It’s been a rough couple of years for Padres fans. Five or six years back, we had Adrian Gonzalez, who was hitting 40 homers and winning Gold Gloves. We had Jake Peavy, who won a Cy Young Award and led the league in strikeouts a couple of times. We had Trevor Hoffman, who for a while held the all-time record for career saves. Things were pretty good. We had fun players to watch, even if we weren’t making the playoffs.
Then things turned ugly three years ago. Ryan Ludwick led the team with 11 homers. Aaron Harang was our only pitcher with double-digit wins. And since then, we’ve hung our hopes on the not-so-broad shoulders of Chase Headley, the not-so-strong knees of Carlos Quentin, and for most of the season in 2013, the not-so-stable emotions of Edinson Volquez.
Last year, we started to regain some hope, with Andrew Cashner and Jedd Gyorko leading a younger group of players that included Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, and Everth Cabrera, who formed the nucleus of what looked like a decent team.
Then, of course, that mostly fell apart this year.
That’s why it’s so much fun to be a Padres fan right now. And by “right now,” I mean the last few weeks. What’s fun?
These three young players are giving Padres fans something we haven’t had a lot of lately: hope that we have some future stars on the team, rather than just “good” players. The Padres have completely lacked star power since Gonzalez was traded. So desperate have the Padres been for a star, that they thrust Headley into that role, and that was not a good fit at all.
But Ross? He’s putting up numbers that are getting him compared to Adam Wainwright, the second-best pitcher in the NL. Ross and Wainwright are the only pitchers this season to have as many as 13 starts in which they gave up less than two runs. He’s taken a solid, but inconsistent first three months of the season and kicked it into overdrive, allowing two or fewer earned runs in nine consecutive starts, dropping his ERA from 3.27 to 2.62 and winning his last three decisions. He was deservedly selected as an All-Star, and his even-tempered personality seems to bode well for consistent success in the future.
And Hahn? He’s got that magic curveball that makes hitters look foolish. Hahn appeared seemingly from out of nowhere, making the jump to the majors after only throwing 160 innings in the minors, making only nine starts at Double-A, and never setting foot in Triple-A. But he has been simply dominant since his debut, allowing 34 hits in 53.2 IP while striking out 54. His phenomenal ERA of 2.01 matches the number he put up at Double-A, before being called up. And that was after putting up a 2.15 against Single-A hitters last year. He has baffled batsmen at every level, and while nine games is certainly too small a sample to predict what he will do long-term, so far it’s looking like he’ll continue his trend of being a star at every level he pitches in.
And while Ross and Hahn are certainly worthy of our adulation, they are pitchers, and we’ve seen our share of good pitchers over the last 10 years. Tommy Medica is a hitter. A big, strong, powerful hitter with swagger. He doesn’t button his shirt all the way. Teenage girls on Twitter think he’s hot. He hits long line drive home runs. He’s played under 90 games in the majors, but he just set the Padres record for most total bases in a 3-game series at Petco, with 18. He has the potential to turn into one of those players – you know the type – when he comes to the plate, we stop what we’re doing to watch. The way we did for Tony. The way we did for Adrian.
With Medica, as with Hahn and even Ross, we’re looking at a small number of games. We don’t have enough information to know if they are going to be big stars. But we can hope, can’t we? We deserve that, don’t we?
Didn’t rooting for Ryan Ludwick at least buy us that?