To Tank Or Not To Tank

That is the question facing the Padres

NBC 7’s Derek Togerson takes a look at the Padres losing a lot of games in the second half in this commentary

At the 2017 All-Star break the San Diego Padres are in 4th place in the National League West with a 38-50 record. But they have been playing well of late.

If you break the 88 games they’ve played in half you find they went 15-29 in their first 44 and a much-improved 23-21 over the second 44. Obviously, they’re doing it wrong.

At least that’s what many Padres fans believe. There is a growing movement urging the Padres to tank the rest of the season, meaning lose as many games as possible to try and improve their draft status and acquire more, better, younger players with higher ceilings and more chance for prolonged Major League success.

It’s basically what the Astros did and right about now it looks like it’s working out pretty well for Houston, another franchise like the Padres that does not have the financial clout to sign a bunch of guys to 9-figure contracts like the Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox.

The idea makes sense. The Padres are not going to compete with the Dodgers or Diamondbacks or Rockies and get back in to playoff contention this season. So winning a bunch of games in the second half of the year to get to the middle of the pack and obtaining a WORSE draft position does not seem like a very good strategy.

But there is something else to consider. Several of the guys the Padres are expecting to be the nucleus of the team when it gets in to perennial playoff contention are already up with the big league club and playing pretty well. Catcher Austin Hedges, centerfielder Manuel Margot, right fielder Hunter Renfroe and starting pitcher Dinelson Lamet, just to name a few, are showing signs of being really good Major Leaguers.

Here is where the problem lies.

If those guys (along with Wil Myers, who is still only 26 years old) are going to be the leaders of the Padres success they have to know how to win because they will be the ones to teach the waves of younger players to come up how to win. So the questions are:

1)    Do you actively stunt the growth of the guys already in The Show for the sake of adding more talent?
2)    When do you have enough talent in the system to stop trying to get good draft slots and start trying to win every single game you play?
3)    Where are the Padres in all of this?

The answer to the first one is for a while, yes. Just look at Jose Altuve. The Astros 2nd baseman was up in 2011 and went through three consecutive 100-plus-loss seasons and he turned out to be pretty good. Sometimes you just have to take the lumps for the end product.

The answer to the second one is much more problematic. The Padres have re-vamped their system with more than 50 international signings and another 60-plus draft picks, plus a handful of high-value trade acquisitions the last few years and yet they still are very likely nowhere near where they need to be talent-wise.

That brings us to the answer to the third one, which is no chance. They’ll get there when they have multiple top-notch prospects at every level of the system and right now they are simply not there. If General Manager A.J. Preller and his squad keep up this pace for the next two years and some of these guys start to pan out then San Diego will be at the point where they stop courting losses and start despising them.

And I know there is a caveat to the whole draft and international signing thing. I’ve touted it myself many times. For every Ken Griffey Jr. there is a Matt Bush (both #1 overall picks). You can find a Cy Young Award winner with the 7th overall pick (Clayton Kershaw) or in the 7th round (Dallas Keuchel). In 2009 Mike Trout was the 6th outfielder selected.

Basically the point is, although there is a history of the #1 overall pick panning out with greater frequency (24 of the first 48 became All-Stars) the MLB Draft is an inexact science, more so than any other sport. Remember four of the overall first picks that did NOT become All-Stars were taken by the Padres. Talent can be found anywhere at any time. Jake Peavy in the 15th round, anyone? Sure I’ll take that.

But as it stands now the Padres are in tank mode, something that will become even clearer as the trade deadline looms and some of the veterans they have on the roster are sent away for even more young talent.

Given their strategy it’s probably the right thing to do. So enjoy the small successes the Padres are having in 2017 and root for the youngsters to play well and learn … but lose a lot of games. They’re 8.5 games back of the Phillies for the worst record in baseball and need to make up some ground.

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