In my experience, things usually are neither as bad nor as good as they seem to be. When the Padres lost 99 games in 2008, many people abandoned hope. I wasn’t one of them and predicted 75 wins in 2009, which is precisely what we got. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’d predicted 87 wins in ’08, which was… a little less precise.)
I’m on record as doubting that the Padres will reach the playoffs this year. The talent isn’t there yet, and I try not to make a habit of lying about such things. If you cannot look at a situation honestly, what is the point?
Still, with a few notable exceptions, e.g., the apparent movement away from Latin America, I like where this organization is headed. Although it may take a while to get there (the whole ownership transition thing didn’t help), the Padres are moving in the right direction. I’m prepared for another 70-75 win season (which shouldn’t be bad enough to cost anyone their job [h/t Jacob in the comments] given the pieces that are in place), but I’m also prepared to enjoy watching the kids do their thing and, with luck, develop the skills necessary to be a part of the next contending team in San Diego.
I can’t remember if I’ve said this out loud or only in my head (harder to tell the difference as I get older), but this team reminds me a bit of those Cleveland Indians squads from the early-’90s: first-time manager, talented young players that haven’t quite made their mark. The comparison works best if you don’t think about it too hard.
Back in the here and now, when I look at the quality of teams in the NL West, I don’t see the Padres battling for much more than fourth place. At the same time, I see seven of eight projected regulars either currently in or still approaching their primes. Not all of them will fulfill their potential, but some will, and that’s a start. (Don’t tell anyone, but now that he’s back at his natural position, I have a non-quantifiably positive feeling about Chase Headley; my tentative projection for him this year is .279/.356/.451, but we’ll discuss that in more detail later, when we compile the IVIEs.)
The pitching staff is young as well (Heath Bell is 32, Mike Adams is 31, Chris Young and new addition Jon Garland are 30; everyone else on the 40-man is in their twenties), and we’ve noted that Bud Black seems to be a good fit for such a staff. Again, being young and talented is not the same as being productive and valuable, but some of these guys could end up making a difference in the future, when it matters. In 2010, I’m hoping we’ll learn which ones.
This is going to be fun. Not the losing so much, but the theater of watching young men struggle to achieve mastery of their chosen profession and to become something greater than they are.
Hope is good. Keep it stashed in your back pocket, don’t let it sweep you away. If you’re not careful, you might end up enjoying yourself.