I want to be a good San Diego citizen, but I’m having a hard time jumping on the San Diego Padres bandwagon.
Here’s the argument: The Chargers are gone, so we should rally around our only remaining major professional franchise. It’s our only chance to root, root, root for the home team.
And drink craft beer!!! And eat fish tacos!!! And drain our bank accounts in the process!!!
The only problem …
They’re the Padres.
For one thing, they are losers. And they’re not lovable losers, such as the Cubs, who are no longer even losers, after winning last year’s World Series. The Padres lose in a pretty boring, mundane, by-the-book fashion. They jog out to the field and proceed to stink up the joint for three-plus hours.
This year's Opening Day? They lost 14-3. Go Team!
Secondly — and most importantly — the Padres were the Chargers before the Chargers became the Chargers we grew to hate, the team that whined excessively and threatened to move because they had a lame stadium.
The Padres basically used the same playbook that the Chargers used, one that most every major professional team has found success with when it comes to getting new digs. (Except, of course, the Chargers.) The Padres complained that they couldn’t compete against other teams with shiny new stadiums. They demanded public money. And they made veiled threats to move.
Let’s go back to the late 1990s, when Qualcomm Stadium was expanded to make it Super Bowl worthy. The Padres, who shared the facility with the Chargers, immediately cried foul (get it?) even though the stadium now had 10,000 extra seats for them to fill. They said the Chargers got the better financial deal out of the renovation.
They wanted a new ballpark. A cozier one. Because it would be a better fan experience. (And so they could charge higher prices.)
Then-Padres owner John Moores told The New York Times in 1998 that the problem with Qualcomm was not the quantity of seats but the quality.
“In general, multipurpose facilities don’t work well for either party,” he said.
This was right before Measure C — the ballpark initiative — was to be voted on. The Times noted there was speculation that the Padres might be headed to northern Virginia if the measure failed.
Other reports said the team was thinking of moving to Vancouver or Mexico. (Oddly, they did not threaten to move to Los Angeles.)
“We’re free agents at the end of 1999,” Moores told The Times, noting that that was when the lease at Qualcomm would be up.
Hmm . . . Sounds like something Dean Spanos might have said, no?
Moores cried poor, too, saying he had lost more than $50 million since buying the team for approximately $80 million in December 1994.
(He would sell it 2012 for $800 million.)
The Padres had one big advantage in their stadium drive. They played outstanding games that year and went to the World Series just prior to the vote. Even though the Padres lost — swept by the Yankees — Padres fans got swept up by the gutsy performance.
The ballpark measure passed with 60 percent in favor.
It turned out to be a sweetheart deal for the Padres. The city ended up investing $300 million in public money into Petco Park, and Moores got development rights to much of the surrounding property.
And the best part?
Right after the Padres got their new stadium, they began to stink. Not a little. A lot.
A lot of people thought it was a bait-and-switch.
Moores, of course, is out of the picture — and thankfully so. When he was going though a much-publicized divorce — which was costing him millions — he slashed payroll. So, it was scrubs — not superstars — who were featured at the brand new Petco Park downtown.
The Padres new ownership has not been able to right the ship. One year, they tried to invest in big-name players, such as Matt Kemp, only to see the team fail miserably.
Now they are investing in the future via the draft. That means the team is full of players who are learning to bunt and shave. That means the team will stink again, with ownership now preaching patience.
But they’re also pointing out — quite resoundingly so — that they are here to stay. They’re San Diego’s team.
Really now …
Actually, they just as easily could have become Vancouver’s team.