Whenever one's initial reaction to something, without hesitation, is diving into defense mode, typically there's some truth to whatever statement or accusation riled up the subject in question. The latest example of that, to the joy of Los Angeles Dodgers fans, is what's going on in San Diego right now with the Padres.
Through Sunday's action, the Pads are 72-78. They just achieved their first four-game winning streak of the year. They will more than likely finish below .500 this season and miss the playoffs despite possessing one of the most talented rosters in the league. Heading into 2024, they're slated to lose their most important pitcher in Blake Snell (the likely NL Cy Young winner) and closer Josh Hader. There are questions surrounding Juan Soto's future as he enters his final year of arbitration eligibility. The long-term contracts for Fernando Tatis Jr. and Xander Bogaerts are looking worse by the day.
But even so, the Padres, in theory, had enough production to make noise this year, especially after coming off an NLCS appearance in 2022. The only legitimate excuse for this performance would've been a litany of injuries that derailed the roster.
Instead, the Padres largely remained healthy but have have had clubhouse problems, if we're to believe the latest from beat writer Kevin Acee if the San Diego Union-Tribune (subscription required).
Machado is accused of being the center of that, but in a way that isn't incriminating. Acee conducted various interviews and eventually came to the realization Machado is widely viewed as "the guy" but hasn't exactly elevated the club from within as an established veteran and MVP talent.
Padres fans overreacting to Manny Machado report shows how broken they are
It's not like this is necessarily a surprise, either. Remember in 2021 when he blew a gasket on Tatis Jr. for getting ejected? He definitely displayed leadership capabilities with that outburst, but it was perhaps too intense.
And how about this year? When he was plunked against the Pirates in what seemed like an intentional shot, not only did Machado have some weak comments after the game, but his teammates hardly batted an eye when it all went down.
Then came Soto calling out the team after getting swept in Seattle for "giving up." Those two instances alone are enough to tell you something is objectively "off" in this clubhouse. Even the most optimistic Padres fan can admit that, since this team has a top pitching staff in MLB as well as a positive run differential on the year.
The biggest difference in their 2023 season? They're 0-11 in extra-inning games and 6-22 in one-run games. So for any Padres fan to immediately start pointing the finger at the Dodgers for something their own beat writer reported is deflection at its finest.
Ah, yes, because Julio Urías and Trevor Bauer have had legal issues off the field, that means no Dodger fan can ever comment on another team's clubhouse chemistry. Whoops. We forgot. By that logic, Padres fans shouldn't have been allowed to speak a word after eliminating the Dodgers from the postseason last year because San Diego has never won a World Series.
Acee's reporting was hardly inflammatory. He even bluntly stated, "This is not a story about Machado being the problem with the Padres. It is not even as simple as Machado being a problem."
Yet, the moment the article began circulating, Padres fans were alraedy in damage control, finding every possible angle to back Machado while tearing down anybody who dare criticized them or cited the reports for any reason.
It's as simple as this: Machado is the most decorated player on the roster. He makes the most money. He's looked up to by the younger players in the clubhouse. He's one of the biggest names in the sport and inherently (and effortlessly) possesses a forceful influential presence that most don't or can't. Additionally, when your team is 72-78 and had offseason World Series aspirations, trying to stave off logical reasons that contributed to said team's collapse feels like an act of delusion.
"According to virtually everyone queried in a series of more than 30 conversations with more than a dozen uniformed personnel, including eight players, and other members of the organization, there is unanimous consensus that Machado controls the clubhouse and sets a tone and personality for the team ..- Kevin Acee, San Diego Union-Tribune
Asked why these issues had not been solved internally, some people said the topics had been addressed to no avail. Some said they didn’t feel it was their place to be the agents of change, and three prominent members of the team based that on having asserted themselves or seen others assert themselves and it having not made a difference."
Less than a year ago, Padres fans were riding higher than they could've ever imagined. They were kicking the Dodgers while they were down and holding the NLDS victory over their heads pretty much until their 2023 season started to go south.
As everything continues to spiral for them, they've now resorted to deflecting blame and denial, while somehow roping the Dodgers into something that isn't comparable to the topic at hand. Sounds like it'll be a long and scary offseason for these folks in San Diego. Best of luck.