Long-time DC sports fan Jason Woodmansee lives in San Diego. You may remember him from The Coach is Killing Me and Stop Shuler web sites. He survived the Norv Turner experience on two coasts. I’ve invited him to talk about his adopted home town’s baseball team.
WFY: Let’s just get to it — Juan Soto and Josh Bell got traded from the Washington Nationals to the San Diego Padres. It seemed like a big win for them, but their record since then is…not great. Playing the Nats though helped them get to mediocre of late. What’s going on? Are people panicking?
JW: People are disappointed, but not panicking yet. There is definitely a feeling of underachievement – that you mention below. The Tatis suspension is a huge blow psychologically, given that he was getting ready to come back. The general dynamic with the Padres is what I would call a “little brother” mentality. San Diego lives in LA’s shadow – while it is a relatively large metro area, it is tiny compared to its neighbor to the north. Now, San Diegans would argue – and with some merit – that San Diego has all the positives of LA (great weather, lifestyle) without the negatives (sprawl, traffic), but there’s definitely a bit of an inferiority complex.
This translates to baseball as well. The Dodgers loom over San Diego, casting a long shadow. There are lots of Dodger fans who live in town (either because they moved from LA, are bandwagon fans, or come from families who liked baseball before the Padres existed) and Padres-Dodgers games can be 50/50 fan propositions. In the past it was always a one-way rivalry – Padres fans hated the Dodgers and Dodgers fans – well, they hated the Giants. It’s that Mad Men scene in the elevator “I don’t think about you at all.”
I see this dynamic shifting a bit, as the Dodgers fans are now looking over their shoulders at genuinely concerned about the Padres. They are much more gleeful when the Dodgers beat the Padres, and have actually seen instances of them rooting for the Giants to beat the Padres (which was unheard of before).
WFY: The Padres have spent the last few years…trying! I’m so old I remember when they were the poster child for small-market team. They even washed out of the 2020 playoffs and are in position for a Wild Card. Have they underachieved though? Or are the Dodgers just too powerful to overcome?
JW: I mentioned this above, but the Dodgers are a huge roadblock, both in reality and psychologically. It sounds cliche, but the Dodgers seem to know how to win, and the Padres haven’t quite figured it out.
WFY: You wear a Nats cap in one of your social media profiles and now that the Padres have Soto and that red ass former Oriole, Manny Machado, do you consider yourself a Padres fan? What’s stopped you from going all the way to that side when you have lived in San Diego for so long?
JW:This is a really interesting question, and one that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. As you know, I grew up an Orioles fan, and lived in DC before the Nats existed. I still have a strong connection with Washington, and have always considered the Nationals my NL team. I was in DC during the 2019 World Series, and I was just so happy for everyone. I wear Nationals gear all the time.
That being said, I have been in San Diego for over 20 years now, and I love this town. I don’t consider going back East “going home” and haven’t for a while. Petco Park is amazing – rivaling Camden Yards as the best park in baseball. And the Padres are a young, fun team with players that I like (the aforementioned Machado & Soto – and would have said Tatis a few days ago). When the Padres were playing in Washington last week, I actually found myself rooting for the Padres, which has not happened before. I’ve been going to Petco to root for the Nationals for years, so this is confusing for me. I guess stay tuned?
WFY: Fernando Tatis, discuss.
JW: He has been such a bright spot for this franchise, and the offseason broken wrist while on a motorcycle was really disappointing. Everyone in town is talking about it, and it’s more than just the fact that he is missing games – he’s a face of the franchise and making these preventable mistakes. Just bums everyone out.
WFY: Do the Padres have much of a pitching staff? I saw they got on the other participants in one of DC’s greatest sports moments, Josh Hader. (editor’s note: Hader blew a save last night and the Nats won!)
JW: This is where my Padres psuedo-fandom fails me – I have no idea.
WFY: The Friars seem to draw well considering they have L.A. to the north, desert to the east, Mexico to the south and the ocean to the West. From what I can tell, the views from behind home plate are top 5 in the majors. Is that a big part of it?
I don’t understand the idea that San Diego is somehow boxed in by all these factors – San Diego county has 3.3 million people! It’s in the top half of metro areas with baseball teams. That being said, the ballpark is really a gem – it’s not just the downtown location and views – it’s the food, beer, and amenities. They will always draw decently because of that, and when the team is doing well, people pack in.
WFY: Yellow and brown uniforms? Do people in San Diego actually like that color scheme or is it just a loud minority being ironic? Also, when they had the All-Star Game, I recall they went to the Chargers blue and gold, which looked great. And then the Chargers moved.
JW: There was definitely a vocal minority advocating for the brown, and a lot of skeptics when the made the announcement. By now, everyone is used to it, and it is a unique color scheme vs. the tons of other teams that have blue/white uniforms. I like it a lot. They never had colors that matched the Chargers intentionally that I am aware of.
WFY: Tangentially, the Chargers going to powder blue after refusing to do that for so many years in San Diego just twisting the knife? How much did the Chargers abandoning their real home help the Padres out?
JW: The Chargers were doing more and more powder blue before they left, so I don’t think anyone cares about that. The Padres themselves definitely bank on “hey, we’re the only major league team in town now,” but I don’t know that it’s made a huge difference for attendance or anything else.
WFY: Speaking of football, “Washington Commanders!” Still a fan or have you given up on Dan Snyder’s franchise? They have Norv Turner’s son on the staff.
JW: Yes, alas, I am still rooting for the team with the worst owner in sports. It never feels good, but at this point I’m trapped.
WFY: How bad do you think it’ll get for the Nats over the next five years? Do the Padres pull out a pennant?
JW: The big question for the Nats is what happens with ownership. How that works out will determine a lot. Will they do a Orioles-style tank and recover (it sucks, I don’t recommend it)? Will they switch gears and try to win now? So many unknowns.
As for the Padres, it’s hard to see them getting past the Dodgers (or themselves) in the foreseeable future. That being said, the 2019 Nationals shocked the world (and beat the Dodgers), so anything is possible. Maybe I do need to put a new hat on in my IG profile….