Last year, I was tired of writing about the Padres. That was true for the year before and the year before that and the forever before that, but last year, I snapped. I wrote steaming words of bilious hate about the Padres, even though they're the answer on the "Name all 30 baseball teams!" Sporcle quiz that makes people give up. It was cathartic, but it was also embarrassing. I'm better now.
Except, if the Giants had to play the same Padres again, I'd probably streak myself in brown-and-yellow paint and roll around in a graveyard until the cops wrestled me away. If the team was still Alexi Amarista and eight Alexi Amaristas that were grown from slivers of the original Alexi Amarista, and if they still had the same damned bullpen of faceless, effective sliders, it would have broken me for good. No sane person can take 18 games of that every year.
Good news, then, everyone! These aren't the same Padres. This is a vastly different Padres team, completely unlike anything we're used to.
Bad news, though, everyone! They can probably hit the snot out of the ball, and they can still pitch. Maybe the dumb, boring Padres weren't so awful after all. Miss u, dumb, boring Padres.
We need to review the new Padres, then, and see how easy they are to dislike. Anger nourishes sports fans, even if that's primitive and distasteful. If disliking your rivals unreasonably is wrong, I don't want to be right. We need to go through these new Padres and see how unlikeable they are.
Unlikablilty ranking from 1-10: 4
He's a familiar division foe, but it was hard to have a strong opinion of him, even when he was playing like an MVP with the Diamondbacks. You know, that one year. Upton is talented, young, flawed, and mostly invisible. He's never slapped you in the face with his natural ability, like Matt Harvey or Jose Fernandez, attention-powered contraptions from another planet. He just is.
And he's pretty good. He doesn't turn 28 until August, so he can get better. Upton is one of those players whose unlikeability is tethered to just how good he is. If he's hitting .280 with 20 homers, he'll just be another guy. If he's hitting .310 with 30 homers, you'll slowly start to loathe him. Look elsewhere for your serious loathing needs until then.
Unlikability ranking from 1-10: 7
Hey, those unlikability credits just transfer over from the Dodgers, one for one. How convenient!
Back when Yasiel Puig was a new phenomenon, we talked about how he was good for the rivalry, because if there's anything better than rooting for a jackass on your team, it's rooting against one on another team. During that discussion, Kemp's name came up:
If there weren't a Yasiel Puig, we'd have to invent him. And, to be honest, the invention would suck. The invention would be like boring ol' Matt Kemp. Who cares about Matt Kemp these days? Get out of here, Matt Kemp, you're bothering us, no one cares about you.
Pretty much. He's unlikable because he wore Dodger blue for so long, but that's about it. He even roots for the 49ers! Which makes him less likable, suddenly. Still, there are players who will never get rid of the Dodger stink, but whose only crime was rolling around in the Dodger stink for so long. At some point, with enough distance, they might even be ... almost cool. Davey Lopes is kind of cool. Sandy Koufax is really cool. It's rare, so rare, but possible.
It probably won't happen with Kemp, but he's not exactly a magnet for seething hate when he's away from the Dodgers. Not when you could be directing that hate toward Tommy Lasorda, forever and always.
Unlikability ranking from 1-10: 4
He reminds you of his cousin Aaron Rowand just because, but Shields was really good to the Giants last year. He did more to help the Giants win a World Series than Jason Schmidt, for example.
I should write about Schmidt more. Dude was so good for a while.
Shields is cool, though. Would have been nice to see him in a Giants uniform, but apparently we have him and his name is Chris Heston and that's never ever going to change.
Unlikability ranking from 1-10: 3
I don't know a lot about him, but his overall skill set reminds me of Pedro Feliz without the glove, and that makes me nostalgic in all the right and wrong ways.
Unlikability ranking from 1-10: 2
Remember when the A's were a billion times better than the Giants, and they were going to win six World Series before the Giants won their next one? It's happened a couple of times. This game was from 2012, and it put the Giants just a game over .500.
Still, how do you hate Derek Norris? He looks like a guitar player in Baroness. I like that band. I like Derek Norris. Until the next time he hits a game-winning home run, that is, but we're talking in general terms right now. The Padres should have signed A.J. Pierzynski.
Unlikability ranking from 1-10: 1
Oh, come on Padres. I love Kimbrel. He's one of the most exciting pitchers to watch of his generation, and he pitches like he's Roy Oswalt exposed to gamma rays. How dare you add him to the ranks of Vince Nickent and Danton Stinton and Scone Blisforth. Kimbrel doesn't belong with those people. He's a shining, bright star, and now I have to dislike him? Oh, that's going to be hard. Really, really hard.
Plus, Kimbrel makes me think of Travis Ishikawa taking a walk that sets up the Game 3 comeback and Bobby Cox pulling him for an inferior pitcher to play match-up with Aubrey Huff.
What gives, Padres? Where are the players to hate? You spent an offseason acquiring new faces, and none of them are particularly odious? None of them can even compete with Adrian Gonzalez or David Eckstein, much less Mat Latos or Scott Hairston?
This is very, very disappointing. Thanks for nothing, P ...
Unlikability ranking from 1-10:
"Last year I came into spring training wanting to prove to everybody, wanting to prove to a new team what I can do," Myers said. "And this year I kind of came into spring training thinking I had already arrived and didn't really work as hard as I should have, like I did the year before."
Look at that guy. Here is our hope. Here is a chance for Puig South, a Padres player who makes you spit and curse like Latos used to. He's even dropped the extra consonant in his first name, just like Latos. He seems like a putz. He's probably going to be a putz. And he's going to be on the Padres for years.
The Padres aren't the same Padres, and for that, I'm grateful. The Padres should be better, and for that, I'm kinda annoyed. But there was also a chance that the Padres could be palatable on an individual basis, for the most part, and that was terrifying.
Here, friends, is Wil Myers. Get used to the snarl-smirk. It'll be here for a while. Thank goodness for that.
(Unless he's, like, really good. Because screw that.)