One week ago, I said that the San Diego Padres were the biggest disappointment of 2021. I also mentioned how this is not the first time we have seen this movie. Sure, nothing comes within miles of the Padres’ disappointing season, except for their World Series losses in 1984 and 1998, but this one is a little different. The season that I am about to discuss is more of a groundbreaker for the Padres, albeit inspired by the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: the disappointment of the 2015 San Diego Padres.
After years of mediocrity in the NL West, general manager Josh Byrnes was shown the door. The team he had built was average, and with teams like the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers putting a stronghold on the division San Diego had to try something new.
To start, they hired a 37-year-old named AJ Preller and, following the 2014 season, he got down to business building a new contender for San Diego, because Phillip Rivers was getting tired of carrying the city on his shoulders.
On Dec. 18, 2014, the Padres traded away Yasmani Grandal and others to take on the contract of Matt Kemp, who had been average since his prime 2011 season. The next day, Justin Upton and Wil Myers were acquired in separate trades to help bolster the offense, primarily the outfield.
Some of the pieces sent away in those deals on Dec. 19 included Trea Turner and Max Fried. Turner smoothly slid into Las Angeles after consistently hitting for average as a National while Fried dominates on the mound as one part of a dominant Braves’ rotation.
The biggest deal in free agency was signing 33-year-old James Shields away from Kansas City for four years and $75 million. Coming off a decent season, Shields was going to be the ace in a rotation that also featured Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner.
Meanwhile, Upton, Myers and Kemp represented a new-age outfield that would be accompanied by the talents of Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alonso among others in the infield. If everything worked well this season, then perhaps they get bigger fish in the 2015-16 offseason.
One day before the season started, Preller put half of his chips on the table as he traded to get Craig Kimbrel, who led the league with 47 saves in 2014, away from the declining Atlanta Braves to join a new contending team in southwest California. With their bullpen shored up and a decent rotation and lineup, the Padres were considered possible contenders for the second wild card spot. Not bad for the offseason champions.
April was okay, they started 10-5 before going into a 1-7 spat to end the month. They finished May two games under .500. Not exactly the record you would expect from a possible playoff team early in the season, but there was the chance for a second half hot stretch as seen with teams like the Toronto Blue Jays that season.
Things fell off a bit more in June and early July; after losing to the Dodgers in mid-June, manager Bud Black was dismissed, despite being the successor to Bruce Bochy. He was replaced by Dave Roberts, who got smacked around like a rag doll against the Oakland Athletics and was swapped out for Pat Murphy from Triple-A El Paso. The Padres would enter the All-Star break 41-49, good enough for fourth place in the NL West.
The rest of July and August was alright for the Padres, they finished July three games under .500 and stayed that way entering the month of September. The Padres were trailing the Chicago Cubs for the second wild card spot by 11.5 games, but that was not going to stop them, until they went 9-18 in September to eliminate themselves from the playoff picture.
In the end, the Padres finished 74-88, fourth in the NL West and in a worse position than they were in 2014. Not long after, the Padres decided to blow things up and rebuild from scratch. Upton, who was the team’s lone All-Star, decided to walk in free agency, and he was joined by Kennedy, Bud Norris and a bunch of other players that decided to test the murky waters.
Joaquin Benoit was sent to Seattle while Kimbrel and his 39 saves were shipped to Boston for Manny Margot and a bunch of other prospects. To wrap it all up, Alonso was sent away to the Oakland Athletics and the biggest name they got back from that was Drew Pomeranz. Shields was kept until the trade deadline in 2016, where he was shipped to Chicago for Fernando Tatis Jr.
Finally, interim manager Pat Murphy got dismissed, and with Roberts getting hired by the Dodgers to succeed Don Mattingly, the Padres hired Andy Green away from the Arizona Diamondbacks to unknowingly give the team four more years of mediocrity as San Diego wondered what could have been.
Its not all bad for the 2015 Padres in terms of their legacy. They may have underperformed and shipped away everyone within two years, but they got some nice pieces back. It would have been nice to see Turner and Fried blossom in San Diego, but Tatis Jr. became the face of their franchise almost as soon as he got called up.
All in all, when the 2022 season rolls around, I don’t think that there will be many writers who will put down the San Diego Padres as World Series contenders. At this point, the baseball world knows too well that when the Padres are given massive expectations, they are going to crumble under the pressure and be mediocre at best. Its going to require a massive team effort for the Padres to break out of this stereotype or they will end up like the Mets and Phillies.