This is my first installment of a weekly rant about something that is “grinding my gears” in the world of the San Diego Padres. I love the Padres, I am very passionate and I can say I am a die-hard fan. I’ve been through the highs and lows of this team. I have attended dozens and dozens of games at Petco Park and even back to the Qualcomm days.
Sometimes, this team makes me downright frustrated. Though my love is unconditional for the Friars, sometimes this organization seems to be playing….Quadruple-A baseball instead of Major League Baseball.
The Padres have a reputation for brewing good players in their farm system. That’s about where it ends. Too many times we let players slip through our fingers and then they flourish in the spotlight of other organizations.
I call this the Jason Bay Complex. The die-hards remember Jason Bay. The Padres acquired him not long after he was drafted and developed him in the farm system. He had 8 at-bats in the Padre uniform and then was shipped out to Pittsburgh. What does he do? He becomes the 2004 NL Rookie of the Year and has three 30-HR seasons. He was a 3-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger Award winner. He finished his career with 222 home runs, which, had he stayed with the Padres, would have been the most in Padres history.
He’s not the only one. I can go on and on. Adrian Gonzalez broke my heart. I had his jersey, he was a hometown San Diego kid that played at Eastlake High School. He left the Padres after the 2010 season two home runs shy of tying the franchise record. Since leaving, he has won a Gold Glove, appeared in the home run derby, and led the AL in hits in 2011. He has also hit 76 HR’s in 3-plus seasons since leaving and is now playing for the hated Dodgers.
Anthony Rizzo was the next “Adrian Gonzalez.” The Padres actually got Rizzo in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. He hit 1 home run in 153 plate appearances and the Padres gave up on him. We shipped him off to Chicago (though we did score Andrew Cashner in the deal). Since that deal: he played 160 games for Chicago in 2013, hitting 23 home runs. This year he has turned into the Cubs’ premier hitter, with 7 HR’s and a .275 average.
The Padres let their all-time strikeouts leader, Jake Peavy, get away in 2009. He was drafted and developed by the Padres. He is the all-time leader with 1,348 strikeouts. The Padres just couldn’t fork over enough money to keep him. Since the former Cy Young winner has left, he has an All-Star selection and a World Series ring.
Finally, my personal favorite, the Padres believe it or not used to have the “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” Shane Victorino. The Padres brought him up in 2003 and didn’t impress. He was later sent to Philadelphia. Now he is a 2-time World Series champ, 2-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glove award winner and has led the majors in triples twice. He was especially key to the Phillies’ 2008 championship run with 14 hits and 5 runs scored in that postseason.
There are several other examples that I probably missed. My point is, the Padres need to keep guys worth keeping. They need to come up with the money to keep their solid, young players in San Diego.I know every situation is different. Sometimes guys just want to leave San Diego, but in the cases of Rizzo, Bay and Victorino, where was the scouting? There wasn’t anyone on the scouting staff that said “Be patient, let’s keep him and let him develop more”?
I was encouraged by the extension the team gave Jedd Gyorko. Whether or not it was worth it is yet to be seen (and it will take a few years to know that for sure). We have to do the same for guys like Everth Cabrera, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Yasmani Grandal and maybe even Chase Headley (who is 9th in home runs in franchise history).
If the Padres ever hope to win a championship, they have to build a team, not shuffle pieces. So let’s all take a deep breath when someone gets in a slump, and let’s not be so trigger happy with the trade talks every time someone goes 0 for 4. If we keep doing that, this team will continue to play…Quadruple-A baseball.