Shortly after the final out in the Padres National League Wildcard playoff series win over the St. Louis Cardinals on October 2nd, the streets around Petco Park erupted into a Padre Party.
Padres fans poured into the East Village streets waiving Padre flags, honking horns, cheering players as they walked to the team bus, everyone was celebrating the teams first playoff win since 2006.
Padre players loved it, and so did the teams normally stoic General Manager A.J. Preller.
When asked how he personally felt seeing the fans celebrating in the street, Preller laughed a little, smiled a lot for him and said it was "awesome," before adding "you feel the fans passion, being the only major sport team in town, it’s a fan base that’s dying for a winner, and it’s a team that’s fun to watch."
Preller was not alone in feeling the euphoria, he said the whole front office felt it. "That feeling from the winning playoff series, everybody enjoyed that, it made us hungry for hopefully when we're able to get to World Series and finish it off of in the next few years. This town is ready to erupt, they love this team and hopefully we are able to build on this team and have more moments like that.”
As fun and rewarding as the 2020 Major League Baseball season was for the Padres, the celebration doesn't last forever.
After beating the Cardinals, the Padres were swept 3-0 by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series, showing that even though this years Padres team made huge strides there's still lot's of improvement needed.
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The Padres front office will start off-season planning this week, canvassing baseball staff opinions on the roster and potential trades or free agency moves. However, for the first time in years Preller will enter the season with a team that he believes can play and compete with any team in baseball.
"We'll go in with a team that doesn’t have one specific need, we feel like we have a pretty complete, competitive club.” Preller wants to add the right type of people, rather than a specific position or need. "This year we feel pretty good about the group coming back."
Among those coming back are starting pitchers Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet, they were the Padres two best starting pitchers and both missed or struggled at the end of the season due to arm injuries.
Preller said the medical outlook on both Clevinger and Lamet is positive.
"Both guys have seen doctors. It doesn’t look like either situation is surgical, it's more a rest and recovery situation, both guys will take down time from throwing, then kickoff the off-season program in 6 weeks."
Preller is confident both pitchers will be ready for the start of the 2021 season. Preller also believes in another Padres starting pitcher who had late season issues.
Chris Paddack, followed up a fabulous rookie season, by going 4-5 with a 4.73 era in 2020. Preller said he still has faith in Paddock, wants to see him regain command of his fastball, before adding, "We see him as a front of the rotation type of pitcher.”
Among other topics covered in his year end press conference, Preller expressed a desire to sign Fernando Tatis Jr. to a contract extension and believes there's interest on both sides for discussion about that this off season.
Preller also gave an update on the condition of Padres outfielder Tommy Pham, who was recently stabbed outside a strip club in San Diego.
"He's recovering back at his home, he's expected to make a full recovery in the next 3 weeks. It was very scary, I was concerned for his well being and overall probably got lucky as far as what happened”
The Padres took a big step forward in 2020, the seasons that lie ahead will need continued forward progress for the franchise to win its first World Series, but you get the feeling this team is headed that way.