Just when I think I've heard it all, this story comes down the pike.
The San Diego Padres are in the middle of a pennant race in the National League's Western Division, leading by six games over the San Francisco Giants with just over a month to go.
You'd think the last thing they'd want to do is affect their home field, or stadium, in any way during said pennant race. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong.
The Padres have decided that hosting a soccer match, in the middle of September, was a brilliant idea and will do just that on September 14th between Chivas Mexico and Chivas USA. Why is that a bad idea? I'm glad you asked.
Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union Tribune has an article out this morning and he describes just what has to be done for Petco Park to be ready for this match.
The pitching mound, or what Padres' closer Heath Bell calls "their office," will have to be removed for the game and rebuilt in time for the Padres to return home on September 24th against the Reds. The team will be at home on the 12th, two days before the event, which gives their grounds crew just 48 hours to remove the mound as well as home plate and sod over the infield.
Padres' president, Tom Garfinkel, is in favor of the idea and tells Zeigler that their grounds crew will be able to handle it just fine, "We have a great grounds crew. We have a lot of confidence it won’t be an issue."
While I appreciate Garfinkel's optimism, the last time Petco Park hosted a soccer game, in 2005 between Mexico and Sweden, it presented "several organizational headaches" according to Zeigler.
There are a lot of soccer fans in the city of San Diego, as well as surrounding cities, that would flock to see a game like this. But why Petco Park and why would they schedule something like this in the middle of a pennant race?
Bell has been more than outspoken about this idea calling it "asinine," and I for one agree with him. Qualcomm Stadium is available and only has one game scheduled between now and the end of September so why not there? The answer to that would be the fact that the last time a soccer game was played there, it drew just 5,000 fans. That number looks a whole lot smaller at Qualcomm than it would at Petco.
The last time Petco Park had an event there, Comic-Con, a section of left field had to be completely re-done. One thing that isn't being mentioned is the fact that there are going to be a lot of guys running around in cleats which will most certainly leave holes in the right field section of the outfield.
It's one thing to have to tear down and rebuild the pitching mound, but aren't the Padres the least bit afraid of their players, or visiting players, turning an ankle in a hole left from the game?
While I'm sure the Padres believe they have the best grounds crew in baseball, putting this kind of pressure on them is unfair. They're going to be ultimately held responsible if the field isn't completely restored by the time the Padres return home at the end of the month.
If it affects the team, even a little bit, Garfinkel won't be admitting it was a bad idea or admitting that it was too much for this grounds crew to handle. Instead, the finger will be pointed at them for not getting the field in playing condition for the most crucial part of a pennant race.
I don't have a problem with Petco Park hosting a soccer match, nor do I have a problem with the sport itself though I'll freely admit that I'm not a fan of it. I have a problem with the timing and how it may affect their ultimate money maker.
This could be the best shot the Padres have to get to the World Series. Changing the field, even the slightest bit, could turn the tide of this race and cost the team that shot.
It's a bad idea, plain and simple, but they're going through with it anyway.