We might've been just one year off with the Padres hype.
The 2021 Padres were quite possibly the single most disappointing team in the sport. After being the darlings of the Covid year in 2020 and getting off to a hot start a year ago, the Padres completely collapsed in the second half, blowing a massive lead in the wild-card race. It seemed like every starting pitcher either got injured or underperformed, leading to the firing of their pitching coach midseason and their manager Jayce Tingler at the end of the season. People were starting to question whether or not AJ Preller was the right person to be the GM for the team. Well, question no more because San Diego is rolling.
After going buck wild following 2020 to bolster their roster, San Diego stayed relatively quiet following their 2021 campaign, but they still made one of my favorite offseason moves. They went out and got Bob Melvin. Melvin is one of maybe three managers in baseball truly capable of adding to a team's win total. He's won everywhere he's gone, and more often than not, he's done it with teams that don't spend much money. It seems like he's stabilized a clubhouse that former manager Jayce Tingler had allegedly lost a season ago. As I mentioned earlier, what destroyed San Diego a season ago was that their pitching tanked. Right now, they have the 5th best ERA in baseball. Joe Musgrove is a Cy Young front runner who is yet to lose a game in 2022. Veterans Yu Darvish and Sean Manaea continue to hold down one of the National League's best rotations.
If this team has a weakness right now, it is their offense. San Diego currently ranks 25th in baseball in .OPS. They've been carried primarily by Manny Machado, a man living up to the contract the Padres gave him after 2018. He's been brilliant and may end up with a 50 WAR before the conclusion of his age 30 season. He's been the rock of what's been a subpar offense so far. But considering the injuries (and the dead ball), the offensive struggles are somewhat expected. It also makes this team more dangerous than they've been in a long time. Because right now, the Padres find themselves tied with the Dodgers for the lead in the NL West, and pretty soon, they'll make the best midseason acquisition a team can make. They'll make it without having to trade away anybody because Fernando Tatis Jr. is waiting in the wings. It says a lot about the talent and leadership in San Diego that they've been able to go toe to toe with the Dodgers in the west despite being without their best player.
I'm sure my praise of the Padres may be met with skepticism given the way things transpired for them in the second half a year ago, but I'm telling you, this team is different. I don't think they're better than the Dodgers, but LA looks more human this year than in the past. This is going to be a tight divisional race all year.
I'm looking forward to the fireworks.