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San Diego Padres great Tony Gwynn and Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy San Diego Padres
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Sports Talk: If ’19’ is involved, Padres optimism never takes a hit

Whenever seeing the No. 19 my thoughts, like it does for many locals, turn to Tony Gwynn.

With the arrival of 2019, we’re tipping our hat to the late Gwynn. Despite the passage of time it’s amazing how much we miss the Padres icon’s smile and, maybe now more than ever, his optimism.

With the constantly upbeat Gwynn on the mind and his retired number being front-and-center for a year, we’re going happy. Ride along and let’s see if we can flip some flops.

Few things rated higher on Gwynn’s list than his beloved Padres. So is this the year an organization which has presented eight consecutive losing seasons turns the corner?

To put that string of dropping more games than winning in perspective consider this: When San Diego was awarded a Major League franchise for the 1969 season, the Padres, predictably, were terrible. That’s why it’s not too surprising that the Padres churned out nine consecutive years of dreadful baseball as they struggled to find their footing as a big league squad.

On the eve of a milestone season, will the Padres toast their 50th year anniversary by presenting a product which pleases their patient, and dedicated, fans?

The offseason hasn’t been spot-on as some Padres boosters had envisioned. The Padres, and general manager A.J. Preller, have been linked to numerous big names. But so far Preller, who lives near Encinitas’ Moonlight Beach, has failed to acquire any stars.

Opening day is still about a month away but, to date, it’s been too quiet on the Padres’ front. They’ve acquired a veteran infielder in Ian Kinsler and a veteran pitcher in Garrett Richards.

But Kinsler is on the back-nine of his career and Richards is on the back-burner this season after undergoing elbow surgery.

The Padres have a gaping hole at shortstop, while wondering if prized prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. is ready for his close-up. He’s among the key pieces, along with second baseman Luis Urias, that will form the foundation of the Padres’ future. But Tatis’ arrival is slated more for mid-summer than late March for the opener.

So what about the present? In addition to having no one penciled in at shortstop, the hot corner shows lukewarm options. Wil Myers gave third base a try last season and everyone saw what that brought. He’s been shipped back into the outfield, where it’s crowded with players that resemble each other.

There’s a need to thin out the bunch which includes Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Travis Jankowski, Franmil Reyes and Franchy Cordero. 

Renfroe, to me, is a keeper. But if looking to move Myers and Reyes, the former is coming off a mediocre season and the latter is rebounding from offseason knee surgery.

Still there’s depth here which, hopefully, could produce a starting pitcher to plug into the leaky rotation.

The Padres were in on some interesting names like Sonny Gray, Noah Syndergaard and Nate Evoldi. But rumors are just that and none are seemingly headed for America’s Finest City.

If Preller doesn’t add to the staff, the starters could include Joey Luchessi, Eric Lauer and two more kids in Chris Paddack and Logan Allen.

So many questions to be answered and there remains time to tighten bolster the roster. Gwynn, of course, would say there’s plenty talent here for a team that continues to point to 2020 as the year it flourishes.

That vision might be tough to keep in focus in 2019. But when seeing the digit 19, we are reminded to maintain the faith.

Happy New Year!