Only two weeks into the season the San Diego Padres have already nearly doubled what most experts anticipated as their win total in the '09 season.
History tells us that money wins ballgames and that teams that don't spend, normally don't stand a chance of making the playoffs because they just don't have the depth to go 162 with a winning record. There are a lot of exceptions to this rule, but they definitely were exceptions.
For all you American League lovers who think the National League is the weaker league (but still manage to find solace in the fact the Yankees hemorrhage money every year). Here's a fun fact: the average AL league team in 2009 has a payroll almost $9 million more than the average NL team. There's a reason the AL normally beats the NL in interleague play, and it comes with a dollar sign in front of it.
It's been this way for quite some time. It was a gap of more than $14 million per team in '08, and a gap of more than $19 million per team in '07. The gap is shrinking, but a $9 million difference in payroll is hardly chump change. At just under $44 million, the Padres have a payroll of less than half of the average American League team and are second only to the Florida Marlins in their penny-pinching mentality.
The Padres weren't supposed to be good this year.
They were supposed to stink.
So far, they have been successful using a lineup made up of only a few choice players and a group of low salary players that they may have found hanging around the C-lot of Petco drinking beer during the offseason (A personal theory, I emailed their front office asking about this but got no reply).
The thing of it is, it appears what normally would be a weakness for other organizations has become a strength. Players who were cast off by other organizations like Heath Bell (seven out of seven in save opportunities). Players who were forced to split time and play out of their desired position like David Eckstein. Players whom, when their names are uttered force the question: "Who?" has created a team-wide motivation where one was lacking before.
They were almost unanimously chosen to be the worst team in baseball before the season started. I think that would piss me off a little bit too if I was a professional ball player.
Somehow, Bud Black, this supposedly glorified pitching coach, has this low-salary, supposedly low-talent team believing that they can win the close ones.
An old baseball adage says that you're going to win a third and you're going to lose a third in baseball, it's what you do the other third that counts. Winning the close ones is what makes a team good, and right now, the Padres are winning the close ones.
Remember last year? They were boring, they were passionless. Watching was closer to pulling teeth than to entertainment, they had great pitching and terrible batting and found ways to lose. The exact opposite of what is entertaining.
Here's something I find hilarious, if you look at the Wikipedia page for the Padres 2008 season, no one has bothered to finish it. Let me say that again, NO ONE ON EARTH, which has a population of over 6 billion people, was a big enough fan of the 2008 Padres to simply fill in the scores of the last 40-something games as of 8:03 am April 20th, 2009 Pacific Coast time.
To the guy who filled out the scores for the first 121 games: Kudos for sticking with a team that boring with that kind of dedication for that long. I was watching on mlb.com myself...not pretty.
This team is different.
This makes them dangerous. Not just to the runaway favorite Dodgers who they traditionally play hard, but to a number of other teams with playoff aspirations.
I know, I know, the season is young, most people don't even pay attention to baseball until at least August, and rightfully so... but could the 2009 Padres be... good?