Jun 21, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; A general view of Petco Park during the first inning between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
I want to preface this piece by giving you a little bit of my background with the San Diego Padres. They were my favorite National League team growing up in the late 1980s and first half of the 90s. I spent a considerable amount of time each summer during my childhood in San Diego with my parents, and we in turn would spend just as much time at Jack Murphy Stadium, watching the Padres.
I grew up a fan of the New York Yankees, and they will always be my first love when it comes to baseball. My late father however, was dyed in the wool Padres. The brown and gold from their major league origins, as he was stationed out of Balboa Naval Hospital during the Vietnam War. San Diego always held a special place in his heart. He grew up a Yankees’ fan from the Mickey Mantle Era, and when George Steinbrenner bought the team and made wholesale changes–primarily with his mouth and his cash, my father had seen enough, and was a full-fledged convert to the Friars by 1973.
Throughout my childhood, I knew that birthdays and Father’s Day gifts were thoroughly enjoyed by my Dad if they had any connection to the Padres. Even that final summer of his life back in 2010, I purchased him a pair of caps-one from the original 1969 Padres for Father’s Day, and the 1980s-era brown cap for his birthday-his 57th and final one the following month in July.
When I came to Fansided this past December, it was to help turnaround the network’s New York Yankees’ site, Yanks Go Yard, which we have done remarkably quickly given how poorly things were going prior to my arrival. It never crossed my mind to get involved with the Padres’ site on the network. When I heard that the network was looking for a new editor, the only person for the job was one of my best friends–and former classmates as both an undergrad and grad student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, David Warren. Dave grew up in San Marcos, lives there to this day, works as an educator with special needs children, and serves as my co-editor here at Friars On Base. He remembers the ’84 and ’98 pennant winners, the lean years, and of course, this past week, the passing of the greatest player in franchise history, and his favorite. A part of Dave’s childhood died last week. It is a constant reminder that memories and experiences are all we can take through this life, as things are ever-changing.
Dave has come to expect what is going on with the Padres right now. Another wasted season, a lack of performing, and ho-hum. It is what it is. This is where my experience growing up as a Yankees’ fan differs from most that also have a rooting interest like I do, in the Padres.
I consider myself one of the Yankees’ harshest critics, not drinking the Kool-Aid just because it might be pinstriped. I’ve always believed that Brian Cashman is a bozo, and needs to be shown the door. I’ve never bought into Joe Girardi and for that matter, Joe Torre either. What drives me batty, is how Padres’ fans “accept” mediocrity, and how so many have come to the defense of recently fired GM Josh Byrnes. Enough of the pity party!
Byrnes got EXACTLY what he deserved. While his farm system has shown some promise, he was handed over $90 million dollars to build this year’s roster. It could be one of the worst in franchise history by the time it’s all said and done. Don’t criticize ownership and upper management for finally giving Byrnes the ax. I will argue, had Mr. Gwynn not tragically passed early last week, Byrnes would’ve lost his job then. I mean who willingly hands Josh Johnson that kind of cabbage without it being strictly incentive-based?
I’ve always been of the opinion, that while MLB is entertainment, this isn’t a sport where everyone gets a trophy for participation. This isn’t AYSO Soccer. Players are paid to perform, and GMs are paid to win pennants and titles. I don’t care if you are in San Diego, Seattle, Kansas City or the Bronx. Sure, the finances are different, but if you are skilled at your job (as Byrnes claimed to be), then he would and could use the same research formulas that have been successful for smaller market teams that continue to contend each year. Andrew Friedman? Yep. Tampa Bay. Aside from injury devastation this season, Tampa has mattered for YEARS now. Player development, smart trades, and augmenting a young roster with the right pieces and reclamation projects each season.
Before you jump out of your seat and call me a spoiled Yankees’ fan, let me remind you of the era I grew up in: the 80s and 90s. From 1982-1994, not a single playoff appearance. None. Zilch. Nada. From 1981-1996, two World Series appearances. Two. This for a franchise that on average, since the inception of the World Series, has won a title every 5 years or so. I spent my entire childhood watching the Royals, the Dodgers, the A’s, the Blue Jays, the Twins. All while the Yankees were a complete train wreck. My loyalty was rewarded with a dynasty in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Do I expect the Yankees to win the World Series every year? You’re damn right I do. Why? The payroll, the ticket prices, the almost $40 I pay each time I purchase a new cap (of which I have many). You as a Padres’ fan should as well. Do the Padres’ sell authentic game jerseys for $20? Or do they sell them for well over $100 each? Where does that money go? Could the Padres get their own big dollar television deal as many other teams such as the Dodgers and Rangers have done? Absolutely. You as a fan of the San Diego Padres should DEMAND that the entire organization have the sense of urgency to win each and every season.
It’s not a right, but for the money you may spend, and the amount of time you spend, and for the loyalty you’ve shown over your lifetime, the LEAST this organization can do is put their best foot forward, and make EVERY attempt to contend each season. That doesn’t mean allowing the team’s best players to be dealt before they hit free agency.
While many fans have become used to how the Padres do business, it doesn’t mean it’s right. Don’t forget about the success that Bruce Bochy and Kevin Towers had during arguably the most successful era of Padres’ baseball. Multiple division titles, a pennant, etc. That should be the standard, not the exception to the rule. Quit making excuses for Josh Byrnes. He was hired to do a job, and he didn’t do it. Now, Bud Black and the rest of the coaching staff have been put on notice, and if they fail to make strides, then they should go too. Ownership took an important first step in correcting a mistake by firing Byrnes. Now Padres’ fans, rather than defend mediocrity and worse, do what you’ve always done, and back ownership as they try to make the Padres matter again.