HomeSportCan Juan Soto Lead the Padres Past the Dodgers?

Can Juan Soto Lead the Padres Past the Dodgers?

SAN DIEGO — Juan Soto had barely landed, Josh Bell had simply sat down and Josh Hader was beginning to study his new teammates’ names when Peter Seidler, the Padres’ proprietor, declared that “the artwork of the attainable is right here.”

However simply as rapidly because the Padres had reset all expectations for his or her season — and the franchise’s future — with a frenzied whirlwind on the Main League Baseball buying and selling deadline, the Los Angeles Dodgers delivered a fiery reminder of what San Diego nonetheless has to beat, sweeping their division rivals in a three-game sequence at Dodger Stadium.

Because the sweep was occurring, Seidler mentioned the Dodgers stay “the dragon up the freeway that we’re making an attempt to slay.”

On the very least, San Diego’s daring strikes made it clear that they’re all-in on the dragon chasing. And as Soto and his new teammates journey to Washington for a three-game sequence that begins Friday, the optimism for what could possibly be the Padres’ future will provide a harsh reminder to Nationals followers of what as soon as was Washington’s actuality.

“The large problem for us is to play successful baseball, No. 1,” Seidler mentioned this week. “And No. 2, play it out and see when the perfect time is to speak to Juan about an extension. It’s all new to him proper now. It’s not going to occur anytime quickly, however you need him right here long-term, interval.”

This, to Seidler, can be the logical execution of “the artwork of the attainable.” To others, it could appear outlandishly unimaginable: The Padres have already got third baseman Manny Machado, 30, signed for 10 years and $300 million by means of 2028 and Fernando Tatis Jr., a 23-year-old shortstop and outfielder, for 14 years at $340 million by means of 2034. Holding Soto long-term would exceed each of these offers.

The excellent news is, there’s time. In Soto, 23, they acquired a famous person who nonetheless has two-and-a-half years of membership management. However his eventual contract calls for will loom giant, even for a workforce with a quickly increasing finances. This can be a generational slugger who will attain free company at 26. Earlier than the buying and selling deadline, he declined Washington’s provide of 15 years and $440 million, which might have set a document for largest greenback worth of any contract in main league historical past.

And as San Diego absolutely is aware of, Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, is just not within the enterprise of providing reductions.

However Padres followers, in distinction to a popularity for infrequent ambivalence, have responded with wild enthusiasm to the membership’s latest string of massive concepts and larger gambles. San Diego ranked fifth in M.L.B. in attendance at 36,947 followers per sport by means of Wednesday, trailing solely the Dodgers, St. Louis, the Yankees and Atlanta, the reigning champion. The Padres have been taking part in to 91.5 p.c capability at Petco Park. In accordance with figures obtained from M.L.B., solely Atlanta (93.4 p.c) ranks increased.

The Padres additionally rank fifth within the majors with a club-record $220 million payroll.

“What we’re nonetheless within the technique of assessing is how a lot income we will generate from that elevated fan assist after which, long-term, run the payroll off of one thing that’s organically supportable by means of income we will generate in our native market,” mentioned Erik Greupner, the Padres’ chief government, who added: “I might say the early returns on this elevated dedication to payroll have been very robust and would appear to point we might be capable of assist — year-in and year-out — a stage of payroll that exceeds what the Padres have traditionally been in a position to do in our market.

“I don’t know the reply but, and I don’t know that anybody does, however I do know we’re certain going to seek out out what stage this market will assist.”

Past the {dollars} and cents, the Padres paid a steep worth for Soto and Bell, a switch-hitting first baseman, in prospects. They despatched a six-piece package deal to Washington that included three gamers who had taken turns being ranked because the No. 1 prospect within the San Diego farm system: the left-handed pitcher Mackenzie Gore, shortstop C.J. Abrams and outfielder Robert Hassell III.

A.J. Preller, the Padres’ president of baseball operations, speaks of the years’ price of sweat fairness that went into buying and creating these gamers, the funding in them as individuals and attending to know their members of the family, and admits it by no means is simple to ship away top-shelf expertise.

“However as exhausting because it was to deal these guys, you simply don’t get a possibility to get a Soto, a Josh Bell, a Hader, too,” Preller mentioned. “Gamers who’ve been the perfect gamers of their positions or discipline, and nonetheless have years of management left. In Juan’s case, he’s simply 23 years previous and is doing historic issues. It was extra a novel alternative, and we checked out it as such. We knew it was going to take quite a bit and we had quite a bit within the system main us into making the deal.”

One yr in the past, the Padres swung and missed on the deadline, making an attempt exhausting for starter Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner earlier than the Nationals despatched them to the Dodgers. The dragon turned bigger. The Padres saved chasing.

The primary inning of the primary sport of the new-look Padres got here in opposition to Colorado on Aug. 3, and all the things appeared to have fallen into place. One of many workforce’s different newcomers — Brandon Drury, an infielder acquired from Cincinnati — smashed a first-inning grand slam on the primary pitch he noticed as a Padre. The sellout crowd, buoyed by single-day, club-record ticket gross sales after the Soto information, roared.

San Diego then misplaced 5 video games in a row, together with the three video games to the Dodgers. Inexplicably, the Padres’ seemingly unstoppable offense was held scoreless for 26 consecutive innings earlier than Soto hit his first house run in his new house within the fourth inning on Tuesday night time in opposition to San Francisco.

With a workforce this proficient, it’s simple to put in writing off such a streak as a blip that might be a distant reminiscence come October. That sort of perception is made simple due to Soto, whose enthusiasm has already made an impression on the workforce. Supervisor Bob Melvin describes him as “a ball of power” and Machado has observed how Soto makes certain to high-five the opposite outfielders on the finish of every inning.

Soto’s positivity can rival his otherworldly manufacturing: Again in 2019, his first full season in Washington, he despatched again a prototype of what would change into his first big-league bobblehead doll. It wasn’t smiling.

“I like my smile,” Soto mentioned within the Padres’ dugout this week. “I would like individuals to recollect Juan was a contented man. I don’t need individuals to recollect me as a mad man or as a man who was at all times indignant. I’ve good persona, I believe. I prefer to be pleased, I like actually good power, that’s what I wish to give to the individuals. I wish to give good vibes, good power.”

Nothing feeds good power like success, and Soto, who helped lead the Nationals to the 2019 World Collection title, is itching for an opportunity to do the identical for San Diego.

“It’s one other stage,” he mentioned of taking part in on October’s huge stage. “It’s one other feeling, so that you wish to get that style yearly, day-after-day. For me, that yr was superb. It was unbelievable.”

In San Diego, a metropolis that has by no means received a title in any of the most important North American males’s sports activities leagues, desires are rising. Season-ticket demand is such that, for the primary time in historical past, the Padres are contemplating capping them for subsequent yr. Since final week’s buying and selling deadline, the membership already has fielded requests translating into about 1,000 extra season tickets for 2023.

“Clearly, it’s a champagne downside, however we wish to be certain our season-ticket members and our new season-ticket members proceed to get entry to the perfect seating places,” Greupner mentioned. “And we’re beginning to run out of these.”

Stated Hader, the brand new nearer from Milwaukee: “We’ve bought squad. I wouldn’t even name it expertise anymore, it’s superstars, proper?”

What the long run brings, the Padres and their metropolis can not wait to seek out out. However first, Soto will bid what absolutely might be an emotional farewell to D.C. this weekend.

“It’s not goodbye, it’s goodbye,” Soto mentioned. “We’ve bought to return there yearly. I’m simply going to see individuals, maintain on the lookout for them, be in contact. I’ve met those that I’m going to speak to for the remainder of my life. I’m not going to say goodbye. I’m simply going to say goodbye on down the highway.”



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