|The 2010 San Diego Padres: 90-72, two games out of|
the division lead, one game out of the wild card.
One of the three couldn't make it, and I didn't have real reason to wish any of them ill. But I'm a sucker for "year-of-the-blue-snow" teams — teams that didn't figure to contend but did so anyway, and that definitely describes San Diego this year.
The Padres were 75-87 last season. The general expectation for them this spring: They'd quickly fall out of contention, trade off Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell in July, and wander in the rebuilding wilderness for a while.
Instead, they won early, kept their veterans, added a couple more, built a 6.5 game lead — and then watched that lead disappear. They needed at least one sweep in the final weekend to get into the playoffs, and it didn't come through.
The major league season lasts a long time — long enough for most fluke teams to wash out. It happened to the Phillies in 1964, to the Orioles in 1989, to the Padres in 2010.
Gaze upon the Padres' batting numbers and marvel that they won as many games (90) as they did. Gonzalez was great; nobody else was anything more than adequate, and there wasn't even a lot of that. Petco Park is a tough place to hit, but some of these numbers are ridiculous.
Their middle infield by season's end was ages 35 and 36; that doesn't figure to help the pitching staff much, but the shortstop who impressed last season as a rookie (Everth Cabrera) hit .208/.279/.278. They had pitchers who hit as well.
Then there's the outfield, where Bud Black shuffled people in and out trying to find somebody who could produce. An impressive 2009 rookie, Kyle Blanks, hit .157. Ryan Ludwick came from the Cardinals in midseason to provide some pop— he hit .211. Tony Gwynn Jr. got more time in center field than anybody else, but he sure didn't hit like his dad (.205/304/.287).
One bat short, perhaps.