BY: JORGE ARCE
SS - FERNANDO TATIS JR.
PHOTO CREDIT: MARK COLLIER
As the 2020 season approaches, here we sit a mere three weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting to Peoria, Arizona. It’s always an exciting time for all 30 MLB ball clubs because everyone has a fresh opportunity out of the gates to go chase a championship. The reality is that some of the teams we expect to compete will, others will disappoint, while others will surprise us. At the end of the day, the mission is to compete for 162 games and get in the playoffs and see where the magic takes us from there in hopes of hoisting the World Series trophy.
Padres fans have been very patient over the years of futility with only five playoff appearances over the first 50 years of existence and none over the last 13. The organization has gone through a couple of ownership debacles with John Moores divorce drama and Jeff Moorads attempt at buying the team in payments. Since Kevin Towers left town, the GM position has also rotated which has led us to our current GM AJ Preller as well as the manager carousel of five different skippers in Bud Black, Pat Murphy, Andy Green, Rod Barajas and now Jayce Tingler. The good news is we have had the right ownership in place since 2012 when Ron Fowler took over.
The Fowler group including the Seidlers and O’Malley’ have been transparent and shown a commitment to winning and winning now. They have also built our minor league system into one of MLB’s best. The intent is there, but of course it’s all about the execution both at the front office level with Preller and on the ball field. What you have to love about Fowler is that he is passionate and shown his frustrations like at the end of the 2019 season, and is not shy to call out a specific player if they are not performing at the clubs expectations (Shields/Myers).
So what’s taking so long to get back to competitive meaningful baseball in San Diego? The answer though not easy is more pragmatic than you might think. We are a lot closer than you think and the solution is as simple as one, two, three. I call it the “The Gwynning Formula” which is winning three extra games a month and hello playoffs! Allow me to explain. This past season, our beloved Padres won 70 games. Teams that clinched for the playoffs in the NL did so once they won their 88th game. Doing the math, that is a difference of 18 games, and when we divide that by the six month season it gives you a mere three additional wins extra a month to reach the playoffs. Keep in mind that the team lost our MVP and potential 6+War player in Tatis for half the season, Manny semi under performed offensively and the team had an atrocious September winning only seven games. Obviously the division was well out of reach come July, but there was a sliver of hope to compete for the wild card, especially after a decent start to April and May, which normally are rough months out of the gates for the boys. At the All-Star break, the team was a .500 group and within reach of what looked like a late summer playoff push.
As the season continued, it was exciting and easy to see that Tatis is a game changer in every sense of the word. He brings excitement to the team and fans. He lays it out 100% day in and day out. The problem is we cannot, nor should we depend solely on one twenty year old to take us to the promised land. It is a collective team effort, from the top down to the field.
Ultimately, the best way to reap this reward and attain the three extra wins a month comes down to in game management, finding players that get on base at a higher percentage and getting buy in on the expectations of winning (Patriots and Yankees). I am not going to pile on Andy Green, as I feel he did what he could with this group, but we all know he was bridging the gap for our process and players. And we may never know if the game day decisions actually came from up top or from Andy. Nonetheless, the boys out of the gate did themselves a disservice with mismanaging some games, lineups and pitching changes. The stubborn reluctance to play young players, instead opting to write into the lineup the likes of Nick Martini and Ian Kinsler.
The major factors that will get us back to playoff baseball with the three win formula:
• A healthy Tatis for 150 plus games. As we know, he is a special one and elevated everyone else when he is in the lineup. Producing a 3.6 WAR in his rookie campaign was impressive, but with a healthy season, maybe can get closer to a 6+WAR campaign.
• On Base Percentage Increase – Tommy Pham was a huge addition in terms of someone who gets on base consistently (.367 last season) and like Tatis, makes those around him better. Having him hit in front of Machado would provide even more run producing at bats that could provide more fastball counts for Manny to do damage with.
• Manny and Hosmer- Both seem to thrive when the game is on the line, when runners are on base or the stakes are high. The reality is, last season had very few of those opportunities, especially after the break.
• Base running- The Team ran themselves into too many outs on the base paths and prevented them from keeping guys on base and an opportunities to score. You can be aggressive but wise about the situation you engage the running game in. To many times we ran ourselves out of rallies before they even began.
• Tingler managing an NL game accordingly- 1st year manager Tingler who with an AL background will have several experienced major league coaches that should provide Jayce with ample resources to maximize his lineup options and in game decision making.
Ultimately if any of you watched the MLB playoffs and World Series, winning every game, inning and at bat should be prioritized from day one. It’s a long 162 game season, but if you guys can remember the few times the Padres have competed for a playoff spot, it has come down to the final week of the season. As many remember, there was that season where we had to go to Colorado for the 163rd game and loss to miss the playoffs. Yes,, managing Game #1, is equally as important as winning game number 162 and Matt Holiday still never touched home.
Jorge is a native of San Diego and an avid Padres fan. Current season ticket holder who enjoys talking Padres baseball from game analysis to the minor leagues. Other passions include family, traveling, spring training, and a future Padres World Series. #OhDoctor