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I Was Wrong About The San Diego Padres

I didn't think it would work. Despite all the moves they made at the deadline and despite the talent on their roster, I never thought they'd beat LA.

Well, shit dude, they beat LA.

Last night the San Diego Padres, in front of an insane crowd at Petco park, upset the 111-win Dodgers to advance to the NLCS for the first time since 1998. It was a crowning achievement for a team that pushed all of their chips into the center of the table at the trade deadline, acquiring Juan Soto, Josh Hader, Josh Bell, and Brandon Drury. What's bizarre is that the Padres played some of their worst baseball of the season after the deadline.

They never felt like a team on the verge of breaking out. Josh Hader had imploded entirely, and even the great Juan Soto showed that he was human. It seemed almost inevitable that this team's ceiling was likely a beatdown at the hands of the Dodgers in the NLDS. One Padres team came into October, and another came out, and that team is now in the midst of its best playoff run in over two decades.

I'm not sure what happened here. While the Padres were never really in danger of missing the playoffs, their World Series aspirations following their deadline moves seemed all but dead for a while. Maybe it was as simple as they needed time to gel as a unit. I couldn't tell you. But I can tell you that I had given up on this team. They'd been the Dodger's little brother for years, and I fully expected that to be the case in the NLDS, and that was assuming they'd get by the 101-win Mets, which I also thought they wouldn't do. 

If you had told me following the Covid year that the Padres would be in the NLCS by 2022, I would've thought it very possible, but I wouldn't have even considered the idea of that being a thing if Fernando Tatis Jr wasn't on the roster. I can't think of many instances in which a team without its franchise player for a whole season made a deep run through October. And while it's ridiculous to say they're better off without them, that situation clearly galvanized the team and the organization. Mutual frustration was shared by all, and it may have inadvertently provided a spark for this run.  

The Padres now find themselves in a position to do something they've never done, and that's win the World Series. Considering the way they've pitched, it lines up for them to do so. Musgrove and Darvish have been excellent in these playoffs, and the bullpen has been otherworldly.

They've also hit lightning in a bottle with a few players, which is required in October if you want to win. I don't think anyone saw Trent Grisham turning into Barry Bonds for a week. You have to give AJ Preller and that front office a lot of credit. They've handed out some big contracts they haven't been bothered by the dreaded luxury tax. It took them a while, but San Diego has finally built a team that isn't just competing; they've built one capable of winning the whole damn thing.