San Diego Padres: The Not-so Lovable Losers of the NL West

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San Diego Padres: The Not-so Lovable Losers of the NL West
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
Third baseman Chase Headley, mid-swing.

I have not had good experiences with fantasy baseball in the past.

First and foremost, I was terrible at it. I would say that I could identify a comfortable 95 percent of current players by name, but that doesn’t mean I know how to fashion them into a successful fantasy franchise.

Your initial instinct is to grab the biggest names you can find. You want the Pujols’s, the Hamiltons, and the Cabreras. But that’s not how it works. It’s all about variety, depth, and value. You want all your bases covered, forgive the awful pun.

It’s more important to have guys who excel in different areas. You need a home-run guy, sure—but not eight of them. You also want a batting average guy, an on-base guy, a steals guy, etc. There are too many factors and I have no patience for that.

It also requires constant attention due to staggered schedules and an overwhelming number of “day-to-day injuries.” There are baseball games every day (excluding the All-Star break) from early April to early October. It is a grueling fantasy season.

It is no secret that I love fantasy football, but baseball is a drastically different monster. Football only has one “round” per week, for 17 weeks. It is much more manageable.

And despite all the stigmas, very few people obsess over it all week long. I check maybe once a day to make sure that Tom Brady still has all his required ligaments or that some Cincinnati Bengal hasn’t been arrested for public indecency. Plus, given the short season, every game is important and players aren’t just going to take a day off on you. I would hardly categorize the schedule as grueling.

But still, I was left with an empty spot where fantasy football usually resides, and I thought maybe baseball was a fitting suitor.

Yes, despite all noted evidence, I considered fantasy baseball in 2012.

But I decided against it in the end, for one reason, which I at least had the foresight to recognize. And that reason currently has a 5-13 record.

 

I grew up in a small coastal California town called Encinitas, half-an-hour north of downtown San Diego. My allegiances have never strayed from the Chargers in the NFL or the Padres in the MLB. But every man has his limits, and the Padres are fast approaching mine.

I vaguely remember the 1998 World Series, in which the Padres faced the Yankees. I can also vaguely recall not caring all that much. I mean, I was seven years old, yet to reach diehard fan status.

It has been 14 years now, and the Padres have gone from World Series contender to league laughingstock. They won the NL West division in both 2005 and 2006 (perhaps only due to how bad the division was those years, as they won only 82 and 88 games respectively), but lost both times to the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs.

But at least there had always been stars. There was always one guy who you could point to and say “That’s our best player, that’s who I want to pay to see.”

Christopher Ruppel/Getty Images
Tony Gwynn, the greatest Padre of all time.

For a long while it was Mr. Padre himself, Tony Gwynn, and his pursuit of 3,000 hits. Or it was Trevor Hoffman, walking out to "Hells Bells," lights-out for so many years. In the early 2000s, it was Jake Peavy, the fireballing righty from Mobile, Alabama. And until 2010, it was Adrian Gonzalez, with one of the prettiest swings you will ever see.

These players kept the Padres afloat, even through 66-98 seasons. And now, with the Padres setting a pace that wouldn’t even see them reach 66 wins, that player is...

Nonexistent.

No Padre with legitimate playing time is batting over .300, and only two players break that mark (barely) even when removing that restriction (Andy Parrino is 7-of-23 for .304, and Chris Denorfia is 9-of-30 for .300).

The only offensive bright spot thus far has been Chase Headley (.293, 4 HR, 13 RBI), who I have seen strike out in big moments too often to get excited about.

They have scored a scant 60 runs and just marked their first two-game win streak of the season, 18 games in. (Thank goodness for the Pirates, who have somehow managed to cross the plate just 30 times in 15 games—if you’re wondering, the record for fewest runs in a season belongs to St. Louis with 372 in 1908, a record the Pirates are on pace to obliterate.)

 

As far as the pitchers go, Cory Luebke has been pleasantly decent, putting up a 1.16 WHIP and 2.52 ERA in four starts. Plus, he accounts for 40 percent of the team’s wins, so that’s dandy.

Unfortunately, opening day starter Edinson Volquez is already up to a 4.30 ERA and has yet to get a win. Promising up-and-coming Clayton Richard has given up 12 earned runs in 18 innings, and I’m not sure who the other starters are.

I’m honestly not sure if Bud Black knows who they are.

Although they are probably going to overshoot the 6-45 mark I set for them for the first third of the season, all of these wins are meaningless. The Padres organization and the MLB as a whole have deeper-set issues. It goes deeper than just a bad team full of bad players.

It is an organization that doesn’t care about product, and a league that doesn’t care about market discrepancies. Not to make it out to be a conspiracy, it's not like the league is fixing anything (directly), but I honestly believe that MLB would like to see the same five or six teams in the World Series hunt every year. It’s just best for business.

So this is why you won’t talk me into fantasy baseball: because my connection to the game has already been lost after two weeks. I’m already on the Clippers' and Kings' bandwagons—let’s hope I don’t move to LA and start rooting for the Dodgers.

Matt Kemp does have one of those lovable faces, doesn't he?

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