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Jay Paris: Padres, long a flop, have flipped their persona

Squint hard, that’s what I did.

With all the comings and goings at Petco Park, checking to find biggest trade was a chore.

Matt Kemp?

Love it and just think when he leans into a microphone and shouts, “Beat L.A.!”

Wil Myers?

Two years removed from the American League Rookie of the Year Award? Awesome and center friend is right this way.

Justin Upton?

Those 29 home runs he smashed last season are no mistake and welcome my friend.

Plus Derek Norris from Oakland? Don’t fret, there’s plenty of there, there, when it comes to this young catcher.

Those roster moves shook up San Diego, and really, the national baseball landscape.

But seeking the biggest swap from general manager A. J. Preller isn’t revealed on the traditional media platforms.

Instead it’s a trade so big it doesn’t show up in the small type.

Preller, the mad man behind this transformation, has done the impossible.

For those who came before him, anyway.

The Padres executive believing sleep is for others has made the Padres relevant again.

He switched a persona that the Padres were in it to compete to in it to win a championship.

Yes, Petco Park is lovely and everyone enjoys going there.

Yep, isn’t the area around the downtown digs grand, where food, beverages and entertainment in abundance and all directions.

The Padres have long sold their environment, and when considering the on-field product, that’s just good business.

But Padres fans steaming through four straight losing seasons had reached a breaking point.

There were tired of promises, wearing of prospects and ticked that opposing fans — hello San Francisco and Los Angeles — would seize their ballpark each summer.

Now the Padres are hawking more than hope and when’s opening day again?

I can’t wait for April 6 at Dodger Stadium and there’s a long line of people feeling the exact same way.

“The city is buzzing,’’ manager Bud Black said.

Not sure if Black, a Rancho Santa Fe, has quit penciling in future lineups since Preller turned into Monty Hall and if anyone else remembers “Let’s Make a Deal” please raise your hand.

Black has always been long on pitching and short on punch. He’s had plenty of arms but desperate for bats. Now the middle of the Padres’ order reads Kemp, Myers and Upton and finally it’s a lineup with a true heart.

What gets the ticker beating for keen Padres boosters is not thinking what they got, but also what they didn’t give up.

Preller, who goes 24/7, did this makeover without touching the top three up here and the top three down there.

Starting pitchers Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are still in American’s Finest City.

Prized minor leaguers, catcher Austin Hedges, outfielder Hunter Renfroe and pitcher Matt Wisler, are still with the Padres as their finest prospects.

Add all that up and it’s easy to see why the Padres are smiling.

It’s a grin that starts in the front office, trickles to the dugout and spills over to a fan base almost forgetting it’s still Chargers season.

The Bolts are still alive and all the best in Kansas City, boys.

But the real jolt this holiday season was delivered by the Padres.

With Preller’s skills, the mind-set has changed about the local nine.

The Padres have morphed from being a doormat into knocking on the door of contention.

We’ve heard it before, no? Every trip to spring training brings with the notion that this might be the year.

The difference is that chatter is coming from outside the clubhouse.

It’s one thing to claim the answers are in there when you’re part of it. The trick is getting objective observers to buy in.

But from all corners of the baseball universe, people are noticing San Diego is making noise.

Can’t hear it? Put your ear to the ground as Preller’s head only occasionally hits the pillow.

While Preller seldom gets shuteye, don’t sleep on the Padres.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports and at the