The Padres’ flop this year is the reverse of two seasons ago


Same. Old. Padres.

That’s what some fans are saying as the squad’s deflating season draws to a close.

I am not here to peddle hope for the next year. My task today is to place this team of Padres in a historical context. Here is:

These Padres were a lot of fun for two months, but ultimately left fans with the biggest disappointment of the franchise season. Here’s a bit of weirdness that older Padres fans can appreciate: Compared to the two Padres teams who got everyone so excited at the start of a season, they weren’t the same old Padres and far from it. .

These two teams were the Padres of 1984 and 1998.

They remain the “Twin Peaks” Padres.

Both of these teams lived up to the “playoff or loss” expectations that were ubiquitous and, for this franchise, exceptionally rare.

The hype hasn’t fazed these players. Instead of withering in the summer, they moved away. The only regular holder the 84 and 98 clubs had in common – Tony Gwynn – exuded a stability that was also a team trait.

OK, so divisional competition in 1984 was historically weak. None of the West’s five rivals have had a winning season.

These Padres have not had it easy, however. The generic safety net did not exist. Stepping up the pressure, team executives have hinted that if the club don’t make it to the playoffs, manager Dick Williams will be sacked. A few players would have been happy to personally give Williams a bon voyage notice. However, the atmosphere was there.

If a team’s lead history can be a burden, the ’84 Pads started the season with ankle weights. Fifteen years in the big leagues had produced a winning season. Skeptics expected the Padres to suffocate. By keeping the air flowing, they won 92 games and decked out the Cubs favorites in the playoffs.

Expectations were even higher for the 1998 Padres, thanks to Kevin Towers’ offseason trade for ace pitcher Kevin Brown. The Padres had won the West two years earlier. In 97, their attack was the NL runner-up for points scored. Brown’s pitch was tantamount to a circular saw in a sawmill, making the Padres realistic contenders for either a second West title in four years or the NL’s only wild card.

A lot of times when a new player is supposed to bring a team to a decisive season, it doesn’t turn out that way.

Brown was the exception.

“Two words: Kevin Brown,” said Merv Rettenmund, 98 Padres hitting coach and seven World Series veteran, this week.

Rettenmund was responding to a request to explain how the ’98 team were able to handle the high expectations. He repeated his answer.

“Kevin Brown,” Rettenmund said. “He improved the whole pitching rotation. The other starting pitchers on the team were different after we got him. He made the whole team better.

The pressure on the 98 team to reach the playoffs was immense. Public comments from owners John Moores and CEO Larry Lucchino hinted that they could move the club to another city if San Diego does not provide enough public money to build a new stadium. A rough measure was scheduled for the November 1998 general election, and Lucchino noted a playoff appearance and the World Series race would get the vote.

By eliminating the excuses, Moores had more than doubled player payrolls in three years and Towers had traded a very good prospect, first baseman Derrek Lee, to hire Brown for the 1998 season.

Padres fans weren’t the only ones with reason to believe.

Oddsmakers registered the team’s “over-under” betting line at 86.5 wins, second in the West behind the Dodgers.

The Padres claimed their 87th victory in late August, moving away from a Giants club that included Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent and would win 89 games. With a win on September 1 – when Greg Vaughn scored his 46th and 47th home runs and Gwynn had three hits – the team managed by Bruce Bochy improved to 90-49.

Take a second look: 41 games above sea level, with 33 games to play.

In the road playoffs, facing the Hall of Fame starting pitchers, Brown overwhelmed the batters. The Padres advanced to the World Series by knocking out favorites Astros and Braves, who had 102 and 106 wins, respectively.

The 2021 Padres weren’t asked to deliver the franchise’s first playoff spot or a new baseball stadium.

But compared to the 1984 and 1998 teams, they generated comparable vertigo among Padres fans. Additionally, the punters loved them more than any previous Padres team by projecting them to win 94.5 games.

Looking like a distant cousin of the 2021 Padres, the 1985 squad fell short of high expectations by winning 83 games to finish third in the NL West. A unique event strongly contributed to these struggles: Offensive catalyst Alan Wiggins, considered by some teammates to be the MVP of the World Series first team, walked into a drug rehab clinic in April.

The 1990 Padres were lagging behind to the same extent. Scheduled for 88 wins by punters, this team saw manager Jack McKeon sacked in the middle of the season and finished 75-87.

McKeon had a good comeback, winning 99 games with the 1999 Reds and leading the 2003 Florida Marlins to a World Series title against the Yankees.

It’s the kind of rebound performance that Padres fans deserve.


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