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The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

The Failing Friars

After nearly going to the World Series last year, the Padres didn’t bounce back as expected this season
Sajan Virdi
The Padres’ underperformance can mostly be blamed on lofty expectations and big stars not consistently playing well. Some days, they would win by 10 runs, and the very next day they would lose by the same amount.

Underwhelming. That is the best word to describe the San Diego Padres’ season. With a blockbuster trade to acquire superstar shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Fernando Tatis Jr. returning from a suspension, the Friars were set to make a deep run into October, so why did the San Diego Padres season spiral downward after achieving great results last year, and going into the new year with more talent and higher expectations? Many fans believe the top players didn’t step into leadership roles as they were supposed to.

By the All-Star Break of the 2023 season, which serves as a midterm break in the season, the Padres were just below a .500 winning average, which means that they lost more games than they won. This was the same team that was three wins away from the World Series just nine months prior. It didn’t get any better from there. The Padres ended the season a sliver above the .500 average, with a record of 82-80. They did not make the playoffs at all. 

According to preseason power rankings, the Padres had the third best group of talent in all of Major League Baseball (MLB), including the “Big Four” major stars in the Padres lineup: Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., and new signing Xander Bogaerts. According to The Athletic, “Leadership, some with the Padres say, would be much less of an issue if the ‘Big Four’ had just performed to their career norms.”

Amid the previous season’s All-Star Break, the Padres emerged as a big spender. They went all-in and traded for the Washington Nationals star outfielder, Juan Soto, in a 1-year, $23 million dollar deal. Soto ended up having a phenomenal second half of the season with the Friars. 

The Padres also traded for Soto’s teammate from the Nationals: first baseman Josh Bell. He was signed to a 1-year contract, worth about $10 million.

But they still weren’t finished spending. At the trade deadline, they got pitcher Josh Hader from the Milwaukee Brewers on another 1-year deal, this one guaranteeing Hader $14.1 million. Hader proved to be their go-to closing pitcher throughout their deep playoff run. After all the big trades, the Padres had one of the best groups of players on paper. They backed it up with their consistent home runs, earning them the nickname Slam Diego. 

This type of play is exactly what Padres fans had been waiting for for a long time, as this was their first time making it to the National League Championship Series (NLCS), the semifinals in the postseason, since 1984. Even after the NLCS series loss against the Phillies, fans had high expectations for them to bounce back big in the 2023 season.

This year, Slam Diego was not what fans had anticipated. “We spent a lot of money on this team this year and they were a big disappointment,” Padres fan Clyde Kates (‘26) commented. He felt that management was to blame and that they needed to be replaced for the Padres to meet expectations and make better financial decisions. He said bluntly that “AJ Preller [General Manager] needs to be fired,” as he spent a ton of money on a team that lost.

Underperforming did play a role in the 2023 season, but many fans also believe the Padres could not rise to the challenge in late-game situations. According to Sports Illustrated, when the team had people on base or in the position to score a run, they had the 26th-worst conversion rate of the 30 teams in the league, meaning they had a difficult time scoring their runners.

“Although I was disappointed with the outcome, it is also what I love about the sport. Just because you have a roster full of expensive players, doesn’t necessarily mean the collective group will be successful,” remarked BK Santy, Bishop’s JV and Varsity Baseball Coach. Coach Santy, a close follower of the Padres, thought that one of the main failures of the season was that San Diego’s astronomical spending in the offseason didn’t translate into wins. This was due to the lack of consistency and discipline to win. 

Coach Santy also pointed out that in the world of professional sports more generally, “Chemistry, team culture, and competitiveness can’t be bought.” For example, that the three teams that spent the most in the offseason, the Mets, Yankees, and Padres, did not make the playoffs this year. 

When asked to sum up the season in a few words, Coach simply said that the Padres season “Lacked fire.” Others agreed with this take, and although the Padres had a star-studded lineup, they lacked a consistent will to win every day. Injuries held back the team, as well as their shortage of pitchers, which were traded away to pay for Bogaerts.

One of the Padres’ top players, Manny Machado, struggled this year coming back from elbow surgery in the offseason. He played 138 games this season, down from last year’s 150.

Clyde and many other Padres fans felt that the unprecedented decline in performance this season was a combination of many factors. Once the season got underway, injuries as well as a lack of consistency held the Padres back.

After this substandard season, what’s next for the declining Padres? After such a huge contrast in performance from last year to this year, the future of the Friars is uncertain. Juan Soto is now a free agent, so he is not required to stay with the Padres and can take his talents elsewhere. 

Plus, the Padres are now without a manager, after Bob Melvin, the same manager who guided them through the playoffs, announced that he is splitting with the Padres to go to the San Francisco Giants after two years with the club. According to MLB.com, Melvin said that the move was because of his “his love of the Bay Area. He also mentioned entering what could’ve been a lame-duck season [with the Padres] with a one-year contract and an unwelcome narrative surrounding his place with the team.”

Coach Santy knows firsthand that however good the team may be, you still have to consistently show up and play as well as possible in the big leagues. “It’s not the best team that wins, it’s the best team that day that wins,” he said. On many occasions this year, the Padres just weren’t that team.

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About the Contributor
Sajan Virdi, Staff Writer
Sajan (‘27) is a first-year staff writer for The Tower and a Freshman here at Bishop’s. When he’s not at school, he enjoys playing and watching sports, most notably the Padres and Bengals.  He also sports an impressive baseball card collection, which he admits he is quite proud of. He also enjoys listening to music, playing with his dog, and spending quality time at the beach. He loves to travel and his favorite place is definitely Hawaii. He loves writing about breaking news and anything sports-related, and he is looking forward to writing more in the future.

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