The San Diego Padres don’t really have history. Sure, they had Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman and the only brown jerseys in professional sports, but their narrative arc largely bends towards mediocrity. Seven playoff appearances in 55 years, a .464 lifetime winning percentage, a lifetime of 75-87 seasons: hardly inspiring stuff. In this sense, the Padres’ sudden vibe shift into a team with serious World Series aspirations is completely ahistorical; a team that has never really tried is now trying harder than just about everyone. Even if this spurt of ambition proves to not be enough to vault the Padres to a World Series title, it’s hard to imagine that a team this talented and this determined could fail. For the first time in franchise history, it’s not an outlandish idea to make the prediction that the Padres can win the 2023 MLB World Series. Here are the three reasons why.
1. Mount Crushmore
Any prediction that the Padres will take home the 2023 MLB World Series is predicated on the fact that the top of the Padres’ lineup is obscenely good. Once Fernando Tatis Jr. returns in mid-April, he’ll link up with Xander Bogaerts, Juan Soto and Manny Machado to form the most fearsome foursome in recent memory. Manny Machado has put up an .855 OPS (136 OPS+) since 2019, which is somehow the worst of the quartet over that span.
To wit, all four hitters have complementary skillsets. Bogaerts is the closest thing 2023 baseball has to offer to a contact hitter, hitting better than .300 in three of the past four years. Tatis is perhaps the most talented baseball player (and least talented motorcyclist) alive, hitting 42 homers and swiping 25 bags in 2021 before missing all of last season. Manny Machado’s greatness at the plate is matched only by his grace in the field and has finished in the top three of MVP voting in two of the last three years. Juan Soto is such a terrifying godhead that pitchers have essentially stopped throwing him strikes. It’s a major accomplishment to get even one of them out; getting through all four of them unscathed doesn’t seem possible.
2. AJ Preller and Peter Seidler
Padres general manager AJ Preller came here to chew gum and acquire All-Stars and he’s all out of gum. No general manager has ever added so much talent so quickly. Since shocking the baseball world by signing Manny Machado in 2018 to kickstart the Padres rebuild, Preller has been empowered by owner Peter Seidler to build out a ludicrously loaded roster. In 2021, he traded for Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove Blake Snell to anchor their rotation and inked Tatis to a $340 million extension.
At the 2022 trade deadline, he swung blockbuster deals for Soto and Josh Hader and then followed that up by signing Bogaerts to a $280 million contract in free agency. If that’s not enough, he spent another $270 million to extend Machado and Darvish. In a league that sees stinginess as evidence of godliness, Preller’s and Seidler’s decision to get pay good players what they’re worth feels radical. And they’re not done yet—the Padres still have the financial stomach and prospect depth to trade for the next available star, whether it’s Bryan Reynolds or Corbin Burnes or even Shohei Ohtani.
3. Return to normalcy
Last year, the Padres spent the entire season in flux. Tatis, the franchise cornerstone, missed the first half of the season because he’s bad at riding a motorcycle and then was suspended for the second half because he’s even worse at passing drug tests. Similarly, the scepter of a potentially seismic move at the trade deadline hung over the team to start the year and then the second half of the year was waylaid by the process of integrating and acclimating Soto and Hader.
As such, it doesn’t take some oracular prediction skills to see that the Padres should hugely benefit this year just by being less chaotic. Baseball is a sport of routines and rituals and the Padres now, at last, have the time to settle into and find comfort in their own in 2023.
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