Coming off yet another series loss to a division rival in 2023, the San Diego Padres return home to host one of their toughest opponents of the season: the Baltimore Orioles.
Baltimore, the best team in the American League by record at 73-45, is flying high after a thrilling series victory over the previously white-hot Mariners in Seattle (a team the Padres were swept by just last week, for added perspective). And the Orioles appear more than ready for the challenge of playing their first series at Petco Park since 2019.
Orioles-Padres series preview: Baltimore is everything San Diego isn't in 2023
If there's one thing we've learned about both of these teams heading into this massive three-game tilt, though, it's that one has been the total opposite of the other. That is, the Baltimore Orioles are the anti-San Diego Padres, and vice versa.
For starters, these two teams couldn't have different spending habits: the Padres rank third in payroll this season, while the Orioles place just 28th. But payroll rankings don't matter. Only wins and losses do, to which Baltimore holds the obvious edge.
The Orioles are the living embodiment of doing more with less. They have a limitless supply of young talent, from star catcher Adley Rutschman to infielders Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg, as well as outfielders Anthony Santander, Colton Cowser, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins. So, Baltimore is set for a long time, without having spent millions to get there. And we haven't even mentioned their bullpen, which has a few dominant arms including Yennier Cano and closer Felix Bautista.
As for the Padres? Well, they have stars too, but at much higher price points. Consider that Xander Bogaerts, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado each have $300 million contracts. Starters Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove are also pocketing large sums of money long term. That's just five players, though. In total, the Padres owe over $250 million to their active roster in 2023.
In essence, San Diego has tried to buy out its mistakes in player development over the years by assembling a right-now super team, while the Orioles are constructing something from the ground up. You tell me which model is the more sustainable one going forward. Hint: it's not what Friars' GM A.J. Preller and owner Peter Seidler are doing.
There's no doubt the Padres wish they could be more like the Orioles, with the safety net of having an owner who will spend to patch up any remaining deficiencies. Instead, San Diego is paying the price (literally and figuratively) of lacking organizational depth and a real future for the sake of winning now.
Perhaps the Padres can surprise us by playing inspired baseball this week at home against the anti-Padres, erm, the Orioles. But odds are? Don't count on it.