It was fitting that Philip Rivers threw out the first pitch on Padres opening day, because the Padres made the scoreboard look like it belonged at a Chargers game. After a slow offensive start to the seaosn, the Padres beat the Braves 17-2. By doing so, they provided some hope for the future that has not been in the organization since they lost game 163 in 2007 at Colorado.
After the 2007 season the Padres could have found ways to improve and lock up the west. The roster in 2007 featured 11 players who made over $3mil a year, instead of continuing to go after players to improve, the Padres decided to cut the budget. The Padres failed to keep productive players such as Mike Cameron, Milton Bradley, and eventually traded valuable bullpen asset Scott Linebrink during the year. They hoped that even with a slightly depleted roster, they still had enough pieces to make the post season. The Padres ended up in the cellar that season, with a 63-99 record, and only had one month with a winning record (1-0 in March.)
The worst thing about the 2008 season was not the fact that the Padres were loosing, it was that they were loosing with old players. There was no visible potential on the field with the exception of Jake Peavy, and Adrian Gonzalez. Because of unsuccessful drafts, there was little excitement in the minor leagues. The players coming up from the minor leagues looked like minor leaguers. Matt Antonelli, who was suppose to be the next great home-grown Padre never got out of the minors until the roster expanded to 40. Filler players such as Paul McAnulty, Edgar Gonzalez, Chip Ambros, and Colt Morton were called given the chance of a lifetime to prove their major league worthy, and came up short. The only major off-season acquisition was the aging Jim Edmonds, who did not even last a quarter of the way through the season.
2009 was a crucial year in the development of the organization. The Padres started to show some signs of life, and more importantly youth. In the off-season the Padres made a bold move, and did not resign future Hall of Famer, Trevor Hoffman, and got rid of head case, Khalil Greene. This allowed for other players in the organization to shine. Rule 5 draftee Everith Cabrera showed amazing potential, and Heath Bell proved he had what it takes to be a closer. Chase Headley and Will Venable got the chance to play everyday, and gained valuable experience. During the middle of the season Sander Alderson was fired, Brian Giles was "on the IR", and Kyle Blanks got his first taste of the big leagues. Also, Jake Peavy was traded for Clayton Richard and 3 other minor leaguers, and Mat Latos got a chance to fill the bottom of the rotation.
2010 needs to be the year when all the new young players start to look like major leaguers. Under new ownership, and management, the Padres appear to be heading in the right direction. On their home opener, the Padres showed that they will not be in the cellar for long. The Padres knocked Jair Jurrhens around for 8 runs in 3 1/3 innings, getting major contributions from Headley, Blanks, and Venable. While Padres fans have been hearing for years about "the next great Padre," only to be underwhelmed by players such as Sean Burroughs, Matt Antonelli, and Ben Davis; this new group seems to have what it takes to make the Padres a force in the West once again.
If they young guys continue to play well, and San Diego hangs onto Adrian Gonzalez, look out for them in 2011. At the rate they are going, in 2011 the Padres could be looking at the following stat lines:
Gonzalez- .280 40 HR 110 RBI
Blanks- .265 35 HR 80 RBI
Cabrera- .280 50 SB
Headley- .300 15 HR 70 RBI
Venable- .280 10 HR 70 RBI
Richard- 3.50 ERA
Latos- 3.20 ERA
If these core players can perform at this level, and the Padres add one more starting pitcher, and one more bat, they will be the best team in the west in 2011.
While 2010 won't be a winning year in San Diego, it will be exciting to watch the young players progress though out the year. In 2011 the Padres will embark on their quest start an era of Padres excellence. And if they are able to keep their young nucleus intact, t