By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
It didn’t take long for a chorus of moaning and groaning to break out after the San Diego Padres signed Manny Machado to a record-breaking 10-year, $300 million contract Tuesday.
“Bad for baseball!” they exclaimed.
“San Diego? Nobody cares about San Diego,” they wailed.
“It will fail, please, it’s San Diego for crying out loud!” said Tony Massarotti. “Who gives a rat’s ass?
“Everything about that team blows,” Mazz added.
I’ll admit it: San Diego isn’t the ideal destination for one of baseball’s best and most recognizable players. It’s no New York. Who wouldn’t want to see Machado in pinstripes? Baseball’s most detestable player suiting up for the game’s biggest villains would have been the best possible outcome for the sport. It would have been the perfect marriage.
But San Diego isn’t a disaster, either.
The Padres certainly don’t have a lot of national appeal, but at this point local appeal is almost as important for baseball. Baseball is becoming a regional sport more than a national sport. It thrives in heritage baseball markets like Boston, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco and is struggling just about everywhere else.
If the Padres can put together a winning club with Machado, it will help the game by revitalizing San Diego as a baseball city. Now that the Chargers are gone, San Diego is the largest metropolitan area in the United States with only one sports franchise in the big four. The Padres are the only game in town.
And they’re about to field a more competitive product than you might expect.
The Padres ownership group deserves a great deal of credit. In a time where the rest of baseball refuses to spend money to field a winner, the Padres have bucked the trend. When Eric Hosmer’s market dried up last year, San Diego jumped in with an 8-year, $144 million deal. They didn’t think they could get Machado this offseason, but they tried anyway and got him.
The Padres want to win, and they’re willing to spend the money to bring in established stars to play alongside their treasure trove of young prospects that are on the verge of hitting the big leagues.
That’s good for baseball.
No team has more top 100 prospects than the Padres, including shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., arguably the best prospect in baseball not named Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Laugh all you want, but they won’t be a 66-win team for long. If some of their young starting pitchers pan out, the Padres could be competitive for years to come.
Machado won’t be apart of a national baseball revitalization, but that was an unrealistic expectation anyway. However, he could play a big role in baseball’s rebirth in a market that might be ready for the return of the national pastime in a big way.
Maybe San Diego isn’t the perfect spot for him, but maybe it’s not as bad as everyone is making it out to be.