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As Bochy starts final season where it all began, Giants and Padres have flipped roles

© Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO – The last time the San Diego Padres made the playoffs was in 2006, when the team was managed by Bruce Bochy. It was Bochy’s final season as Padres manager before he moved to the Giants the following year and led the team to a trio of World Series titles.

Since Bochy’s move to San Francisco, the Giants have operated as one of the dominant teams in Major League Baseball (until recently), while his former club, where he spent the better part of his playing career and got his managerial start, has operated in the land of mediocrity… at best. In the last 12 years, the Padres have had just two winning seasons, with one second-place finish in the National League West Division (2010) as their high point.

But as Bochy has readied himself for his final season this afternoon, he mired at how far his former club had come. This Southern California bay where most of his quintuple decade MLB career has been spent is poised to be as menacing a location as it’s been since Bochy was last a denizen here.

With last year’s signing of Eric Hosmer at an eight-year, $144 million figure, this year’s (temporarily) record-setting signing of Manny Machado at 10 years and $300 million, plus the win-now move of putting Fernando Tatis Jr. (the second-ranked prospect in Major League Baseball) in the Opening Day lineup, in addition to the young core of solid players the Padres have developed, you must consider this team a contender.

The Giants, meanwhile, whiffed on Bryce Harper and will be starting Connor Joe and Michael Reed in left and right field, respectively. Reed has played seven games in the majors, while Joe has zero Major League at-bats. They may well turn into great players, but there are few people who will pretend this Giants team is capable of contending for a World Series.

There’s a massive crevasse now between these two teams – a gulf not just in talent but in direction. As the heroes of the Giants’ World Series rampage age, and their longtime leader departs at the conclusion of this season, the California Bay much further to the north prepares for a season of tumult.

The changes are myriad:

A new stadium name, a new (nearly completed) scoreboard. The season ticket list is no longer as exclusive as one of those hip San Francisco restaurants with $45 appetizers and a name like “Prosper,” which seems meaningful, but is actually devoid of meaning.

CEO Larry Baer is serving the first half of this season in exile, and the club’s legendary manager is departing.

The team has cut loose underperforming talents and brought a host in new names, none of which spark – as Marie Kondo would say – joy, or really any emotion, for that matter.

Yet, as someone who grew up as an avid viewer of comically inept East Coast sports franchises, I can tell you from experience: despair not. While acquiring a bunch of relatively unknown young players can be viewed as a sign of resignation for this season, it should be seen as progress. What Farhan Zaidi has done is approach this season with patience and a long view. He’s secured contracts with potential high upside and minimal risk. It’s responsible, admittedly something which lacks any sort of sex appeal.

This year isn’t going to be pretty. It’s not what you imagine when you picture the Giants. But pain is part of growth and rebirth.

Like any great chef would tell you, you don’t make perfect handmade pasta on the first try. You knead in pain and make mistakes. You tinker some more, fail some more and try again. Eventually, even if it’s not perfect, you’ve got something worth being proud of, worth eating.

Right now, the Giants are in that first stage. The product probably isn’t what you’d hoped it would be, but it’s edible.

All I know is I’m hungry and Giants baseball is back on the menu. It might not be that glorious homemade pasta you see on a trendy Instagram video, but hey, it’s food.


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