Padres Editorial: Preller Has Built It, Will The Wins Come?

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"“If you build it, they will come”– Corn Field from ‘Field of Dreams’"

Was A.J. Preller hearing voices? The same ones Ray Kinsella heard that inspired him to plow his corn field and build a baseball diamond in the iconic 1988 movie, Field of Dreams.

All the spring training and exhibition games are over for the San Diego Padres, and now is when it starts to really matter.

This grand experiment that A.J. Preller embarked on when he was hired for his first general manager job last August. When he met with the Padres ownership group, including Ron Fowler and Mike Dee, and they told him to not accept losing. To not accept that San Diego is a small market club, as outline by Dennis Lin of the Union Tribune:

“No,” they told him,” we want to win and win now. What do you need?”

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"[A.J], people will come, [A.J.]. They’ll come to [San Diego] for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you have a look around,” you’ll say. “It’s only twenty dollars per person.” They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.”"

The Padres have played the Los Angeles Dodgers the last three seasons on Opening Day and won two of them. Last year was an Andrew Cashner gem. The year before was a 9-3 blowout. In 2012 they lost 5-3 to the Dodgers.

According to Baseball-almanac.com, the Padres sit at a 24-22 record on Opening Day. Yet, most years don’t have the same expectations that this years version will have.

“New GM brings make-over to San Diego” say the headlines. Of course, the same was said in Miami and Toronto the last couple of years, with less-than-encouraging results.

On top of that, the first marquee player that Preller acquired was former Dodgers nemesis Matt Kemp, who seems primed to not only produce but LEAD this team of holdovers and new faces. He embodies the new Padres, even more than Wil Myers and Justin Upton; all part of a completely changed outfield. Not to mention a brand new HD scoreboard in left field and other Petco Park improvements.

"“And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”"

The Padres are at the highest payroll of their history after last year was their highest payroll in their history, and it crashed and burned quickly. By June, Josh Byrnes was fired and the team was adrift. Trading Chase Headley after another disappointing season and All-Star closer Huston Street to the Los Angeles Angels.

Now, Preller is all in. With perhaps the most questionable acquisition being the one that gave away highly regarded prospects Max Fried and Jace Peterson for Justin Upton. The catch being that Upton is in the final year of his current contract.

All in.

"“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”"

James Shields was the finishing touch on the product. Besides all the new guys, are homegrown Padres like Jedd Gyorko, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross. They face their own set of high expectations in making sure all the changes don’t go to waste.

First pitch of the 2015 Padres season is Monday at 1:10 Pacific at Dodger Stadium.

In case you missed it, MLB released a video of MLB players reciting the speech in italics throughout this piece from Field of Dreams.

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