Last October, it seemed the San Diego Padres had both manufactured a rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers and turned the tide in said rivalry in a matter of months.
After trading for Juan Soto at last year's deadline when it was presumed the Dodgers would be the only team with enough assets to make an acquisition happen, the Padres declared themselves to be contenders, despite finishing 22 games behind Los Angeles in the NL West and missing Fernando Tatis Jr. for the remainder of the campaign. Sure, the regular season had not gone their way, but they were better built for October. Los Angeles scoffed, then choked.
Riding the momentum from their NLDS upset, the Padres fizzled out in the NLCS against Philadelphia, but roared all offseason. They signed Xander Bogaerts. They welcomed Tatis Jr. back with open arms. They offered Aaron Judge a reported $400+ million, and also tried to woo Trea Turner with a thick contract. Though Soto remained without an extension, the Padres made moves in the short-term and staked their claim in the long-term. They were here to stay.
Here to stay 22 games behind the Dodgers again, that is. And this time, they don't have a playoff berth attached to this crash down the standings latter. There will be no October grudge match. You'll get nothing and like it. Better luck with next year's budget!
MLB Standings: Dodgers match massive lead over 2022 Padres in 2023
Soto still isn't extended, by the way.
We're not even sure which half of this standings gap is more remarkable. Is it the Padres remaining so far from the top of the mountain despite spending enough to enter MLB's upper echelon this offseason? Or is it this Dodgers group, held together in the rotation by spit, tape and Lance Lynn, being 22 games up on anyone and somehow looking more playoff-ready than last year?
LA's remarkable rise makes more sense, ultimately, than San Diego's incredible fall. The Dodgers have a well-hewn infrastructure that's made them the envy of the rest of baseball. The Padres' inability to win extra-inning games or maintain chemistry might remain a mystery until stars begin to vacate the clubhouse and start spilling.
No matter the cause, we don't know about you, but we're feeling 22 games ahead. Hopefully, this Era doesn't end Swiftly.