May 25, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Fans look on from the left field bleachers during the fifth inning of the San Diego Padres game against the Chicago Cubs at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
I realized this week that I don’t expect the Padres to win the World Series. And then I realized that I have never expected the Padres to win the World Series. And then I realized that people who have been rooting for the Padres since 1969 have perhaps never expected the Padres to win the World Series.
We want them to. We just don’t expect them to.
That’s just awful.
There have been times when we think the team will be pretty good. 1998. The late Bruce Bochy years. This past winter.
But in 20 years, I haven’t gone into a season researching the best American League teams to see who we’d be playing in the Series.
When I read Billy Brost’s article this week about the Padres needing to get rid of Bud Black and Josh Byrnes, my first reaction was no, Black is a good manager. Byrnes’ long-term strategy has been subverted by all those Tommy John surgeries. But as I continued to think about it, and remembered that Billy is a Yankees fan as well as a Padres fan, I realized his expectations as a Yankees fan are different. He expects them to win the World Series, I thought. We don’t have the same kinds of expectations here in San Diego.
That realization kind of hit me in the face.
My friend Jason recently suggested that the Padres’ front office is content with mediocrity, and uses the “small market” excuse to ask fans for patience. While Jason’s reasoning about whether or not San Diego is a small market may be flawed, his point about the FO being content with mediocrity is well-taken.
And their appeals for patience have worked. Padres’ fans are very used to waiting for the tomorrow that never seems to come.
And, perhaps, we have become complacent.
I have seen the other side. I rooted for the Mets in the 80s, when they put together a very well-rounded team, with budding superstars like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden mixed with All-Star veterans like Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. There was a swagger to that team, and to their fans. We were the best team, and we knew it. That was fun.
I lived Boston and rooted for the Red Sox in the late 80s and early 90s. The Red Sox’ expectations were really phenomenal. In spite of not having won the World Series in nearly a century, Sox fans were perennially hopeful, as was the front office. “This is the year” was always the sentiment. They nearly always put good teams on the field. But it was a strange mix of tremendous optimism that they would go deep into the postseason and the expectation that they would somehow manage to lose in the worst imaginable way. And they were frequently right. But that “this is the year” attitude was pervasive. It was illustrated brilliantly by the 1990 Larry Anderson-for-Jeff Bagwell trade, in which the Sox traded their top prospect, a 22-year-old Jeff Bagwell, at the trading deadline for 37-year-old lefty reliever Larry Andersen, who was going to be the “final piece of the puzzle” that finally gave the Sox that elusive World Series title.
He wasn’t. And Bagwell ended up being pretty good.
It was fun. It was exciting rooting for those teams.
But that’s not the life of a Padres’ fan. Even with a $90 million dollar budget, did anyone expect us to win the Series this year? A few pundits had us as dark horse candidates to make the playoffs. That means the overall expectation was that the Padres were probably in the top half of all teams.
You’re a Padres’ fan. Did you expect us to win the World Series this year?
I don’t think I like being complacent any more. Maybe it is time for a change. Maybe we, as fans, need to demand more.
I hate it when Yankees fans are right.