Padres are more than a player away from being a good baseball team

·MLB columnist

PEORIA, Ariz. – The San Diego Padres will get it right one day. They will.

They will batter down enough doors, trawl enough rivers, release an army of drones, and one day find themselves.

They will get it right one day because they will have tried everything. It will not diminish that day. The trick then will be to recognize they have gotten it right, that it has become finally that day, before they develop another eye tremor and move on to the next. Impatience is the devil’s 94-loss season. Or 92. Whatever. He’s not particular, long as it hurts and re-releases the drones.

So, here they are. It is certainly another day. Is it the day?


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Coming upon commitment-to-long-view year two, having turned the missteps of yesterday into the presentable farm system of today (and, with any luck, the NL West relevance of tomorrow), the Padres on Saturday spent $144 million on Eric Hosmer. Even after the winter-long rumors, after a collapsed market made anything possible, Hosmer to the Padres was a kick in the pants. Hosmer was back in a rebuild, and not on a presumed contender. The Padres had spent $144 million (or, at the least, $105 million) and were in for eight years, which seemed like a lot and a long time for the little franchise squished between the border and the sea and the desert and the Dodgers.

Now, the last time the Padres believed they were a player or two away, their fans were gifted the Matt Kemp-Justin Upton-Wil Myers-James Shields-Craig Kimbrel-Melvin Upton team that set a club record for payroll, lost 88 games, cost Bud Black his job, and left the impression the Padres and general manager A.J. Preller had a thing or two to learn about precision. The resulting tear-down was capably done, it seems, though no one forgot the events that led to the tear-down were self-inflicted, and quite possibly pushed “one day” out another year or two or three.

Meantime, the NL West had entered an era in which the San Francisco Giants had won three World Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies had won wild-card berths, and the Dodgers might never finish out of first place again. It seemed a bad time to be between plans in San Diego. So, the Padres opted for young and promising, hired the perfect manager in Andy Green, and went about coaching ’em up. They went about waiting. And believing. And pushing young men an inch closer to becoming capable, maybe even great, no guarantees.

That was where we were on Saturday. By Sunday, Wil Myers, the incumbent first baseman, was testing outfield gloves. Hosmer was expected by Monday. An organization that seemed content (indeed, driven) to develop its next face – Manuel Margot? Hunter Renfroe? Fernando Tatis Jr.? Myers, even? – had bought it instead, and at Scott Boras prices.

First baseman Eric Hosmer will be the face of the San Diego Padres for the foreseeable future. (AP)
First baseman Eric Hosmer will be the face of the San Diego Padres for the foreseeable future. (AP)

Here’s where we point out the Padres were not on Saturday – and are not on Sunday, and will not be on Monday – a player away from being a good baseball team. Though we are sure the Padres will get it right one day, it doesn’t mean they will win that day. Or even the next. Hosmer is coming off his best offensive season. If he replicates that – in a pitchers’ park, in a pitchers’ division, in a new league – the Padres will not be a frightening offensive team. There will be ways around Eric Hosmer.

So, why Hosmer? Why on this day?

Because he’s a really good baseball player. That would be enough in plenty of places. In San Diego, there’ll also be a generation of ballplayers to raise. You know, assuming this is the path and nothing crazy happens and nobody gets distracted, so stay tuned. That means, for the moment, Margot and Renfroe and Tatis Jr., and it may even mean those pitchers near the top of the Padres’ prospects list, and for the guys no one sees coming. It doesn’t change everything, but it’s not insignificant either, and it’s also the story you’ll be hearing until the Padres are good again or until it’s clear they won’t be.

“He’s one of my all-time favorite teammates,” Chris Young, who at 38 has had many, said of Hosmer. “He’s a special player. A special person.”

Young arrived in Kansas City only several months ahead of the parade, so missed the hopeless years. He pointed out, however, the Royals arrived sooner than most figured they would, because Hosmer and a few like him were very skilled and also relentless and also cared. Having seven or eight or nine guys all on the field and all playing hard and all committed to doing it again in 24 hours is the unquantifiable soul of a ballclub. A decent ballclub.

The Padres just spent a ton of money, the most in franchise history. They spent it on a good player, a good guy, at a time they are going to need both, and develop both. Hosmer has bet on the Padres. Or he took the best offer. Either way, the Padres needed more good players. Hosmer is one of those.

So, yeah, back to the original thought here, the Padres will get it right one day. Maybe that day wasn’t Sunday. If it wasn’t, and geez that would be bad, well, it is an eight-year deal. With any luck at all, when that day does come, Eric Hosmer will still be around.