Yup, the COVID-19 pandemic has played absolute havoc here in America and around the world. The nation began to hunker down in mid-March as the virus spread. Quarantine restrictions were imposed inconsistently as government officials in the various regions of the country weighed the public health risk versus economic health. Businesses have cut back or closed altogether and millions of people have been laid off or terminated. The death toll continues to rise despite those who imprudently call the pandemic a hoax: 206,000 deaths have been attributed to C-19 in the U.S.A. to date. If the pandemic wasn’t bad enough, we also had the BLM protests accompanied by looting and destruction in many cities.
Amidst those kinds of significant and challenging circumstances, professional sports were/are hardly a priority, but many hoped the pro leagues could put together some type of package, if only to bring a little “normalcy” back to the very chaotic situation.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association hammered out a plan for a shortened, 60-game season and play began back on July 24th in empty stadiums.
I was optimistic for my San Diego Padres. Free agent pickup, Manny Machado, definitely didn’t live up to his hype in 2019, but Padres fans were hopeful he would return to form as one of MLB’s premier players. Fernando Tatis Jr. was on his way to the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year, until an injury felled him in August. And I was once again hopeful that previous free agent pickups, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers, would finally get their heads on straight.
The abbreviated season and expanded playoff format meant just about every team had a shot if they could sustain a few hot streaks. Well my friends, the Padres put together quite a season and finished 37-23, the third-best record in MLB behind only the L.A. Dodger$ and the Tampa Bay Rays. Tatis SS was a shoe-in for NL MVP until he slowed down in August. However, Machado 3B stepped it up with a back-end NL MVP performance. Hosmer 1B played very well and many fans are thinking about Myers RF for Comeback Player of the Year for his excellent season. Rookie Jake Cronenworth 2B was a delightful surprise for the first 30 games, although he cooled off. After a slow start, Jurickson Profar LF settled in and finished the season as the hottest hitter on the roster. Young Trent Grisham did a nice job at CF. Big bat, Mitch Moreland 1B, was a late-season acquisition for the DH slot, but hasn’t lived up to expectations.
Starting pitchers, Dinelson Lamet and Zach Davies had excellent seasons, although Garrett Richards and especially projected-ace, Chris Paddack, disappointed. The Padres acquired Cleveland Indians ace, Mike Clevinger, in late August to shore up the rotation.
With their impressive 37-23 record and their 2nd-place finish behind the Dodger$ in the NL West, the Padres earned the 4th seed in the playoffs and will face the 5th seed St. Louis Cardinals in a best-of-three series beginning tonight, 5 p.m. ET.
The last time the Padres were in the playoffs was…hold onto your hats…2006. The biggest concern for the Padres going into the series will be the recent nagging injuries to Lamet (biceps) and Clevinger (elbow).
If Lamet and/or Clevinger can’t pitch, the Padres would need a huge break. Can the big bats (Machado, Tatis, Myers, Hosmer) and the relief staff rise to the occasion?