Soto knows about championship turnaround
This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
The Padres play their 50th game of the season on Thursday. Needless to say -- at 22-27 entering the series finale at Nationals Park -- it's not the 50-game start they envisioned.
Then again, Juan Soto would know a thing or two about bouncing back from a rough first 50 games. His 2019 Nationals famously started the year 19-31, before reeling off five incredible months to claim the franchise's first World Series title.
Record-wise, the Padres' current predicament isn’t quite so dire. But they’re still in obvious need of a turnaround. So, based on his recollections of those 2019 Nats, what did Soto learn to be the key to a turnaround like that one?
"Just keep hoping, keep working," Soto said. "What makes everything turn over is when you start playing as a team, and you forget about your personal stats. Just go out there, try to help the team and enjoy the game. At the end of the day it’s a game. On the 2019 team, we [understood] that it’s a game, and we all came together as a team and tried to have fun. We [didn't] think about playoffs, not even World Series.
"We were always thinking, 'Come out, have fun, have a great time, go out there and beat some teams.'"
When Padres players held a clubhouse meeting last week, that mindset was one of the talking points. The expectations for this season were so vast, it had become harder to live in the day-to-day.
That's understandable. And it's why Soto's perspective is valuable.
"In 2019, you wanted to come to the ballpark not just because you're playing the game you love," Soto said. "It's more because you're going to have fun. Either way, you're winning, you're losing, you're going to have fun.
"That's what it takes. When you play a team game and you forget about everything else, you just come to have fun and play good baseball."
Lately, of course, the Padres haven’t done much of that. They’ve acknowledged that, no, it hasn’t been all that fun. They’re mired in a stretch in which they’ve won just four times in the past 16 games.
But if ever there were a team that served as testament to the need for patience amid a long season, it’s those 2019 Nationals. Soto has the World Series ring to prove it.