As you should know, i am a San Diego Padre fan. And many of you know i have previously railed against the gross overspending on sports when 1) that excess of money spent by owners to inflate the value of their teams and their players could be much better spent on worthwhile causes that really meant something, and 2) the big money has changed professional, college, and even high school sports, impacting the way the games are played all the way down to pre-schoolers: they are no longer pure sports; they are entertainment businesses.
The Padres have gone the way of the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Red Sox, the Cubs, the Cowboys, and in fact, every NFL team. Money is no object. Using my shaky math, the Padres have contracts with players amounting to $748 Million (spread over ten years considering the longest term contract) and have a payroll this year of (very) roughly $154 Million.
i really don’t think the players, the owners, the sports networks, the advertisers, the whole shooting match needs that much except for their egos — i would have been and still would be delirious if someone paid me $500,000 per year, the minimum salary for a major league ballplayer…and that would be for one year.
i have rooted for the Padre players as individuals since i moved to San Diego in 1975. i have rooted for the team as well, but it was the players i studied. It was deflating when they didn’t do well, and even worse when they left or were traded away. Losing several players like Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges were downers for me. i really liked them. i recognized such loyalty was not good for winning baseball. i understood, but i didn’t like it.
And here we are. i’m now just a fan. i don’t think it’s because i live in the Southwest corner. i shared season tickets with my good friend, Jim Hileman, for about a dozen years, and hung on for another three years until the prices drove me to watching on television. i turned Maureen into a fan. Watching the Friars is our nightly entertainment during the season. i’ve tried to remain the objectivity of a sports journalist, something on my resumé, throughout this crazy, upside down season due to the pandemic. But now, i have tossed out my concerns about the imbalance, the ruination of pure sports, and objectivity.
Here’s why. This year’s edition of the San Diego Padres captured me early on…or at least as early on as the greatly delayed, extremely reduced season of COVID-19 would allow. Not because of their talent, or the rather impressive potential of that talent. i am a big fan of this team because they are fun. They have fun. Jurickson Profar is my favorite on the team, not because of his impressive over achievement from his previous statistics, not because he has often provided offensive spark at the bottom of the lineup, not because he has become a better than average outfielder when he has been a second basemen for most of his career, not because he has played second and all three outfield positions.
Nope, he’s my favorite because he is always smiling. The game is obviously fun for him, He makes it fun for me when i see his smile.
Jake Croneworth is right up there also. If you haven’t noticed him, he’s the kid really and looks even younger, like a curly-haired kid about the age of my grandson Sam at thirteen. He had a slump in September but has been playing like an old pro, enough to be considered for rookie of the year. He’s the kid who hit the home run last night, putting icing on the cake of an incredible comeback playoff winning series.
Now, they play the Dodgers, of all teams. The bums whine, play by unwritten rules, are sore losers — their fans are even worse, perhaps worse than the Yankee, Red Sox, and Cubs fans (and something i fear will become of Padre fans if they win the whole thing). LA makes the Padre salary output look like chicken feed. And they are good, very, very good. And their starting pitching, one of the best in baseball, is healthy.
The Padres don’t have a chance. But then, i didn’t think they had a chance when they meekly conceded the first game to another nemesis, the Cardinals, four days ago. So i’ll be watching. Did i mention they play the game the way it was meant to be played when they are not hitting it out of the park. They call it “small ball,” walking, bunting, stealing bases, hit and run, singles to the opposite field, great defense.
It’s fun. Don’t watch them too much. You might become a fan. Because it’s a fun game.