Don't call your shot just yet, but every day the San Diego Padres seem to get closer to the playoffs and farther away from most pre-season predictions. This team is surprising.
This is a team that's won 11 of its last 14 games, eight of which were on the road. They own the best record in the National League, and the third best record in baseball. They're one win away from tying last season's win total and there's still more than a month left to play. This is a team that was picked to finish last.
Well, consider the Padres payroll. Even after the recent acquisition of Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick, the team's salary is just more than $38 million the second lowest in baseball. To put that in perspective, the Yankees will shell out more than $200 million this year. This is the lowest Padres payroll since 1997. This is a team on a budget.
This is a team sold last year. This is a team where even the true fans didn't recognize a lot of names at the beginning of the season. The reason for success on a dime could be attributed to a minor league system producing good young players, or possibly general manager Jed Hoyer. To say he's made the most of what he was handed would be an understatement at best. California's next governor may want to take him out to lunch and pick his brain on the budget. This is Hoyer's first full season as a major league general manager. And by the way, this is a guy whose 36 years old.
This is a team with five players out with injuries, as many as anyone in their division. Pitcher Chris Young has been out almost the entire season. This is a team whose best pitcher is only 22 years old. This is a team that knows how to overcome.
Impressed yet? If so, not so fast.
Remember the last time the Padres came close to October. This is a team that blew a ninth inning lead in a tie breaker game to the Rockies in 2007. This is a team that has won one playoff game since a trip to the world series in 1998. And we won't even mention the playoff performances of that other professional franchise in town. This is a city with post season problems.
Still, did anyone really think this was a team we'd be talking about this late in the season?
Whether they hold on or not, this is impressive.