On this, the last day of the regular season, I want to take a few seconds to look back at what we might have learned this year.
At first impression I definitely thought this season would be a wash. A mistake. A forgotten child, stuck in the middle of a drug-addicted older brother and newborn baby sister. Like many Padres fans, in March I buckled in for a bleak season of last place Baseball.
When ChickenFriars contacted me in late April about joining the staff I was pretty excited. Not only because I like the site and what they bring to the table, but I also love the Padres. I love writing about them and doing podcasts about them and debating the finer points of what Will Venable hitting his peak at 29 actually means. I’m a Baseball dork and despite the anger that dorkiness can sometimes breed in my wife, she understands and allows me yell at the TV – if I happen to be in a part of town that shows games. Needless to say, getting the chance to write about my favorite sport and my favorite team every week is a wish come true. Then, I nestled into my laptop and realized I was writing about the 2012 Padres and my happiness quickly turned into apathetic truth. Although it was fun during the first half of the season to call out the lackluster team, it got real boring real quick. And, not only did watching this team get harder to do in the broadcast sense, it also got harder in the ‘how much humiliation can you take’ sense. The season was lost. I called for a do-over and it seemed like even the casual fan cared more about the Chargers signing Melvin Ingram than anything to do with Baseball. Something needed to happen and on May 17th, it did.
On May 17th, 2012 the Padres released Orlando Hudson. It wasn’t a huge move in the Baseball world and it wasn’t going to be the singular thing that made the team better; what it did do is let us know that the team was at least aware that they sucked. And, it was going to try and do something about it, even if it meant eating some money. The new management team admitted that mistakes had been made and accepted that they had to fix it. It was a move, and for the first time in a year and a half it was a move in the right direction, and it started a domino effect that basically changed the outlook of this franchise for the next three seasons.
– May 17th – Jason Bartlett placed on 15-day DL, which turned into the 60-day DL, then ended with his release on Aug. 23rd.
Freeing up all this space on the field finally let the Padres do something they should have been doing last year – letting the younger guys play! The result of this however is usually a lot of bad Baseball in the hopes that the team will gel, grow and become a powerhouse. This was pretty much the structure of dynasties in the big leagues until free agency blew up in the 80’s and buying a winner seemed more interesting. However, the Padres can’t afford that, so they did what worked in the old days and can occasionally work for smaller market teams today. It’s a bold move, but a very smart one.
Then came the rise of Chase Headley and the constant trade rumors. Should we get rid of him, should we not? Back and forth, back and forth it all went, and again we saw something a little different from management. It was a new philosophy unheard of in the Kevin Towers years and even after that: You want our superstar, you’re gonna give us some real talent back. No? Then you don’t get him.
It was perfect, it was genius and we didn’t end up trading away Headley for some double-A relievers and backup outfielder.
Writing about the Padres on a weekly basis became fun again, and for the right reasons. Good decisions and smart moves and it all resulted in great on-the-field play. After the All-Star break this team came alive! They played harder than any team in the National League throughout July and August. They battled, had fun and started to give fans a reason to cheer. But, that on the field attitude starts upstairs – with the bosses. And the biggest thing we learned about the Padres this season was simple but elegant:
They had balls again.
They had nerve. They had chutzpa, brass cajones, determination and even a little bit of grit. From Josh Byrnes to Bud Black to Carlos Quentin, the things that an organization decides to do will create a ripple effect. Good or bad, everything will begin to reflect that. Now, we have new owners and I hope they too carry the swagger currently infecting the 2012 Padres. If we can get them on board with what’s happening and what will hopefully continue to happen it will only end up benefiting the team, fans and the city as a whole.
So, looking back what have we learned from this season? A lot.
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