I will readily admit I did not want to do this.
Looking back on the year that was 2017 for San Diego sports? Why do we want to relive this pain?
The short answer is we don’t. We don’t want to think about the Chargers move or the Padres losing or no NCAA basketball tournament or being shunned for national awards. That sucked the first time, why go through it again?
Because even through all the nonsense there is still reason for hope.
Buried in the heaping pile of refuse that littered the San Diego sports landscape this year are a few gems … those proverbial diamonds in the rough, if you will. So instead of going month-by-month highlighting the major events of 2017 (which were obviously dominated by frustration) we’re going to give you the top-5 GOOD things that went down over the last 12 months.
In no particular order, here you go:
The Padres Built the System
We knew the Padres were on the rebuild bus entering the 2017 baseball season. With that, we had a lot of unknowns. Would the young arms last a full season? Are there any position players to get excited about? Will anyone live up to the hype at the big league level?
The answers turned out to be YES, YES, and YES.
Aside from drafting Mackenzie Gore, the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year who looks like an ace in the making, the Padres got a phenomenal season from Joey Lucchesi, who dominated at Single-A Lake Elsinore then got better after a promotion to Double-A San Antonio. Former first-round pick Cal Quantrill made the same jump and while he didn’t have the same numbers as Lucchesi showed impressive stuff in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. Cuban import Adrian Morejon impressed as a 19-year-old in his first foray into affiliated ball. And then we got a look at Andres Munoz, the 18-year-old from Mexico who unleashed his 102-MPH fastball and dominated the Arizona Fall League.
Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. stole all the headlines when he became the youngest player ever to post a 20-20 season in the Midwest League as a teenager with Fort Wayne but infielder Luis Urias followed up his 2016 MVP performance in the California League with an All-Star season in San Antonio, and he just turned 20 in June. Those two have the makings of a future big league All-Star double-play combination. Oh, and don’t forget fellow teens Hudson Potts (20 HR for Fort Wayne) and Gabriel Arias, the 17-year-old who got a cup of coffee in Indiana before hitting a few of the longest home runs in the history of the Australian Baseball League this winter.
And at Petco Park center fielder Manuel Margot proved, at the age of 22, that his raw talent will play in the Majors while reliever Phil Maton came up and, with 46 strikeouts in 43.0 innings, showed he might be a legitimate closer candidate.
And that doesn’t even mention the Austin Allens and Michael Baezes and Jorge Onas of the system, or the fact Anderson Espinoza is about to come back from his TJ surgery. Before he went under the knife he was a top-15 prospect in all of professional baseball.
So for Padres fans, the future looks really good, which is a serious departure from the mire we’ve been stuck in for the last decade.
WE GOT NEW TEAMS!!
Once again, welcome to 1904 FC and the San Diego Seals! While we wait to see if America’s Finest City will have the Soccer City initiative or the San Diego State initiative win the right to redevelop the Mission Valley land where the big stadium currently sits (and that is going to be a very fun verbal vitriol to follow in 2017) the North American Soccer League says it’s going to start up in April of 2018. Well, it will as long as the NASL is still a thing by then but as far as we know international soccer star Demba Ba and his group are going to give us professional outdoor soccer soon.
We know for certain that the National Lacrosse League is coming to Valley View Casino Center in 2018 when the Seals jump in as one of the NLL’s first West Coast expansion teams. That happened thanks to the new mystery man of the San Diego sports scene. In fact, that man is so potentially so important he gets his own spot on this list.
WE GOT JOSEPH TSAI!!
Joseph Tsai is the co-founder of Alibaba, which is in a battle with Amazon to be the world’s biggest e-commerce site. He’s more or less got a license to print money, he lives in La Jolla, and he has a desire to build the San Diego sports portfolio.
There have been rumblings since Tsai bought the expansion Seals that he is going to help construct a new indoor arena in Downtown San Diego. He also has a deal in place over the next half decade to take over ownership of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and while the Nets have a big lease with the Barclays Center in New York that would likely prevent them from moving to our town NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has discussed the possibility of expansion and with a shiny new arena in San Diego that would be a very real option.
The NHL also needs to expand by at least one more team after this year’s addition of the Vegas Golden Knights and although Seattle seems to be the frontrunner for the next franchise San Diego’s long history of supporting the Gulls (leaders in the AHL’s Western Conference in attendance) again, a new facility would make NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman look long and hard at a third team in Southern California.
Granted this is all speculation but it is grounded in fact and could legitimately happen and given the year we had it’s nice to have something exciting to think about.
Rashaad Freaking Penny
San Diego State finished 10-3 and spent most of the year in the Top-25. Although they didn’t make it to the New Year’s Six bowl we had been hoping for we got to watch the most electrifying player in the nation week in and week out.
Only four men in major college football history ran for more yards in a single season than Rashaad Penny did. Those men are named Barry Sanders (1988 with Oklahoma State), Melvin Gordon (2014 with Wisconsin), Kevin Smith (2007 with Central Florida), and San Diego native Marcus Allen (1981 with USC). You might notice two of those men are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Forget about the fact Penny was snubbed for every major award by the imbeciles who vote for things like that. He was a consensus All-American and more important than that he’s the consummate team player. After going off for 221 yards on 14 carries and scoring four touchdowns in San Diego State’s 42-35 loss to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl, a game where he might have made himself a 1st round NFL Draft pick, what did Penny have to say?
“You know it wasn’t a good day. We lost.”
That is the kind of attitude that makes us love this kid. He also said he was not going to be one of those players like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, NFL prospects who sat out their bowl games to avoid the possibility of injury. Penny said there was no way he was going to rest because he only had one more game to give to the city of San Diego.
We wish Penny nothing but the best of luck in his professional career but with talent and a work ethic like his, he probably won’t need luck.
San Diego Sign Guy Terrorizes Dean Spanos
We needed a voice. Joseph MacRae gave it to us.
Known as the SD Sign Guy for the homemade signs he took to Chargers games, MacRae made it his personal mission to make life as miserable for Chargers Chairperson Dean Spanos as possible. He heckled Deano at the Chargers first real public appearance in Los Angeles, visibly shaking the cowardly Greek on stage. And that was just an appetizer.
MacRae followed up with billboards right next to the StubHub Center in Carson ripping on Dean and the NFL for allowing the Bolts to move and, for every home game since has had a plane flying a banner over the soccer pitch making fun of the worst owner in professional sports.
Joseph became a bit of a polarizing figure for his crusade but for the vast majority of San Diego Chargers fans, he became the megaphone through which we could all shout our anger, frustration, and displeasure. Having a way to strike back at the “person” who ripped our NFL team from us was cathartic and knowing that it legitimately tweaked the thin-skinned Spanos … we’ll call that a win.
So you see? There were good things for us in 2017 and 2018 is looking to be a whole lot better. So wash away the bad and get ready for some more good and Happy Sports New Year everyone!