The last time the San Diego Padres reached the World Series, it was 1998, and they had the misfortune of running into the history-making, 114-win New York Yankees. That series resulted in a winning sweep for the Yankees, and the Padres franchise soon went into a dormant period that lasted until A.J. Preller, the San Diego president of baseball operations, emerged from ownership after ditching star players a few years earlier. had started.
San Diego’s first attempt at competitive moon shooting under Preller failed before ever sparking, but the reboot had legs. The original signing of Manny Machado and the emergence of Fernando Tatis Jr. melded to provide a thrilling taste of the playoffs in 2020. That winter, Peter Seidler assumed control of the team, previously a major investor in the ownership group, but not chairman.
Since then, the Padres have operated in a way every fan dreams of but few get to see. He has followed virtually every superstar that has become available in some shape or form, as well as a few other established stars, and has reeled in some of them – most notably Juan Soto at last season’s trade deadline. But. When Seidler’s Padres and John Middleton’s Philadelphia Phillies met in last season’s NLCS, it felt like a refreshing burst of openly expressed (and expended) ambition. And with Tatis back from suspension and the signing of Xander Bogarts, the Padres enter 2023 as baseball’s latest attempt at a superteam.
Now, the Padres may still have a super season, still reach the World Series, but the path will no doubt be the one Preller and Seidler envisioned, nor the one fans were expecting when they took over the team. had purchased its full allotment of season tickets. This spring. Instead, sitting at 23-27 after a trip to the Nationals and going into a weekend series with the Yankees, the Padres are in the running for baseball’s most disappointing team.
Beyond the sinking feeling, there is real danger at hand. Signaling the beginning of reality with Memorial Day, the Padres’ The odds of reaching the playoffs have taken the second-biggest dive in baseball since Opening Day, according to FanGraphs calculations., From being near locks in March, they are now at 57% and in danger of being overtaken by the valiant Arizona Diamondbacks.
Meanwhile, as we wait for the gap between their expectations and their reality to fully unfold, the 2023 Padres are driving home a painful reminder about the nature of baseball: Trying to build a superteam is often Will make sure you don’t.
What the 1998 Yankees Tell Us About Baseball Greatness
The Yankees weren’t technically under new ownership in the mid-90s, but it was a new type of ownership. Banned from baseball in 1990 after paying a gambler to do dirt on Dave Winfield, George Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993 – at least temporarily – regarding the relative value of free agents and homegrown talent. A new perspective in
The 1998 Yankees team that broke the all-time wins record was the first to feature all contributions from the Core Four, as would come to be known as Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. That was not an accident.
The New York Times’ Claire Smith, in December 1997, reported that Steinbrenner had developed “a newfound insistence on trading off prospects”. That offseason, the Yankees actually avoided dealing the top names on the block: Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown, one of whom was injured on the Padres. Instead the Yankees made more minor additions in Chuck Knoblauch and Scott Brosius.
It was not a very good team to be safe in the beginning. The 1–4 start raised questions about manager Joe Torre’s job security, but then the Yankees kicked into overdrive. By July, they were on the pace for history, and Buster Olney was Documenting the Wonder of the Industry,
This was history happening, you’ll remember, simultaneously with the home run chases of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, but the Yankees didn’t have such individual standouts. Their best players finished third in AL MVP and Cy Young voting, respectively (Though the MVP vote seems laughable now, Instead, it seemed he had the answer to every weather question.
“He has his own little ‘Truman Show,'” Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson said after a loss, pointing to a well-disguised script, Surely, the reasoning went, a team shouldn’t be able to locate a dynamic rookie starter — Orlando Hernandez — through an emergency start necessitated by David Cone’s traumatic run-in by his mother’s Jack Russell terrier. “Everything goes right for the Yankees.”
Although that magic was not magic at all. Sometimes it feels like that, but mostly it’s extinguished by successfully building depth through personnel decision-making and player development. Brosius, who was acquired by the Yankees as a player who was later named in a deal overtaking veteran starter Kenny Rogers, may have mistakenly been summed up as the key to a superteam as the Yankees headed into the pennant in July. had rotated
“Team Core” he told olney“Team”.
you can never have too many good baseball players
The Padres’ roster this season has inspired conversations about overcrowding. After Bogarts was signed by the Padres, questions included “How many shortstops does a team need?” The glut of capable shortstops, however, was more of a brief twister act than a fundamental issue for manager Bob Melvin.
Still, there’s a difference in the way Preller and Seidler have assembled this team. Spending money won’t automatically bring down the team, no matter how much your uncle complains about the high salary; Team owners willing to sign long-term big money deals should also be prepared to cut bait if need be. Chasing help in free agency is financially unviable, but if Seidler doesn’t care, there’s no need for fans to fret over it.
Trades, however, do not have an undo button. And in many areas of the Padres roster, years of moves for immediate big-league help have removed any signs of surplus talent. Too many shortstops? Naturally no problem. Very few competent big-league hitters? crisis.
That’s what the Padres are feeling in the turmoil of this early season. Yes, the 2023 team is suffering from Manny Machado’s slow start and subsequent injury. They need more from Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell. The problem is less likely to be solved by time and regression, however, given the dramatic lack of offensive support beyond the stars.
Only three Padres hitters have posted park-adjusted OPS+ of 110 or better, which means at least 10% better than the league average so far this season. Those three are exactly what you’d think: Soto, Tatis, Bogarts. The division-leading Dodgers have seven such players — as do the Texas Rangers — who have paired big spending with some obvious player development wins. There are nine rays.
As an uneven whole, the Padres lineup lacks a threat to keep up with the scoring. The San Diego team is middle of the pack in OPS+, but has relied heavily on walks to get there. The lack of hits hampered his practical production and made him sixth-worst in MLB in runs per game.
What’s worse, their best possible solution — the young hitters they’re cycling right now — are mostly playing for other teams. Since the end of the 2019 season, the Padres have traded a staggering number of players to established major-leaguers. There are 27 such former members of the organization — more than a full roster’s worth — who have already played elsewhere in the majors this season and could theoretically still be in control of San Diego’s team.
To be clear, many of those deals were worthwhile to acquire top-level talent, but making this style of trade in bunches can have compounding effects in the form of inevitable mistakes. For example, out of 27:
This is all without mentioning the future implications of dismantling a farm system that ranked among baseball’s best three years ago.
trading away a lot of young, undefined talent for less established major-leaguers usually A losing strategy in the long term, launched with the legitimate goal of producing a critical mass in the short term. But in early 2023, the risks of the Padres’ extreme efforts to be laudable but extraordinary have come to the fore in excruciating fashion.
Great teams — from the 1998 Yankees to the recent Dodgers to the potentially great 2023 Rays — have followed more balanced approaches to now versus later quirks, even when their payroll numbers were huge. The teams may be expensive and full of stars, but maintain an appreciation for the options, for the home-grown talent, for the uncertainty that may require improvisation. This restraint could make them hopelessly frugal contenders or stealthy superteams. The difference isn’t usually apparent until after 162 games have delivered their inevitable, unpredictable odds.
History tells us that the 2023 Padres will probably be closer to who we thought they were than what they were until now. The grueling 162-game slate would come for squads far less talented than San Diego’s. But he has a particularly crazy problem to solve without further spiraling. Baseball spreads the burden of winning thin across a wide range of shoulders. Knowing you have some superhuman standard-bearer locked down for the next decade is a great start, but most of the weight is borne by only unusually talented players who come and go, majors overlooked by the general public.
In other words, the core of the team should be the team.