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Roundtable: Padres' high hopes for new season

 February 3, 2023 at 12:25 PM PST

S1: The San Diego Padres and their fans have high hopes for the upcoming season. Spring training is starting later this month , and we're diving into what San Diegans can expect from the swinging friars. I'm Matt Hoffman and this is KPBS roundtable. The excitement over nearly making it to the World Series last year has turned into some high expectations for this year's San Diego Padres. Fan Fest is happening this weekend , and spring training in Arizona is right around the corner with games starting there later this month. All of this is on the backdrop of record spending from Padres ownership and fans are taking notice. Joining me this week to preview the upcoming season are Ryan Finley. He's the new sports editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune. Todd Strain is here with us. He's a sports reporter with NBC , San Diego and the Padres field reporter. Anyhow , Brett from Bally Sports is also here with us. I want to thank you all so much for joining us here on roundtable. Ryan , first question's going to go to you and starting off with the column that you wrote earlier this week , you called this the most anticipated baseball season in San Diego history. Big words there.

S2: Beating the L.A. Dodgers was a huge thing for this organization , you know , to prove that they can get beyond the team. That's kind of been the big brother in the National League West for the last decade or so was a huge deal for them. And then to go into the off season and acquire a Zander Bogart's to commit the money that they've committed to Zander Bogart's to play shortstop you have the return of Fernando Tatis Jr. You have a full season of Juan Soto. You have the emerging Hassan Kim who's being moved to second base. Jay corona worth. I mean this is as talented top to bottom of Padres team as I can recall seeing. And you know , with that comes some expectations , but with that comes a lot of excitement. You know , this is going to be , again , I think , probably the most watched , most anticipated Padres season ever.

S1: And to get San Diegans ready for this upcoming season , the Padres are hosting their annual fan fest. And it's happening this Saturday.

S3: Typically , fan fest is something that fans will go to and it's like you're hoping that the team maybe gets to 500 , maybe you've got a shot to do something a little bit better. But this is actually a real these expectations could actually happen for this fan base where they see their team go deep in the postseason , just like they did last year. But now they have even more reason to be excited because of a lot of those offseason made moves that Ryan just talked about. So I think that we're experiencing what these Padres front office envisioned in trying to get this this city excited for this team and trying to build a team that would make this city proud. And with 150,000 tickets claimed , I mean , it's sold out for fan fest. It should be a really good time on Saturday and it should be something that they've never experienced over there.

S1: And just generally talking about Fan Fest , what can people expect ? I know you kind of mentioned there , no more tickets left , though. Absolutely.

S3: Absolutely. Well , they're going to get a treat this year because the fan fest was gone for a few years because of COVID. And then last year they did kind of a modified fan fest where they had fans watch a game , a spring training game. And so now they're going to be able to meet their favorite players. They're going to have autograph opportunities , selfie opportunities. They can go on the field and run the field , but they're kids. So there's definitely a lot of fun things there. And sure , you know , a lot of things for people to do.

S1: Let's bring in tod strain from NBC seven. Tod fans , they must be excited because for the first time in Padres history , they're announcing that so many people want to buy season tickets , that they're capping the sales.

S4: That's kind of a foreign term. It's sold , you know , 23,000 season tickets , which is just unreal. It's almost 10,000 more than they were four years ago. So that kind of tells you where the Padres are at in San Diego's sports landscape. There are a couple of things that jump out to me. First , it's a it's a star studded roster. You already had a star studded roster. Then you add Zander Bogart's to Machado , Tatis and of course , Musgrove and Soto and Darvish. Second thing , the Padres have a real shot to be Major League Baseball's best team and a real shot to win the World Series. I think heading into last year , people in San Diego , what they their baseball experts are the casual fan. You thought you had a good team heading into this year. I think most people , hardcore Padres fans and baseball fans know they have a great team and they think they're better than the Dodgers , which is huge. Also , it's a very likable group of guys. Players are good in the community. They're likable. And the. Media. So that helps. And also , I don't think you can you can minimize it's the only game in town. When the Chargers left town , there wasn't an immediate shift to the Padres. It's been gradual. And as the Padres have ascended to being those what I just talked about , I think people in San Diego have grown to love the Padres more than they used to. And let's face it , you need somewhere to spend your sports dollar that used to go to the Chargers and now you have money to spend and the only place you're going to spend it is with the Padres. So I think it's it's a it's a lot of factors.

S1: Matt and you mentioned Zander Bogart's there he signed that $280 million contract spread out over 11 years is going to potentially be the new shortstop. But Todd as we see the Padres spend this big money on star players we saw it before with Manny Machado , Fernando Tatis Jr. When that happened , the Padres , they raised ticket prices.

S4: But really , the reason the Padres can spend this money and other teams are spending it just MLB revenues are increasing for a variety of reasons , whether it's sponsorships or or media rights or streaming rights , These teams have money to spend. The Padres are being more aggressive than , say , the Colorado Rockies. Knock , knock. And Peter Sigler is spending the money. So yes , it's going to be tied to concessions to increase and tickets , but not not a 1 to 1 ratio. Like if we're spending $10 million on salaries , we have to increase ticket prices , $10 million. The Padres and Major League Baseball teams have money that's coming in to them. And also , as Danny mentioned , Peterside , where's Boomer aggressive so there won't be a direct tie in. So no need to worry about race fans.

S1: And talking about Peter Seidler , he's the Padres owner. Now let's talk a little bit about how this is happening. Tod and Andy and Ryan , feel free to jump in here , too. There's been a lot of national media calling San Diego a small market team. And Tod sort of referenced this. Even some other baseball owners are balking at what the Padres are doing , moneywise , offering these 300 , $400 million contracts. Now , you guys have both talked with Padre ownership over the years.

S3: And the reason being is by July , you already knew that they were the Padres were not going to be in the playoffs , you know , And so it's just such a shift to have this team now where not only are we going to be excited , you know , in terms of just seeing how the season unfolds , obviously all the fans are , but these players have a reason now to want to recruit other players to this team and and tell them that they're coming to a great environment here in San Diego. And , you know , just like talking about ownership there , the ownership is committed to winning. And they never really used to say that in the past. But in terms of ownership , I think this really started with Ron Fowler several years ago before before Peter took over fully. And they just started on they had the ability to to go after guys and spend big Manny Machado , Eric Hosmer , these contracts that Potter fans hadn't seen in quite some time. So there was this shift in mentality of like , why not us ? Why not us ? And then Peter just really took that to the next level of why not us ? You know , it shouldn't just be the Dodgers that are that were making these kinds of moves. And so , yes , Sydney was seen as a small market , but don't tell that to Peter Sider because he will have a million reasons right back at you. Why ? Why ? Sinegal is in a small market and that's really been a mentality that that has shifted there down at Petco Park.


S2: You know , I'm a native San Diego and grew up about a mile and a half from the old Jack Murphy Stadium. And I actually worked there in high school. And to me , it is still such a trip to see the Padres spending money the way they are and to see the Padres not talking necessarily about being a small market team , not asking players to take a San Diego discount to stay. You know , I think growing up we were sort of conditioned to believe that every team could have one superstar. And so that superstar for me when I was a kid was Tony Gwynn. Right. And the reason they traded away , the Gary Sheffield's , the Fred McGriff , all the guys who went on to become just superstars. The reason why they did that was because , you know , you can kind of only have one , right ? And now you look at this Padres team and it is top to bottom stacked with superstars Joe Musgrove , who has thrown the only no hitter in San Diego history who is maybe among San Diegans , maybe the most beloved Padre is one of six or seven superstars on this team. You know , I mean , they added Juan Soto at the trade deadline last year , they signed Zander. Cards this off season offseason. Those two guys are almost afterthoughts behind Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. It's so interesting to see the way this team has been built and how different it is from the Padres. Teams of my youth and improbably and many of the Padres teams that you've covered over the years. It's no longer one expensive player and you fill in around him with young talent. It's veteran , expensive , talented players at many , many positions. And , you know , that's one of the reasons why I think they're poised to to really go deep in the playoffs this year.

S4: Guy , I totally agree. And the mindset I mean , we can talk about the dollar amounts in small market versus large market teams , but the Padres were a MLB team that nobody talked about outside of San Diego , not the national media , not the players , not the fans in other cities , like nobody said , Oh , the Padres are coming to town. Let me go see the Padres within a matter of years , really , since the Tatis trade and then the Machado signing like it's all flip. The Padres are kind of one of the teams in Major League Baseball. They got the cool brown uniforms , they get out the players. And as Ryan and Andy said , players want to come here. One begets the other and they got it rolling. And they're kind of the happening party in baseball right now. And that's really special for San Diego.

S2: You know , it's hard. It's not just it's not just that they're good and that they're talented. It's that they seem to be a fun team. You know , you can watch baseball highlights , you know , at night on MLB networks and you're going to see a Padres celebrating in the Padre. It's just so it's so different. It's such a refreshing change in baseball , which can be kind of stodgy to see this team that is very serious about having fun. And I think that that's one of the reasons why fans really gravitate to a number of their players. Chief among them , Fernando Tatis and Joe Musgrove. 100%.

S4: 100%. 100%.

S1: And just one quick question for you , Ryan. You know , with all of this additional spending , we know the Padres organization , they clearly want to win.

S2: It's the overall valuation of your franchise over a period of time. You know , you look at how much teams are going for now , right ? Artie Moreno put the Angels up for sale for billions of dollars before changing his mind. The Washington Nationals are for sale for billions of dollars. Peter Seidler , I don't think has to necessarily worry about putting food on his own plate day to day. Peter Seidler , I think , understands that if and when he ever decides to sell the Padres , that he will be able to sell them for literally billions of dollars more than what he paid for them. And if that means that you have to pay a little bit more to field a competitive team , I think that they make a lot of that money back. I think that it's it is the right thing to do. And I think that it's also the smart thing to do spending to put a team on the field because we San Diego has proven over and over again that it will come out in support of winner , whether that's 1984 , 1998 or 2022. They pack the stadium when they know that there's a team worth watching.

S1: You're listening to KPBS roundtable and we're talking about the excitement behind the Padres upcoming season. Our guests this week are Ryan Finley from the San Diego Union-Tribune , NBC Seven's Todd Strain and Bally Sports , Annie Halloran. So , Todd , there's a lot of new faces for the Padres. Maybe not a lot , but there's new ones.

S4: I think anything less than that , people can say , oh , we want to get to a World Series. I think when you have this every day lineup and those three horses at the top of the rotation , the expectation should be to win the World Series. They have a club that can definitely do it. One of the reasons they can definitely do it is they added Zander Bogart's a star attraction in Boston for many , many years. I mean we can read you the stat lines you know be it right 307 20 lone less than 20 homers go to less than 80 RBI year and that's pretty much what you're going to get. But what you're going to get is a great locker room guy , a great teammate and a true professional. So you're adding that to what we already had in San Diego. So Bogart's is obviously the new headliner. There'll be plenty of Bogart's brown jerseys all over it. Go Well guys like Nelson Cruz , Matt Carpenter , Seth Lugo have potential to have very solid seasons and fill in the pieces and the parts and key moments in seasons. They could also bomb and then we could be having a much different conversation. But you can't sign every guy to a 11 year , $280 million contract. And if if Carpenter does what he does last year , this team set if Nelson Cruz as a little bit of what he's had in previous seasons broke and is Seth Lugo can add some innings. You have plenty of new faces that support your stars.


S2: I think that , you know , we talk about Peter Seidler standing in the Padres willingness to make moves. I think knowing that there's an owner out there who will make a team better at the trade deadline means that some of the holes that the Padres might have as they head into spring training aren't that big a deal. You know , even if Matt Carpenter Nelson Cruz tank in are not what their resume said they should be this year even if the back end of the rotation is a problem , even if there's some problems in the bullpen or at catcher , the expectation now is I think that if the Padres are a player or two away into the summer , Peter Seiler will pay to get somebody who is better. And that is not something the Padres have traditionally had over their 50 plus years of existence. You know , having ownership that it's not only spent , but is willing to go in a little bit more every year if it means putting a competitive team on the field. I mean , we saw what they did last year at the deadline , right ? You go get Juan Soto , a player who I think is probably still underrated on this Padre team. You know , two years earlier , they went and they got their catcher , Austin North. There is a willingness to get better at the deadline , which means that some of these holes that they have might not be. Like I said , a very big deal.

S1: And a lot of big hitters this year. So it sounds like SLAM Diego will be back in a very big way. But , Andy , when we talk about pitching , how does that look this year ? That sort of seems to be maybe one area that ownership , you know , hasn't been as successful in in terms of bringing on like another star arm.

S3: Yeah , And I agree with with Ryan and Todd. I mean , you do have an ownership group and a front office that's willing to make moves at the deadline. I think they're trying to make moves right now that are not going to necessarily inhibit them like , you know , try not to force moves right now , now that they do have their three horses at the top of the rotation that got Musgrove , Snell and Darvish. You've got Nick Martinez , who has a wonderful new contract with the Padres that really allows for the best of Nick Martinez to shine , whether that's in the rotation or in the bullpen. You've got said Lugo is a career reliever. So you don't really know what you're going to get there necessarily. But then they're also looking at guys like Adrian Moran and Ryan Weathers and Tim. They eat some innings. Could they possibly do something like a six man rotation ? They were creative last year in the way that they did their rotation in allowing guys an extra day of rest and that really paid off for them in the second half. So I think that they're open to the fact that their rotation might not look exactly as they want it to look right now , but that they will be able to still have a dominant rotation. And certainly there's still moves to be made in spring training. This is definitely a team that does not shy away from making a move when they feel like it's necessary. So we'll see what happens during that time.

S1: And before spring Training games start later this month. Fan Fest is coming up first. It's on Saturday and all of the team's star players will be there signing autographs , taking pictures. But maybe the most anticipated player to be seen is power hitter Fernando Tatis , Jr. He did not play at all last year and he'll still be suspended some 20 games this season for using an illegal substance.

S3: I think that as long as he goes out there and he finds the joy in baseball again , because it really got away from him last year , as you can imagine , one disappointment after another. He was not the same Fernando that we saw even before the suspension came down. So I think what what we're going to see from him , hopefully , and what I think he wants to see from himself is just the ability to get back to being that fun loving kid who loves to put on a show for fans and loves to get everyone riled up and loves to go out there and produce. And then he's going to have to put the work in on the side in terms of just making sure that he doesn't do anything that's a distraction off the. Field. And I think that he understands that and he'll have to do that over the long haul. He's always going to have a target on his back now. He's always going to have an outside crowd that is willing to say , but you know , what about this ? What about that ? What about 2022 when he did this and that ? So he's going to have to prove it over some time , for sure. But I think he can. Joe Musgrove made a comment and Ryan was lovely enough to allow us to run a very long story about Joe and Fernando in the youth team , but we couldn't get this this quote in. But Joe said , at some point , Fernando has to stop apologizing. He's got to stop apologizing. He's just got to go out there and play and be himself. And I think that that is true of Fernando. He can't walk around all the time without weight on his shoulders or he's not going to be able to be himself. He's got to not necessarily forget , but he has to turn the page for himself at some point.


S4: He can he could do the mea culpa. He could say whatever. Like , as Annie said , he's just got to go out there. How he's going to win back there. The love and adoration of Padres fans and really the trust of baseball is going to go out there and he's going to play like Fernando Tatis Jr. And he's going to play like that for a long time. His words this I don't want to say unbelievable , but anything that he said in previous instances and all these controversies have not helped him anything. If you hire your best PR firm , whatever they're going to come up with is not going to help him. He needs to go out there , be himself , and just play. And time will heal the wounds. I think that's his best path forward. And I think how he plays is his best crutch to reach out , if that makes sense.

S1: And Tod , with Tatis coming back , how do you see this rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers playing out this year ? You touched on it a little bit earlier. I think Ryan did , too. You know , for a lot of fans , knocking them out of the playoffs last season will be something that they might never forget.

S4: It's spicy. This rivalry is by the sea. And with Tatis coming back , he's the spiciest guy in the rivalry. I mean , he plays with passion , he plays with the jazz. He puts his bat. He you know , he he gets into it with all MLB teams and the Dodgers. And I think what you have for the first time in a long time , you have Dodger players and Dodger fans realize it's also a rivalry and they're a little bit scared of San Diego and they're a little bit scared of the Padres , which makes it awesome.

S1: And as we wrap up here , you know , we've talked a lot about the excitement for the upcoming season , but is there any danger that we may be expecting , you know , too much from this team or that fans , they may be signing themselves up for some sort of disappointment ? They say high expectations go hand in hand with increased pressure. And any we can start with you , but we definitely want to hear from everyone here.

S3: Yes , that is that is sports , right. There is always the ability for everything to take and everything and the best laid plans. I mean , we always hear it right. The best team on paper. This team looks great on paper. Well , the Padres look great on paper , and they should be a good team. But you also don't know what injuries are going to pop up. You don't know what , who knows what , anything , what could happen. So I think that there's a lot of unknowns and that's also what makes it fun. You know , it's it's spicy , As Todd said , it's it's going to be interesting because there are so many expectations to see how and if it shakes out , because there will definitely be some curveballs , that's for sure.

S2: I agree. And you know , it's funny , again , being a native San Diego and yeah , these things don't typically work out. If I see illegal sports , then I seem to remember certain football team that used to be here and they would break my heart very often in the playoffs. But you know , the Padres , it's funny , for probably 40 of their 50 years or 45 of their 50 years , have told anybody who will listen that the way to win is to build something organically and do not necessarily go by all the best free agents. And now they're doing kind of what the Dodgers and the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have done. It's going to be so interesting to see if they struggle what the most critical of fans start to think about the strategy of going out and just getting the best available player regardless of position. You know , Zander Bogart's I think is a really good addition to the team but they're moving basically three players out of position so he can play shortstop every day if they start to struggle. I wonder what the local blowback is going to be in terms of just their roster construction. You know , would it have been better to spend the money on somebody who could play left field as opposed to somebody who can play shortstop ? To me , that's going to be the big question.


S4: And I think if you're looking for an area of concern heading into this much hyped Padres season , it's definitely the starting pitching , not necessarily the depth. Of course , every team in Major League Baseball wants more pitching. But the Padres top three of last year , Darvish , Snell Musgrove were pretty much injury free throughout this season. And to go back to back years with no injuries to your prime. Starting pitching is very rare. So that's an area where you think that the Padres just law of averages are going to get hit this year. And as Ryan alluded to , their roster depth will allow them to address that on their farm system to address that. So so that's my area of concern. Will a starting pitching injury happen ? Law of averages says yes , so hopefully. But the roster depth can make up for anything there. So if you're looking to end on a downer , that's a downer I guess.

S3: And may I just quickly add to this , it is important for them the next year they've got to do a lot. They've got to get a lot of people signed. They've got to hope that , you know , people come back , they've got to redo contracts. They've got there's a lot going on for next year. So this year is a very important year for them in terms of trying to get to that World Series and win that World Series.

S1: And hang on to all those new season ticket holders. But we're going to have to end it there for this week's edition of KPBS roundtable. And I want to thank our guest so much , Ryan Finley from the Union-Tribune , Todd Strain from NBC , San Diego , and any Halperin from Bally Sports. Be sure to stream our show any time as a podcast. Roundtable is produced by Andrew Bracken. And Rebecca Chacon is our technical director. I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. Thanks so much for being here with us. If you're going to FanFest , have a great time and have a great weekend.

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San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell is greeted by teammates after exiting during the sixth inning in Game 3 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in San Diego.
Ashley Landis
San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell is greeted by teammates after exiting during the sixth inning in Game 3 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in San Diego.
The San Diego Padres and their fans have high expectations for the team, as the start of the 2023 season approaches.

Matt Hoffman hosts a discussion on the prospects for the San Diego Padres upcoming season.

Guests include Ryan Finley from The San Diego Union-Tribune, NBC 7's Todd Strain and Annie Heilbrunn from Bally Sports.