SAN FRANCISCO -- The Padres always hoped they’d have a part to play in the playoff race on the season’s final day. Just maybe not this particular part.
Reduced to the role of spoilers, the Padres didn’t do much spoiling during the final week of the 2021 season. Their 11-4 loss to the Giants on Sunday at Oracle Park clinched the National League West title for San Francisco.
It also cemented the 2021 Padres at 79-83 -- a wholly disappointing end product considering the expectations at the beginning of the season, and considering they sat 17 games over .500 on Aug. 10 before turning in an MLB-worst 13-34 record down the stretch.
“We never imagined being in this situation,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “It’s surprising, shocking, all of those things. There’s a lot of reasons for it. It sucks going through. It’s miserable. It’s horrible. But you learn from it. Everybody in there is going to be better going forward.”
The Padres have been eliminated from postseason contention for more than a week. They've been assured of a sub-.500 finish since Thursday. There wasn't much drama left for the final weekend.
Instead, the drama comes with what happens next. The Padres are assuredly going to shake things up this winter. The only question: How big of a shakeup? Tingler has heard the questions about his job status.
“I believe in this group,” Tingler said. “Of course I want to be a part going forward. … I don't think we're as far off as what the standings show.”
Tingler said he and general manager A.J. Preller would sit and discuss the future at some point after they return to San Diego on Sunday night. He didn’t offer any specifics about when that meeting will take place. Beyond Tingler’s status, there are other question marks about a Padres coaching staff that has already seen pitching coach Larry Rothschild dismissed.
Roster-wise, they’ll need to reinforce their rotation and bullpen. Their offense is due to be reshuffled as well, with corner-outfield thump needed, and questions about whether the Padres would look to move the contracts of Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer.
The decisions awaiting Preller are plentiful. The Padres underperformed expectations in a big way in 2021. They’d like to play a lot deeper into October in 2022. That almost certainly means change is coming.
“Whatever team they’re going to put together, they’re going to do what A.J. is going to do,” said Padres third baseman Manny Machado. “Whether it’s different decisions -- whether it’s manager, coaching staff, bringing in new players -- that’s up to them. I don’t put my two cents into it. I go out and play baseball, perform every day, try to give the fans a show and try to bring a championship to the city.
“If that’s the case, whatever it’s going to take to bring a championship to the city, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make that happen.”
That’s the goal. The tricky part is building a team capable of getting there. The Padres have finished below .500 in 10 of the last 11 seasons. They’ve been on the outside looking in on the postseason in 14 of 15 years.
On Sunday afternoon, the Giants raced out to a huge lead early, then celebrated their NL West title when Dominic Leone whiffed Hosmer with a high fastball. The Giants poured out of their dugout. The Padres mostly remained on the top step of theirs, watching.
“We would’ve liked to be that team standing at the end of the year,” Machado said. “They’ve proven they were the best team in this division. … You come back next year, ready to do it again.”
Machado will be back. So will Fernando Tatis Jr. -- whose remarkable season ended on Sunday afternoon with a slash line of .282/.364/.611, 42 homers and 25 steals. Tatis became the second Padres hitter to win the NL home run title, joining Fred McGriff in 1992.
It’s also a core with which the Padres posted a 79-83 season in 2021. Sure, they were ravaged by injuries, perhaps more than any other team in baseball. They didn’t get any reinforcements in their rotation at the Trade Deadline either. Machado wasn’t having any of that.
“I don’t know, we didn’t hit, we didn’t pitch, we got injured, we got this, we got that, the baseball was too white maybe, I don’t know,” Machado said. “Those are just excuses. At the end of the day, we lost. We didn’t get to where we wanted to, and that’s just disappointing.”