to stay stuck in the middle: not bad enough to get a protected 1st round pick, but not good enough to make the playoffs. I predict a much more entertaining season than the past two, but in the end, 84-78 doesn’t get you much more than that.
I can definitely envision a world where the team has multiple 3-4 fWAR starting pitchers, 4 solid bullpen options, and a bunch of good seasons from Gyorko, Headley, Cabrera, Grandal, and a couple of the outfielders. That could certainly get them into the playoffs. However, I don’t see any reason other than pure fan optimism to think this is a likely scenario, so I’ll believe it when I see it.
Ah, memories. The good news is that I, as usual, never put myself out on too much of a limb that I made myself look silly. The bad news is that, though I wasn’t all that enthusiastic in the first place, the past month has led me to the conclusion that I was wrong, and I’m sorry. If anyone got excited about the 2014 season because what I said in that post or on Twitter, I apologize for misguiding you.
Since February 19th when that was posted, the following things have happened:
- February 22 – Chase Headley is sidelined for over 3 weeks with a calf strain. Headley has since returned this past week, but who knows how missing most of spring training will affect his season.
- March 2 – Cameron Maybin tears his bicep diving to make a catch on a fly ball off the bat of Juan Uribe. Initially diagnosed as a 2-3 month injury, it was decided he did not need surgery, and the prognosis became 4-6 weeks. Maybin has already begun working on his rehab in hopes of returning at some point in April.
- March 15 – Rehabbing starter Joe Wieland, eyeing a return from Tommy John surgery, reports triceps soreness after a start against the Dodgers. An MRI thankfully revealed no ligament damage, however he is scheduled for arthroscopic surgery this upcoming Tuesday, and will be out until at least the All Star break.
- March 22 – Padres Manager Bud Black announces that Josh Johnson, signed this offseason as a free agent, will start the season on the disabled list and miss at least 4-5 weeks with flexor strain in his right forearm.
In addition to that, Chris Denorfia is currently day-to-day with a sore shoulder. With less than a week before the season starts, it’s possible he could start the year on the disabled list. Huston Street has made a splash on Twitter*, but we’ve seen very little of him on the field so far this Spring. Carlos Quentin will be day-to-day with a sore knee, at best, for the rest of his career. Just when I thought he was healthy last year, he was out for the year. Yasmani Grandal is still recovering from his torn ACL, and has played in just a few Cactus League games. His status for opening day is still unknown.
For a team that declared health as one of its biggest needs going into 2014, this has been a pretty disastrous Spring. The problem isn’t necessarily even the injuries, as many other teams are losing players, it’s how much the Padres rely on health for success while also stockpiling the roster with health problems, declaring them good values for the supposedly cash-strapped team.
Josh Johnson’s injury was really the final straw. In a vacuum, signing Johnson makes sense. It’s a one year deal, and although he comes with injury risk, he also has high reward. For just $8 million, he was a potential steal. He showed that potential this spring, and there was a lot of buzz about the top of the Padres rotation with Johnson in it. The problem is that while the Padres didn’t risk much money, they risked a significant part of their starting rotation and their hopes for success on his injury-prone arm. Now he’ll miss April for sure, and who knows what will happen after that.
As Padres fans, we’ve been conditioned to look for and approve of the kind of short-term deals like the one the Padres gave Johnson. Smart writers like Keith Law and Jonah Keri like these kinds of deals. It’s low risk, high reward, but when you’re relying almost entirely on deals like these to put your roster over the top, it’s a recipe for disaster.
I don’t know why I put any faith in this franchise to improve over previous years. Until they prove it, why should I? Because of a slightly more active off-season, that only looked like a sea change because of how it contrasted with the previous year? Because instead of pocketing the $25 million in free money received from the new national TV deal, they spent most of it, but not all of it, on the team? They’re not investing more money in the team, they’re spending extra revenue every team in the league received. That’s the bare minimum they could do, and they didn’t even manage to spend all of it.
Local rabble-rouser David Marver pointed out this past week that in MLB, you almost have to be in the top half of the league in payroll to have a chance at winning the World Series. If you’re not, you’re playing for 2nd, or more likely begging for a shot at a wild card game. If the goal is to win the World Series, or at least to compete to win the World Series on a fairly consistent basis, you can’t just hire smart people to run the team. The Padres need to spend more money, spend it smartly on healthy free agents, and invest in their own good, healthy players.
With an $86 million payroll and Josh Byrnes’ current strategy, you can field a team that looks decent on paper in February, but it all starts to fall apart when the players actually start hitting the field and falling apart. A week into spring training, the Padres looked pretty good. A month later, it’s looking like another frustrating year for the home team. And we don’t even get the consolation prize of having cool uniforms.
In 2014, for the third year in a row, the Padres will win 76 games. And it might not be just a trilogy. This could a series, driving fans further and further away from the franchise, fast and furious.
The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays. For-ev-er, or until we just give up. Follow me on Twitter. The San Diego State Aztecs Men’s Basketball Team, a program that rose from the dead to become consistently successful, is in the Sweet 16 and will face Arizona on Thursday night in Anaheim. Synchronize your watches now, folks, this one is a must watch.