Baseball is back and with it rode in the realization that all is not swell with the San Diego Padres.
But the big picture shows the Padres are in training camp after a prolonged labor dispute and we can’t wait to see the local nine, either.
Although we recently learned that the Padres’ biggest star, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., will cool his jets for likely the season’s first half while his teammates deliver what they hope is a successful year.
“I’m a believer,” Padres owner Peter Seidler said. “I’m an optimist.”
Seidler’s faith is only matched by his desire to lead the Padres to their first World Series title. But Seidler’s world, and the Padres fans’ orbit, was rocked when Tatis reported with a fractured left wrist.
What we discovered after Tatis had his camp physical is that his compromised wrist is connected to the region’s ticker. Countless Padres boosters were heartbroken when Tatis’ health status was revealed, his season debut derailed by an offseason mishap.
Maybe Tatis was hurt in what the club described as a minor motorcycle mishap during his downtime. Or maybe Tatis absorbed the injury in some other incident — he’s not sure.
What we know is baseball waits for no player and yes Tatis will be missed when the Padres open the season on April 7 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Padres are eager to lift the curtain on 2022 and it’s easy to see why. Last season started with such promise and pizzazz that a playoff berth seemed well within grasp.
As keen as the Padres played in the first half, they were equally bad in the second. From contending for first place in the National League West to needing binoculars to spot the first-place San Francisco Giants at the finish line, it was a face-plant of epic proportions.
“If you’re going to fall off the cliff the way we did last year, you might as well make it dramatic,” Seidler said.
But what’s left unsaid is what is general manager A.J. Preller up to? Preller, of Encinitas, not only has to piece together a plan at shortstop but might he lure star first baseman Freddie Freeman to San Diego, too?
Freeman, the former Atlanta Braves star, is a free agent who’ll be expensive. But might Seidler green-light another big contract while recalling the Padres’ payroll was larger than the New York Yankees last year.
“We’re constantly trying to improve and that is what we are doing right now,” Seidler said.
Seidler’s statement could also translate as addition by subtraction if Preller can peddle first baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder Wil Myers.
All of this lands on the desk of new manager Bob Melvin, and yeah, welcome to San Diego.
It’s a charming place that hungers for a squad to produce a playoff run, something Padres watchers expected after Seidler scribbled checks for a franchise-record $216 million payroll.
The payoff was negligible as the Padres won 12 of their final 36 games, with their $340 million shortstop having a shouting match in the dugout with Manny Machado, their $300 million third baseman.
Can the Padres dig from their deep grave of last year? Not only do Seidler and Melvin think so, but so do the paying customers. For the first time ever, the Padres have sold more than 19,000 season tickets.
What will this season bring? Highs, lows and everything in between once the man in blue yells, “Play ball.”
“It’s a fresh year,” Seidler said. “And we expect to be a force, in the race for the World Series trophy this year.”
Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports