In AVG. one, The San Diego Padres were 58-46. They had the fifth-best record in the National League but were 12 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team they had been trying to catch up to for decades.

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This is the Padres, a franchise with occasional sporadic successes throughout its 54-year history, a franchise best known for its questionable decisions (those hideous mustard yellow uniforms from the 1970s when Matt Bush picked Justin Verlander). than for victory. It’s a franchise that went 18 games over .500 last August but ended the season with a losing record.

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And yet, on August 1, the Padres made the first deal that shocked all of baseball. The deal that day was to acquire All-Star closer Josh Hader. The next day, the team completed a blockbuster swap to end all blockbusters by bringing Juan Soto and Josh Bell to San Diego and also closed a deal with public utility Brandon Drury.

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Suddenly, the Padres were in a better position than ever to win the World Series, or at least get their best opportunity since the Yankees beat them in the 1998 Fall Classic. They could make a fearsome foursome of Soto, Bell, Manny Machado and, when he returns soon, Fernando Tatis Jr.

“It will be very difficult to get through,” Soto said at an opening press conference on Wednesday. “I wish good luck to all the pitchers.”

No, the Padres probably won’t catch up with the Dodgers in the National League West this season. The Dodgers are too far ahead and too good to collapse. But suddenly, Los Angeles’ road to the World Series could go through San Diego or vice versa. The two teams start a three-game series on Friday night at Dodger Stadium in the first of 12 games remaining with each other, and then, as currently positioned, the Padres will face the Dodgers in a division series if San Diego passes. the best of the first three rounds, probably against the runner-up NL East.

“It’s an exciting time,” Bell said. “It’s Padre time, so let’s get on with it.”

How Fathers go here? At a time when young, home-grown and – the keyword here – inexpensive players are valued by the front offices more than ever, the Padres went in the opposite direction, devastating the farm system for proven stars – in the case of Soto. and a few other really proven superstars.