From October 1, 2004:
Well, it’s October and technically the Padres still aren’t out of the race. Or, if you’re reading this later in the day, maybe they are.
The Pads have already won 22 more games than they did all last year (and they still have three more to go against the worst team in baseball), and they’re the only NL team that had a losing record in 2003 that managed to push themselves above .500 in 2004. They’ve surpassed my preseason prediction of 84 wins (which I actually worried might be overly optimistic). The Padres will end up within shouting distance of the 800 runs forecast by GM Kevin Towers despite getting virtually no production from the key free agent acquisition (Jay Payton) and a whopping nine homers from Ryan Klesko.
The Padres scrapped and battled, and slowly began to believe they could win. Fan support was tremendous, eclipsing the 3 million mark for the first time in club history on the final day. But for all the positives, we are left frustrated and disappointed by a season that could have been so much more. In what looks to be their fifth best season in 35 years of existence, the Padres repeatedly failed to execute in key situations (how often can a team have two runners on base with nobody out and not score?). They made questionable roster decisions (Eddie Oropesa, Jason Szuminski, Kerry Robinson, the #5 starter revolving door, failure to acquire any names bigger than Rich Aurilia and Dave Hansen for the stretch run) and fielded a squad that collectively wasn’t well suited for their new ballpark and who individually seemed all too aware of and frustrated by that fact.
I should be happy, and for the most part I am. This truly has been a great season of Padres baseball, and Petco Park takes advantage of what San Diego has to offer in ways that the Q never could. Every time I step into the ballpark and look out onto the skyline, I am reminded of how blessed I am to call this city — for whatever faults it may have — my home. Corny as it sounds, I do take pride in Petco and the way it shows off our city. And this year, unlike in years past, I have been able to take pride in the Padres as well. Even when they’ve struggled to execute or blamed the new park for their problems, I’ve never doubted their desire to win. That’s not something I’ve always been able to say about some of the recent editions. Then again, it’s hard to get too worked up about these things when you’re routinely losing 90+ games a year.
On the one hand, I find it irritating beyond words that the Padres haven’t been able to wrap up a playoff spot and must visit Coors Field to play one game (or flip a coin, if you prefer) against the hottest team in baseball. On the other, I’m grateful that the Padres are committed to fielding a competitive ballclub, and that they at least have given themselves a chance to make a third straight postseason appearance.
Monday’s game starts at 4:37 p.m. PT, and will be broadcast on TBS and XM 183 . We’ll have the IGD up and running about an hour before first pitch. Luck permitting, it won’t be our last…