Thirty-one years after the Summer of Love, Major League Baseball decided to stage a little summer smoochfest of their own in 1998.
This would find full grown adults in colorful clothes who would consume illegal drugs to their hearts' desire, all under the approving eye of both the owners and the commissioner. McGwire in Cardinal red would amicably bump chests with Sosa in Cub blue, and all was right with the world.
The Padres would win their second National League pennant. Never mind that they would be swept by the pinstriped Yankees in the series. Although this may have been the Summer of Love: MLB Edition, the fine print clearly stated that although peace may guide the planet, MLB would not assume liability if this did not rid said planet of evil empires.
Padres ownership would eventually try to ride the success of the 1998 pennant to the acquisition of a new state-of-the-art home that would be built in downtown San Diego, courtesy of voter approval and the ensuing taxpayer money, if the constituents were successfully duped. With management's mission finally accomplished, it was time to stick it to the ballparks' opponents and to the one class occupying the next rung above them on the social ladder: Padres fans.
No one will forget the fire sale that immediately followed the vote, sending the grand majority of our pennant winning needle heads to a place where they could be adequately compensated for their services. Caminiti? Bye, bye. Greg Vaughn? See ya. Kevin Brown? Can't pay you, maybe the Dodgers? Steve Finley? Adios.
Back then, people were furious. Long before people actually knew there was a '98 Summer of Love.
But hey, at least there would be the new ballpark in a few years as a souvenir. Whereas New York had the House that Ruth built, San Diego now had Petco Park, the House that Roids built.
To be fair here, this was the beginning of a downtown revival. If there were ever doubts about whether San Diego was America's Finest City in the last century, there are arguably none now.
An area that had formerly been known for its old dilapidated warehouses and its streets that made Skidrow look like Main Street in Disneyland had received a facelift without the Hollywood plastic surgeons and the Botox. More than ever, it's not hard to see why San Diego tourists fall in love with the city.
Of course, the only people who would get fleeced in the deal were Padres fans.
Besides the aforementioned fire sale all but eliminated any chances they might have remotely had of defending the pennant in '99, management quickly figured out years later that they had blundered again.
Suddenly the Q (I still refer to it as the Murph) didn't seem like such a bad place and felt like a launching pad compared to Petco, baseball's answer to the Grand Canyon that required rocket launchers to send balls over the fences. Players, in particular popular left-handers like Ryan Klesko and Brian Giles, complained how their numbers had decreased along with their earning potential. Now it appeared the juicers that had left San Diego were needed back in the worst way.
To be perfectly clear here: there are certainly fair weather fans that will only come off the beach and stow away their surfboards if a superior product is served. These are the fans that come in droves in September once they see the Padres have a realistic chance of winning. These are still the fans who would not shed a tear over their fish tacos if the Padres left town. When the Friars do have a chance that late in the season, you can even see the seagulls on Ocean Beach Pier wearing Pads caps.
But then there are the diehard fans, the Padres fans who are as fiercely loyal to their team as any fans in the nation. Each and every one of these can personally take credit for the literally unheard of supersonic boom that reverberated throughout the city during the 1984 and 1998 playoff runs. These are the fans who have been to the games through numerous miserable 100 loss seasons, especially during the Kroc years.
These are the fans who seem to have a lifetime subscription to Fleeced Magazine.
And they deserve better.
In 1998, management claimed they would need the new ballpark for the added revenue, that they could only remain competitive with the additional luxury boxes and that ownership in its current form was picking fish bones out of the dumpster to survive.
Fast forward to the year 2011. The Padres rank near the bottom of the pack in payroll, the new revenue has been lost somewhere in the vast power alleys of Petco and free agent players will scour Japan and Cuba for professional contracts before watching their careers take a Greg Louganis-like dive into obscurity in a place like Petco. Did management ever consider having people hit a few balls before measuring for the new ballpark? Maybe checking the winds and the air humidity? How about tossing a few feathers up in the air?
After all, who besides the fans would care? Remember them? The people who buy the tickets?
All we can offer them is subpar product featuring retreads and costing less than 40 mil?
To ownership and management, we can only tweak the lyrics from a different song of the 60's.
All we are saying is give the fans a chance.
They deserve that much.