A Padres Column
For most of their history, the Padres have been more than a little off.
Off balance. Off the radar. Off national television. Off the All-Star roster.
You get the idea.
Mediocrity, or worse, requires coping.
I have spent my life as a Padres fan coping. This means building elaborate ways to watch the post season by concocting some whiff of Padre connection with or relevant to the teams actually playing.
Take the World Series for example. I delight in the fact that Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the younger brother of former Padre Joey Cora. Seriously, I pay attention to such things. Very sick, I know.
In a related fashion, I feel a kinship with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who played for the Padres and served as bench coach. I also watch Yasmani Grandal closely, knowing he too was once a Padre. So was Red Sox reliever Craig Kimbrel. No matter how fleeting, tangential or patently absurd the connection, I delight in it as my therapeutic response to decades of Padre-induced trauma.
This pattern started, as most patterns do, during my childhood.
The first Padre pitcher I remember actively cheering was Fred Norman. He was a 5 foot 8 inch left-handed screwball pitcher who had scuffled around professional baseball for nearly a decade before landing with the Padres in 1971. In 20 starts that year, he went 3-12 with a 3.32 ERA – meaning he pitched well, but the Padres couldn’t hit, score runs or win (see previous columns).
In 1972, Norman went 9-11 and that made him the team ace as he compiled at 3.44 ERA. In 1973 he was 1-7 with a 4.26 ERA before being shipped off to the Cincinnati Reds for some scrap-heap players and CASH. It was indicative of Padre finances in those days that the franchise traded Norman, arguably its best pitcher with a genuine fan following, principally for cash. This bitter truth became a topic of hushed shame in the Garrett household – evidence of a shabby team, incompetent front office and hopelessness as far as the eye could see (my parents were no dummies – just gluttons like me).
With the Reds, Norman found instant success and won two World Series (1975 and 1976) titles with what was then known as “The Big Red Machine.” It was watching Norman pitch for the Reds I developed this sickly syndrome of saying “Hey, that’s a former Padre playing in the World Series” and extracting some measure of synthetic pride. What was the key word? Synthetic.
So it has been my whole life. Hey, there’s Bruce Bochy winning three world championships with the Giants! Oh and Ozzie Guillien a Padres farmhand from 1980-84, goes on to manage a World Series in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox. Look, Anthony Rizzo won a championship with the Cubs. And Joe Carter, Tony Fernandez and Roberto Alomar with the 1993 Blue Jays (Cito Gaston too!). Jim Leyritz with the 1999 World Championship New York Yankees. [Editor’s note, approved by Major! Cliff Clavin fun fact: Leyritz hit the last home run in the 20th century, game four the final game of that World Series]
The list and the ache goes on and on – latching onto to former Padres living out baseball immortality SOMEWHERE ELSE. Dave Winfield. Ozzie Smith. Gary Sheffield. Steve Finley (played for the Padres in the 1998 World Series but actually played and won in 2001 with the Diamondbacks). Jake Peavy. Chris Young.
Must I go on? You know I could. This is how a Padre fan (at least this one) spends October. Imagining what might have been. Over and over and over.
Until the off-season is over and the season that is likely to be off begins.
Do you have a Padres or Clairemont question for Major…. Heck, maybe even a White House question? Send us an email to: AskMajor@ClairemontTimes.com we’ll forward them.
Major Garrett was born and raised in Clairemont, is Chief White House Correspondent for CBS News, host of “The Takeout” podcast and author of the recently released book “Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams and Occasional Blackouts of His Extraordinary First Year in Office.”