Manny Mania taking San Diego by storm
When word of Manny Machado‘s $300 million, 10-year contract with the San Diego Padres broke early in spring training, team officials wouldn’t immediately confirm the deal because the All-Star slugger still had to pass a physical.
But that didn’t keep general partner Peter Seidler, a nephew of former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Pete O’Malley, from expressing what a monumental move it was for a franchise that had mostly stumbled and bumbled through its 50-year history.
While executive chairman Ron Fowler played the straight man at an impromptu news conference, Seidler couldn’t keep from smiling. He then essentially confirmed that yes, the rebuilding Padres had actually pulled off the splashiest move in their history.
“Ron and I, we love the city of San Diego, we love sports in San Diego, but we’re also well aware of the history. There’s never been a championship from a major sports franchise in San Diego,” Seidler said. “We as an organization want to completely change that. We want our franchise to win year after year after year. And we’re going to do whatever we can rationally do to help make that happen.”
How fast the addition of Machado accelerates the Padres’ push for contention remains to be seen. At the very least, it makes the Padres relevant after so many lost seasons. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006 and their last winning season was 2010. They’re coming off a 96-loss season.
The addition of Machado signals that the Padres think their loaded farm system is just about ready to help the club return to contention.
After months of speculation that roped in Machado’s family and friends and tested the patience of fans in several cities, the third baseman will be the biggest attraction at Petco Park, a gem of a ballpark just off San Diego Bay.
“With the players, coaching staff and front office, you know it was just like a perfect fit for us,” Machado said.
The Padres’ long-suffering fans have been ecstatic ever since. They’ll get another dose of hope when 20-year-old hotshot shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. joins Machado in the infield, most likely sometime this season.
The Padres said they sold $3 million worth of tickets in the two weeks after Machado signed. They’ve declined to reveal any other figures.
Here are some things to look for from the Padres, who open at home on March 28 against the San Francisco Giants and manager Bruce Bochy, who is retiring after the season. Bochy managed the Padres from 1995-2006.
NEW FACES: Besides Machado, the Padres also signed second baseman Ian Kinsler and infielder Greg Garcia, who went to high school in El Cajon and whose grandfather, the late Dave Garcia, managed the Indians and Angels.
ROOKIES TO WATCH: Right-hander Chris Paddack has pitched so well in spring training that it appears he’s forced his way into the rotation, but manager Andy Green has yet to indicate whether he’ll break camp with the big league club. The Padres will keep an eye on his innings since he pitched only 90 innings last year between Single A and Double A as he came back from Tommy John surgery. Luis Urias, who will keep shortstop warm until Tatis arrives, made his big league debut in September before injuring a hamstring. Other pitchers who could make their big league debuts this year are left-hander Logan Allen and right-hander Cal Quantrill.
BATTING ORDER: The top three batters in San Diego’s projected order, Kinsler, Eric Hosmer and Machado, all have World Series experience. Kinsler was with Boston Red Sox when they beat Machado’s Los Angeles Dodgers last fall, and Hosmer won a ring with Kansas City in 2015.
LOOKING FOR A BOUNCEBACK: Hosmer admittedly didn’t play up to expectations last year after the Padres gave him a $144 million, eight-year deal. Wil Myers, coming off another injury-shortened season, moves back to center field after struggling at third base late last year. He played center field in 2015 before playing first base in 2016-17.