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The 2024 Padres feature a mix of old and new. Here, veteran Yu Darvish stands with fellow pitcher and countryman Yuki Matsui, a free agent signee who previously played in Japan. Photo via X
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Padres turn page after disastrous season

Don’t tell us what the Padres are without; let’s embrace what they possess.

Don’t remind us that a three-season window of chasing a title has closed, one that included big-name talent making big-time money.

Do remind us that the late and beloved Peter Seidler, the team’s former owner and the gentleman responsible for flipping the Padres’ small-market, low-expectation narrative, would lead the Cactus League in optimism.

And it wouldn’t even be close.

The eternally upbeat Seidler is gone, but not the sunny vibe that clung to him like his oversized heart.

Seidler is peering down from above, eager to cheer a team that still has star power, and a bevy of fresh faces, as it aims to slay the dragon up north, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Baseball is here, finally, and it’s not the time to wallow about missed opportunities and what-might-have-been.

Did the Padres take a massive swing-and-miss when their roster included standouts in outfielder Juan Soto, left-hander Blake Snell and closer Josh Hader? A $250 million squad assembled under a three-time manager of the year in Bob Melvin.

Without a doubt, and that fab four moved on.

But if Padres fans are spending days in the past, they’re missing the greatest gift baseball offers — the present and the uncertainty of the future.

The sound of ball meeting bat and the sights of a spring afternoon in Peoria get San Diego fans through a long, wet winter — this winter anyway.

The spring training complex is alive in Arizona, as the Padres try to raise their standing.

Last year was a disaster, and if there was ever a more disappointing season in franchise history, this sportswriter can’t recall it. I’ve been watching the Padres since 1969 and that was brutal.

An offseason of hype and hope morphed into the endless bummer of the Padres missing the playoffs once again.

The Padres paced the majors in bad body language and were embarrassingly inefficient when hitting with runners in scoring position.

It lost one-run games at a mind-boggling pace and when the outcome was determined in extra innings, the Padres were keen on falling short.

But spring is the occasion for a high desert sky and sky-high dreams. Even for a club that has shed some $100 million in payroll.

Any bunch with infielders Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts and Ha-Seong Kim is to be applauded. Mix in outfielder Fernando Tatis Jr., a rotation with right-handers Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish, and the potential of Michael King, and it’s clear the Padres have entered seasons with less.

But it’s also a team with more holes than a fishing net.

Can one-time shortstop Jackson Merrill, the Padres’ No. 2 prospect, make the daunting leap from Double-A to the varsity while learning how to play left field?

Is Luis Campusano ready to take the full load at catcher?

Does another Padre wet behind the ears get to play center field?

Can the void at designated hitter be filled, with the answer likely being a player with scant experience?

Can the final two rotation spots be plugged by Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez, right-handers the Padres got for peddling Soto?

Closer? Maybe righty Robert Suarez or lefty Adrian Morejon?

And can the new manager, Mike Shildt, mold it all to compete in a loaded National League West, which not only includes the Dodgers, but the Arizona Diamondbacks, fresh from the World Series, and an improved San Francisco Giants squad.

We realize Padres fans left their hearts behind when 2023 went haywire.

We also know there are no guarantees in baseball, only the aspiration that things are smooth enough over 162 games for a playoff invitation.

“We’ve got open spots in a lot of different areas,” Shildt said. “We’ll see who can grab them.”

Our advice? Snag a beverage, settle in and enjoy the ride of baseball.

The Padres are back, spring is here and that’s enough for now.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports


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