Call this a hunch.
Call this a long shot.
But I think I am right about this.
I think the San Diego Padres will be in a position to be in the World Series BEFORE big market teams like the Red Sox, Cubs or Mets.
Yeah yeah yeah, I know. The Padres were a whole lot of suck last year. And I know their penny pinching ways aren’t going to end in 2012.
And their chances of winning in 2012 are slim to none.
You know… like the Diamondbacks’ chances were in 2011.
I know the Padres will be in full “Let’s see what we’ve got in the minor leagues” mode in 2012 and the mantra will be “Patience while we give some talented players some experience.”
But guess what? That’s a better place than the Red Sox, Cubs or Mets will be in for 2012.
The 2012 Red Sox will still be reeling from a September that took them from a potential World Series to the scorched Earth purging of the front office and management. Nobody even knows who is running the show.
The 2012 Cubs have a nice story with the arrival of Theo Epstein. But when he took over the Red Sox after the 2002 season, they had just won 93 games and were a contender until the last week of the season. This Cubs team is a 91 loss mess with the Soriano and Zambrano contracts making it damn near impossible to make any major moves this season.
And those two teams are locks for the playoffs compared to the Amazing Messed Up Mets. They have unmovable contracts, injured stars, their marquee player (Jose Reyes) is a free agent and who knows what their financial situation is. Will they be sold? Will MLB focus on the Mets after the Dodger debacle is cleared?
The Padres are in a much better place. They KNOW what they are doing. They are playing young prospects and have a low payroll.
Heath Bell could leave via free agency and give them even more payroll flexibility and draft picks. Or he could stick around and anchor the bullpen and give the young pitchers some built up confidence.
Mat Latos had a step back season but still wasn’t bad. And he will only be 24 next season. Clayton Richards, Cory Luebke, Josh Spence and Ernesto Frieri are all young and pitching in one of the best pitchers parks in the league.
Um… that is potentially a staff 6 pitchers deep.
Can the Red Sox, Cubs or Mets say that? Honestly?
Plus they have young Robert Erlin, Anthony Bass, Joe Weiland and Casey Kelly not far away.
They have the likes of Cameron Maybin and Kyle Blanks who seem to have been around forever but they are both still only 25 years old.
They have the young Anthony Rizzo who has already made his big league debut. So did another minor league stud, James Darnell. Third baseman Jedd Gyorko is working his way up the system.
Mix that all in with the fact that they play in a totally unpredictable division.
Between 2005 and about 2 weeks to go in the 2007 season, it looked like the Padres had control of the NL West.
Oh wait! The Diamondbacks won the 2007 Division title and about midway through the 2008 season it looked like it was theirs for a while.
Oh wait! The Dodgers won it in 2008 and 2009. And for many years to come it was going to be the Dodgers’ division.
Except that the Giants won it all in 2010. And their repeat in the NL West was preordained…
But nobody told the Diamondbacks who suddenly became the Division standard bearers again.
Throw in a pennant and a Wild Card in Colorado and this Division is anyones.
Teams turn around, flame out and turn around again quickly in the NL West.
And the Padres would have almost all of the names I mentioned controlled for a few years and be allowed to gel and have a few reasonable additions to the payroll. By 2013 or 2014 they will have a legit shot at the playoffs.
As we saw by the last few Octobers, a team can make it to the World Series if they get on a roll.
The Padres have a DIRECTION.
Can you honestly say that about the Red Sox? The Cubs? The Mets?