The San Diego Padres made a definitive statement about their 2021 season by dropping a whopping 34 of their final 46 games. The statement was this: We surrender.
By the time August came around, a lot had already gone wrong for the Padres, much of it coming in the form of injuries and other bits of bad luck. But their embarrassing season-ending tailspin cost manager Jayce Tingler his job, prompting the front office to pursue the best manager available. It didn’t matter that Bob Melvin already was under contract with another team. Club president A.J. Preller brought in Melvin without requiring any compensation to the Oakland Athletics.
It's hard to imagine a team making a better trade, even for a great player.
Sometimes it's hard to explain or even identify how managers make such a difference, but with Melvin in charge, the Padres are playing about as well as any MLB team this side of New York or that of greater Los Angeles. And remember: Superstar Fernando Tatís remains on the sidelines, recovering from a fractured wrist that's likely to keep him out for several more weeks. After a particularly strong week in which they took two of three games from the Phillies and swept the Giants to complete a 7-2 road trip, the Padres have the third-best record in the entire league. They’ve also moved up to No. 3 in this week’s MLB Power Rankings.
What is working? Without Tatís to complement him, Manny Machado is off to the best start of anyone in the National League, batting .374/.446/.619 with eight home runs and playing Manny Machado defense at third base. In his sixth season with San Diego, first baseman Eric Hosmer is producing some of his best career numbers (relative to the league) through a quarter of the season. While not having an impact like Tatis, shortstop Ha-Seong Kim has been effective at the plate and in the field. The rest of the offense has a lot of improvement to do.
The pitching, mostly the starters and closer Taylor Rogers, has been strong. Joe Musgrove is in good shape to make his first All-Star team (and to compete for the NL Cy Young award), and Sean Manaea and Yu Darvish have been more effective than their mediocre ERAs indicate.
Revitalized rookie left-hander MacKenzie Gore had his best appearance of the season on Sunday, allowing a run and three hits to go with six strikeouts in a 10-1 victory against the Giants. He has a 2.06 ERA in 35 innings over seven appearances, but he might get squeezed out of the rotation because the Padres have too many good starting pitchers (if such a problem really exists). We'll see how well left-hander Blake Snell and righty Mike Clevinger hold up amid health uncertainties, but Gore surely is pitching like the Padres thought he might when they drafted him with the third overall pick in 2017.
The Padres, as a whole, have been revitalized after a dreadfully disappointing finish in 2021. They’ll need their bullpen depth to hold up and Darvish to have staying power for six months (unlike last year), but Melvin will at least keep the floor from caving in. The Padres' record in 2022 is much more likely to reflect their true ability, even if the final statement on their season has yet to be written.
MLB Power Rankings
Rankings are determined by staff vote
Records and statistics are through May 22
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (27-13, LW: 5): They're not sure if Blake Treinen will pitch again this season, but they have given him a contract extension.
3. San Diego Padres (27-14, LW: 6): The National League MVP might be Manny Machado's to lose.
4. New York Mets (28-15, LW: 3): They have the second-most victories in the league with, like, the second-most number of things that have gone wrong. The Mets are Mets-proofed!
5. Houston Astros (27-15, LW: 4): It's hard to imagine Justin Verlander having a better eight-start stretch than this at any other point in his 17-year career.
6. Milwaukee Brewers (26-15, LW: 7): Josh Hader probably will give up a run this season. But when?
7. Minnesota Twins (25-16, LW: 10): They're nine games over .500, and that's without being able to keep Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton in the lineup every day (or even every other day sometimes).
8. Los Angeles Angels (26-17, LW: 2): It's almost June and Taylor Ward is still slugging over .700.
9. Tampa Bay Rays (24-17, LW: 8t): Nobody active among qualifiers has a higher slugging percentage than .434 (Kevin Kiermaier). Is it the Trop humidor working overtime?
10. St. Louis Cardinals (23-18, LW: 11): Rookie infielder Nolan Gorman is playing like a combination of Nolan Ryan and Gorman Thomas so far.
11. San Francisco Giants (22-18, LW: 8t): They're still a good club, but regression will find you, even if it's the next season.
12. Toronto Blue Jays (22-19, LW: 12): The American League East might look a little different once Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette get hot together.
13. Chicago White Sox (21-20, LW: 17): They showed some backbone by taking a pair of wins against the Yankees at the Stadium on Sunday.
14. Boston Red Sox (19-22, LW: 25): They're the hottest team in the majors after taking two of three from the Astros and sweeping the Mariners.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks (21-22, LW: 14): Rookie outfielder Alek Thomas is off to a .300/.327/.560 start.
16. Philadelphia Phillies (19-22, LW: 13): Bryce Harper is back in the lineup amid his rickety elbow issues.
17. Colorado Rockies (19-21, LW: 15): Kris Bryant has yet to homer in 17 games.
18. Atlanta Braves (19-22, LW: 18): Adam Duvall is slugging .291.
19. Cleveland Guardians (17-20, LW: 16): Eli Morgan has allowed eight hits and three walks in 16 innings this season.
20t. Miami Marlins (18-22, LW: 20): Avisail Garia is slugging .297.
20t. Texas Rangers (18-22, LW: 23): Marcus Semien is slugging .234.
22. Seattle Mariners (17-25, LW: 19): Justin Upton has found a new team because the Mariners need more dingers from their DH spot.
23. Baltimore Orioles (17-25, LW: 24): Super duper mega prospect Adley Rutschman has not solved all their problems, but give him time. He just got here.
24. Oakland Athletics (17-26, LW: 22): Ownership reportedly has narrowed its search for ballpark sites in Las Vegas to two locations.
25. Chicago Cubs (16-24, LW: 26): Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel hit back-to-back homers. Just like two old shoes, they're most comfortable working in pairs.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates (16-24, LW: 21): Pitching prospect Roansy Contreras is back in the bigs.
27. Detroit Tigers (14-26, LW: 27): It seems like the bad start in 2021 was over by this point in the season.
28. Kansas City Royals (14-26, LW: 28): A few homegrown individuals on the roster are showing promise, but the overall picture remains dark after a disheartening collapse against the Twins on Sunday.
29. Washington Nationals (14-28, LW: 29): Fans are dreading the uncertainty around the future home of slugger Juan Soto.
30. Cincinnati Reds (12-28, LW: 30): At least Joey Votto got to see some family and hit a dinger in Toronto.