On April 4, 2009 the San Diego Padres will kick off their 40th season in Major League Baseball. In contrast, FOX's popular animated sitcom "The Simpsons" is in the midst of its 20th season on television.
They've had a more successful run than the Padres, too.
In those four decades, San Diego has yet to obtain a World Series championship and boast a grand total of one win in the Fall Classic.
After moving into Petco Park at the start of the 2004 season, the Padres' fortunes seemed to change somewhat, with four consecutive winning seasons and two NL West crowns.
However, 2008 saw the team take a step back as the team was only able to win 63 times, good for last place in a division that saw its champion win just 84 games.
For 2009, the Padres got a new owner, returned only a handful of starters from last season's club, parted ways with their Hall of Fame-caliber closer, and, after instructing fans to say their goodbyes for months, finally kept their ace.
With these things in mind, what does the next season hold for the Padres? Here's a breakdown of what to expect:
Last year's Opening Day lineup featured Tadahito Iguchi, Khalil Greene, Josh Bard, and Paul McAnulty, who are all with different organizations this year.
This year's lineup will probably feature Henry Blanco and Nick Hundley platooning behind the plate. All-Star 1B Adrian Gonzalez remains the cornerstone of the offense, with 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff a viable threat.
Luis Gonzalez, David Eckstein, and Edgar Gonzalez (who represented Mexico along with Adrian in the World Baseball Classic) will fight for the two remaining infield spots, with Matt Antontelli looking over their shoulders.
In the outfield, Brian Giles, a fixture in right field since 2003, will claim his usual spot.
Jody Gerut, a pleasant surprise for the Pads last season, will fight off Scott Hairston for center field. The final outfield spot will come down to Cliff Floyd and Chase Headley.
Non-roster invitees Emil Brown and Chris Burke have a chance to make the team, in which case they'd be solid candidates to fill out the bench.
San Diego boasts a solid one-two punch at the front end of their rotation, with Cy Young winner Jake Peavy and All-Star Chris Young. Beyond that, it gets a little sketchy for San Diego.
Cha Seung Baek is a firm candidate for the third spot, which should speak of the Padres' woes at starting pitcher. Baek was six-ten with a 4.79 ERA.
After that, it will be between Shawn Hill, Wade LeBlanc, Mark Prior, and Cesar Ramos to fill out the rotation.
The Padres' bullpen will be anchored by Heath Bell, who should step into Trevor Hoffman's role as closer. Setting Bell up will be Cla Meredith's job. The seventh inning will be Mike Adams' responsibility. New acquisition Mark Worrell should also work himself into the mix.
San Diego's individual quality, for better or worse, makes it the fourth or fifth best team in the NL West. Even discounting Los Angeles' hitting and Airzona's pitching, the Padres' fire sale and payroll slashing last season had them coming into '09 with little to no shot.
Kindly put, this is a rebuilding year, a chance for Jeff Moorad to get to know his team, evaluate talent, and build towards a better future. Prognosticators have San Diego being the worst club in baseball, capable of a 100+ loss season.
This may be a tad too dire, considering San Diego plays in the weakest division in baseball and should have plenty of chances to pad its record. However, no one should expect this team to crack .500.
Discounted ticket prices and one of the most beautiful stadiums in the United States should at least attract fans to at least a few games this season.
Overall Prediction: 69-93, fifth NL West
Peavy Prediction: Finishes the season in San Diego, 14-11, 2.98 ERA.
A-Gon Prediction: The upward trend continues, even with little protection for him in the lineup: .292, 41 HR, 118 RBI.
Anything else? The Padres will have two All-Stars instead of the traditional one.
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