The San Diego Padres seem the odd duck when they're compared to their California baseball brethren. They're the only California team which has never won the World Series (although they do have two Pennants, which is one more than the Angels, who HAVE won the World Series). They're the only California team with the entire market to themselves; the Angels and Dodgers share Los Angeles, while the Athletics and Giants are both entrenched in San Francisco. They're one of only two teams in California who were created out of the blue to take advantage of the market, and the youngest of the bunch. (The Angels were also created, but they were created years earlier. The Dodgers, Athletics, and Giants were all moved to the state from older homes.) Less notably, they're the only MLB team so far to have never partaken in a no-hitter.
The San Diego Padres actually first showed up in 1936, in the Pacific Coast League. In 1969, they showed up as a full-fledged Major League Baseball team as part of the round of expansions that created the Montreal Expos, Kansas City Royals, and Seattle Pilots. Their first owner was the same guy who owned the old Pacific Coast League team, and the Padres also had guidance from longtime baseball folks, including Eddie Leishman and Buzzie Bavasi. The latter was especially notable; he had previously been the general manager for the Dodgers. He oversaw the team when it moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, and during his tenure the Dodgers managed to win eight Pennants and their first four World Series titles. Still, the Padres were an expansion team which came along after the first MLB expansions, after the National League figured out how to shuffle their players for the expansion draft so the n00bs didn't get TOO good at baseball. The Padres finished their first six years in the basement. Of those six years, they lost 100 games or more in four of them. They were so bad that the team was talking sale by 1974, and the new almost-owner had designs on sending the Padres to Washington. Everyone was so convinced of the sale that new uniforms were designed, and even card company Topps printed half its Padres set with the official team name "Washington National League." But the owner suddenly changed his mind and sold the team to McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, who apparently decided moving was too much trouble.
In 1974, the Padres started out with a streak of unintentional hilarity. In his first game as new owner of the Padres, Ray Kroc took to the mic and told the crowd he had never seen such stupid ballplaying in his life. At the same time, a streaker made his way across the diamond as Kroc shouted for security to throw him in jail. Apparently a few changes were eventually made, because in 1975 the Padres finally managed to avoid the cellar. First baseman Nate Colbert emerged as a slugger, and he in fact is still the Padres' career leader in home runs. They also picked up a great outfielder named Dave Winfield, an athlete who also attracted considerable attention from the NFL, NBA, and ABA. In 1976, pitcher Randy Jones showed up out of nowhere (well, actually from a 22-loss season the previous year) to win 22 games and the Cy Young. The team set a new wins record with 73, but 73 wins is, well, 73 wins and it happened to put them in fifth that year. The Padres were still packed with a bunch of underdeveloped youngsters and journeymen, though, and we all know how that goes. The group of scrappy underdogs didn't band together.
1978 brought a new hope with a talented young shortstop named Ozzie Smith. Smith would go on to become the greatest fielding shortstop ever. The Padres, after ten years, finally climbed above the .500 mark, finishing 84-78, but they couldn't repeat themselves, and they went 68-93 the following season. In 1980, Smith was a bright spot who set the single-season assist record and won the first of an incredible streak of Gold Gloves. The following year, the Padres had their defining year of all time. No, it wasn't because of what they did on the field. It was what they did off the field that made a huge dent. See, Ozzie Smith had one of those annoying agents who had a flair for bullshitting gestures that embarrassed the team. The agent, Ed Gottlieb, got the team into a contract dispute which went bad when Gottlieb took out an ad in the San Diego Union saying Smith wanted a part-time job to supplement his income. Smith was earning $72,500 that year. The Padres actually liked Smith, but after that, they couldn't deal with Gottlieb anymore. At the same time, Whitey Herzog was trying to overhaul the Saint Louis Cardinals, and he wanted a centerpiece player to lead a team of speedsters and defensive wizards. And who would be a better defensive wizard than the damn Wizard of Oz? No one! Smith was the centerpiece of a six-player trade which took him to the Cardinals, where he leapt and flipped his way into the Hall of Fame and won three Pennants and a World Series along the way. Winfield also left San Diego in free agency before that, having signed with the New York Yankees, so the Padres were hurt even further.
Actually, in the short term the Padres didn't really miss Ozzie Smith. It's true that Smith took the Cardinals to a World Series victory in 1982, but in the early 80's the Padres grabbed manager Dick Williams, who managed the hell out of players like Steve Garvey, Garry Templeton, Graig Nettles, and Alan Wiggins. In 1982 they also picked up a marquee star of their very own, Tony Gwynn. In 1984 the Padres went 92-70 to win the National League West. In the NLCS, they played a cruel joke on the Chicago Cubs by letting the Cubs run them into a 2-0 series hole before coming back to win the first Pennant. I assume they were tempted to try that again in the World Series, but they certainly called it off upon learning that they would be playing against the Detroit Tigers, a steamroller that went wire to wire, won 104 games, and had that Team of Destiny cloud hovering about them. Detroit won the Series 4-1. Even so, San Diego has such wonderful memories about the 1984 Padres that in 2011, one writer called the 1984 World Series still the most exciting week of baseball ever played in San Diego.
That was the team's pinnacle for the decade. Tony Gwynn won a lot of batting titles, but the team finished third in 1985 after a late collapse. Dick Williams was let go just before Spring Training in 1986. That didn't make much sense, seeing as how the Padres were getting rid of the one manager in their history who compiled a winning record (337-311) and took them to the Pennant. He is STILL the only overall winning manager in Padres history. His leaving apparently stemmed from a power struggle with team president Ballard Smith and general manager Jack McKeon. By 1987, San Diego was in last once again. McKeon took over manager duties the next year and won 83 games, and the Padres started improving. In 1992, they featured a lineup nicknamed The Four Tops which consisted of Gwynn, Tony Fernandez, Gary Sheffield, and Fred McGriff. Although Sheffield was eventually traded to the Florida Marlins, that trade resulted in the arrival of the Padres' second great franchise player, pitcher Trevor Hoffman. A trade with the Houston Astros brought in Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley. In 1996, the Padres were in the playoffs again, where they were dispatched by the Cardinals in the ALDS.
By 1998, the Padres were good again. They won their division at 98-64. In the NLDS, they beat the Astros. In the NLCS, they faced an Atlanta Braves team which had won an ungodly 106 games through the regular season. The Braves were the Braves of Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz. The Braves in those years, despite winning five Pennants and a World Series title, are known as much for choking as they are for winning. In game two of the NLCS, Padres ace Kevin Brown pitched a shutout. The Padres rose to the moment and captured the Pennant in six games. Now, you would think beating a 106-win team like the Braves that year would automatically mean the Padres had finished with the worst, and that they could stride confidently into the World Series to take out a weaker team. Well, not this year. They were facing the New York Yankees this season. The Yankees with their shimmering 114-48 record and their famed Core Four: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada, all in their primes. The Padres flirted with a victory in the first game, taking a 5-2 lead at one point, but that didn't matter to the Yankees. In the seventh inning of that game, they just put seven runs of their own up to win. You can guess how the rest of this World Series went. Padres in, Padres out in four.
Tough times hit at the millennium. Kevin Brown left for a ginormous payday with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Steve Finley went to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2001, the Tony Gwynn era ended. Gwynn had won eight batting titles, seven Silver Sluggers, five Gold Gloves, and was an All-Star 15 times. He had played on both Pennant teams, and the San Diego Padres were the only team he had ever known. The great Dave Winfield, who had retired in 1995, also gave the Padres a landmark in 2001. He was elected to the Hall of Fame that year, and he chose to go in as the first player wearing a Padres hat.
In 2005, the Padres managed to win a shitty division by going 82-80. A hissy fit was thrown about Major League Baseball playoff seeding because the Padres got to go to the playoffs while while three East division teams with winning records had to sit out - including the Philadelphia Phillies, who won all their games against San Diego. They did have Jake Peavy as their ace, though, and Trevo Hoffman is still with the team. They won the division again in 2006. They've been having a rough patch ever since. In 2011, they made a lopsided trade with the Cincinnati Reds which benefitted them, so things might be looking up, although I'll hold off on judging until I see some concrete results.
The Padres have had ten Hall of Famers play for them. Roberto Alomar, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Smith, Dick Williams, and Dave Winfield. Gwynn and Winfield are in there as Padres. Gwynn spent his whole career in San Diego. Winfield spent a massive chunk of his career in San Diego, although he actually spent more time with the New York Yankees overall. Steve Garvey, Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Randy Jones, and Trevor Hoffman were all honored by the organization with retired numbers.
The 1984 and 1998 Pennants remain the gold standard with the Padres. They haven't done much that makes them a memorable team through baseball history. Hell, they're known for being the only team which has NOT been part of a no-hitter. They don't even have some big rivalry in their division for baseball fans across the country to demand on national TV, either. Look at the other teams in their division: Their older division mates are the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, the greatest rivalry in baseball. They can't really be considered true rivals of the younger teams - the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies - either, because they're much older than those two teams. The Diamondbacks and Rockies were both created in the 90's, so even though the Rockies are older than the Diamondbacks, it's only by a few years, and the two of them are growing and developing histories of their very own together. The Padres are just sort of there.
What are the Padres known for? Well, they have Military Appreciation Night, during which their players wear garish cam uniforms. Ray Kroc's outburst is one of the most memorable moments in their history, and on a Womens' Night back in 1989, they invited Rosanne Barr to sing the national anthem. Barr did that in a high, screechy voice, and finished her act by spitting and grabbing her crotch. The whole act was intended to be a parody of ballplayers themselves, but it came off as extremely disrespectful. PETA bought a brick on their stadium encouraging spectators to boycott Petco through an ancrostic which reads "Break out your cold ones. Toast the Padres. Enjoy this champion organization." It's supposed to be against the way Petco breeds and sells pets. (PETA, you see, is anti-pet. Their founder has - really! - referred to animals as "today's slaves." It's one of a vast list of offenses which caused me to stop supporting PETA and start looking at them for what they really are, which is basically a domestic terrorist organization.)
People can't even get the team's mascot right. Their mascot is the Swinging Friar, not the famed San Diego Chicken which people seem to think is their mascot. The Padres are one of those teams which was once best known for sporting some of the ugliest uniforms in baseball. The San Diego Padres stand as one of many things to see in San Diego, which is known for great tourist attractions and perfect weather. Unfortunately, the Padres have gotten too lost in the crowd for me to give them anything close to a decent rating. But I'm keeping them out of the basement because pissing off PETA is always worth a few points.
I owe a lot to baseball. Before being an empassioned football fan, I started off as a baseball fan. Living in northern Los Angeles county (born and raised), you would think that there would be enough Charger fans to congregate with and discuss our joy of the Chargers. But that's not the case. We still have remnant Raider fans, Bronco fans (for some reason), Ram fans (because they, along with the Raiders, once were LA's teams), and some of the other glorified America's … more