The San Diego Padres Are One of Baseball’s Best Stories of 2020
The San Diego Padres have endured so many seasons filled with failure and disappointment, you started to wonder if general manager A.J. Preller would ever be able to build a winning ballclub. 2020 was seen as the make or break year for the 43-year old executive you built his reputation as a tireless worker who never sleeps. Meanwhile, the Padres have spent big money on free agents like Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer with less than satisfactory results.
This year has been a different story. Although the MLB regular season was just 60 games, the Pads won 37 games and they finished with the second best record in the National League behind only the LA Dodgers. All of that success looked like it would be wasted in the first round of the playoffs. San Diego lost the first game to the St. Louis Cardinals and they fell behind 6-2 in the second game. Instead of St. Louis closing out the series, the Padres rallied to win 11-9 behind a pair of home runs from Fernando Tatis Jr. and Will Myers. Then, the team put together one of the greatest bullpen performances in postseason history, when a total of 9 San Diego pitchers combined to give up just 4 hits and shut out the Cardinals over 9 innings to win the deciding game 4-0.
It is obvious that Tatis Jr. is the face of the franchise. The 21-year old shortstop is the human highlight reel, combining power hitting with terrific defensive ability. He makes every play look so easy while energizing the team with his enthusiasm, bat flips, and clutch performances. Tatis Jr. is infectious and teammates like Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Myers, Trent Grisham, and rookie Jake Cronenworth have all had a flair for the dramatic.
Preller pulled off the biggest trade at the deadline when he acquired starting pitcher Mike Clevinger from Cleveland. The deal gave the Padres a 29-year old ace who could lead the into the playoffs. However, Clevinger left his last regular season after just one inning because of biceps tightness and he was left off of the opening round playoff roster against the Cardinals. If that was not bad enough, 28-yeatr old Dinelson Lamet was also hurt with the same bicep tightness, and missed the St. Louis series, but now both pitchers could be available to throw in the next round. San Diego will need them since Chris Paddack and Zach Davies both had short ineffective starts against the Cardinals. The Padres did acquire closer Trevor Rosenthal at the deadline, and he has pitched well while Kirby Yates recovers from elbow surgery.
The Padres reward for rallying to knock off the Cardinals is a best of 5 series with the Dodgers. As good as San Diego has looked, they will have their work cut out for them against the best team in the National League and arguably all of baseball. The Dodgers have won the NL West for eight straight seasons, and they played in the World Series in 2017 ad 2018. However, they are trying to erase the bad taste from their 2019 Divisional Series loss to Washington. Don't remind Dodgers fans that they have not won a World Series title in 32 years.
LA will be heavy favorites going into their series with San Diego, and this will be the toughest test the young Padres will have faced all season. Adding more intrigue to the NLDS matchup is the fact that all games will be played in Arlington at Globe Life Field as part of MLB's Playoff Bubble. If Clevinger and Lamet can pitch in this series, the Padres will have a chance. Otherwise, they will need Paddack to look like his 2019 version and Davies to be like the pitcher he was this regular season. Regardless, this could be the start of many postseason series between these two teams. As a baseball fan, I could not be happier.