It seems it may have been. No longer, considered the team leader, the Padres went out and signed Mark Kotsay to fill that void. The team did just about everything it could to rid itself of Hudson short of cutting him. And fans, media, and blogs have been ruthless. However, it wasn’t long ago that Hudson was considered one of the team leaders in Los Angeles and in Arizona. He was a huge fan favorite in Arizona as well. Part this, no doubt, was his play. With San Diego, Hudson’s performance dropped drastically, and we’ve chronicled that here. But the Padres front office saw how Hudson was regarded around the league. It was part of the reason they brought him to San Diego.
Last season, the Padres were awful. There’s no denying that. Anything that could go wrong, did. They lost 91 games, their bright spot and hope for the future, Anthony Rizzo, flopped, injuries plagued the team, and they were shut-out more than any other team. That can weigh on anyone. It’s not as if Hudson always played on contending teams, but the switch to playing in San Diego requires the a player’s mind be ready before the talent will translate onto the field. Petco Park is a psychological beast. Watching his numbers decline while playing for a last place team surely weighed on Hudson. And for that, he lashed out, he lost focus, and he lost his title of leader.
Maybe the transition from playing for back-to-back play-off bound teams in 2010 and 2011 to playing for the last place Padres in 2011 was something of a shock for Hudson. While with the Dodgers in 2009, Hudson experienced a 95-win team that made it to the NLCS. With the Twins in 2010, Hudson saw the team win 94 games. Then, he was part of a 71-win team. It shouldn’t matter. In our minds, a player should perform no matter the circumstances, but that’s just not how it works. Like any of us, Hudson was probably disenfranchised. Many of us have experienced that with our own jobs. Fed up with poor management or poor co-workers, we may not have put forth our best effort. Perhaps that’s what happened with Hudson.
But this is the 2012 Padres. They are a team with a top-ranked farm system, a much-improved offense, and dreams of the play-offs. Hudson had a full year (aside from injury) in 2011 to adjust to Petco. He knows what he is going to be dealing with going into this year. At this point, 2012 is Hudson’s last chance to get more than a one-year deal from any team after his contract with the Padres expires. He must perform well enough to attract a multi-year offer.
I’m willing to forgive and forget last season. Not just for Hudson, but for the team. Why dwell on 91 losses. Instead, let’s focus on the future. Let’s focus on the improvements. I’m willing to give Hudson one more chance.