In a city starved for a World Series, the Padres have built an exciting team with a core of superstars, their sights set on ending that championship drought.
Juan Soto knows a thing or two about that.
This weekend -- thank you schedule-makers! -- Soto makes his return to Washington a mere 10 days after he was traded.
“It’s going to be pretty emotional,” Soto said, when asked what he expects from his return, and what reception he thinks he’ll get. “I feel excited to go back and see those guys again. … I’ve done everything for that team. Whatever I did, I was thinking of that team and the fans. If they appreciate it, I will always be glad. If they don’t, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
But of course they’re going to appreciate Soto. The whole weekend should be a celebration of everything Soto accomplished in D.C. He was the driving force behind the franchise’s first World Series, putting forth one of the most exhilarating playoff performances in recent memory.
Soto recently turned down what would’ve been a record-setting 15-year contract extension from the Nationals, before they made the decision to trade him. But the current version of the Nationals is a last-place team looking to rebuild. In trading Soto, they netted one of the best prospect hauls ever dealt in a single trade. Meanwhile, Soto, a superstar in his prime, gets to play for a contender.
It will obviously sting for Nationals fans to see Soto returning in a different uniform. (Imagine if Fernando Tatis Jr. had won a World Series but was traded and returned to San Diego in his prime.) But Soto created a world of memories with the 2019 Nationals -- a team that reeled off one of the most resilient championship runs in baseball history.
So what did Soto learn from that team that he can take and apply to this Padres team?
“The energy,” Soto said. “The good vibes and the energy that we had that year -- that makes everybody great. That’s all we need. … We already have the talent.”
Soto is taking it upon himself to bring that energy. When the Padres fell behind, 1-0, in the first inning Tuesday night, Soto came into the dugout fired up. The Padres had dropped five straight, and Soto wasn’t having any of it.
“He started screaming at the dugout, like, ‘Let’s go, we got this’ -- just trying to motivate the guys,” said third baseman Manny Machado.
Machado just celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his big league debut. (He did it in style, too, with a walk-off home run.) But even a veteran like Machado says he can learn from his new 23-year-old superstar teammate.
“I’m going to be excited to see what he brings down the road,” Machado said. “Especially being a champion -- that’s what we needed here, overall. I could feed off that. I could learn off that. I’ve been to a World Series. But he won it. It’s a little different.
“Just feeding off that is going to be huge. I think he’s going to bring the best out of everyone in this clubhouse.”