San Diego Padres: The rocky road to the World Series

dcalkins
May 29, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; A general view of Petco Park during the eighth inning between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; A general view of Petco Park during the eighth inning between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /
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The long road of rebuilding ahead for the San Diego Padres is daunting, and the thought of a trip to the postseason let alone the World Series seems overwhelming.

Ron Fowler, the Padres’ executive chairman, recently informed San Diego State University that Petco Park would be available for the football team through 2019 but not beyond that year. As Fowler told San Diego Union Tribune’s Tom Krasovic, “The reason is that, if we’re in the (‘20) playoffs, we don’t want to be in a position where we can’t even play in our own stadium, our own ballpark.”

Undoubtedly aware of the fact that the Padres are on pace to lose around 100 games this season and that the team has regressed under General Manager A.J. Preller, Fowler obviously believes that the team will be more likely to reach the playoffs in three years rather than two.

Fowler’s statement provokes more questions than answers. What exactly does reaching the playoffs mean, a one-and-done wild card berth or a trip all the way to the World Series? Does the front office really understand how difficult it is to even reach the World Series, let alone win?

Since 1998, the team has only reached the playoffs twice, in 2005 and 2006 and both times lost to the St. Louis Cardinals decisively. And who can forget game 163 in 2007? That 13-inning roller-coaster ride ended on what most if not all Padres’ fans consider a blown call by umpire Tim McClelland on Matt Holiday’s slide somewhere in the vicinity of home plate.

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While the current front office may have set a path to the playoffs, the road never resembles a modern highway but instead features bumps and twists and acts of fate. The 2016 World Series went down to the wire in Game 7 with the Cubs winning 8-7 in an extra-inning nail-biter that included a rain delay.

The Cubs didn’t reach the pinnacle by having lousy records and getting top draft picks alone. The team had to hit on those draft picks as well as international players, had to make good trades, and then had to open the team’s wallet to sign free agents. Obviously, the Cubs have a bigger wallet than the home team does.

Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations for the Cubs, acknowledged that character matters too in Class Day remarks at Yale University in May:

"Early in my career, I used to think of players as assets, statistics on a spreadsheet I could use to project future performance and measure precisely how much they would impact our team on the field…. The heartbeat matters. Fears and aspirations matter. The player’s impact on others matters. The tone he sets matters. The willingness to connect matters. Breaking down cliques and overcoming stereotypes in the clubhouse matters. Who you are, how you live among others — that all matters."

With 23 wins and 33 losses, the 2017 Padres have successfully lined up so far for at least a number two pick in next year’s player draft. Add that to the number three pick in the draft later this month, the team has a chance to add impact players.

Next: 2017 draft preview

But that’s just the beginning of the rocky road to World Series.

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