‘Slam Diego’ Might be the Hottest Ticket in Baseball Right Now
Another day, and another grand slam for the Padres, as they completed a 4-game sweep of the Texas Rangers in historic fashion. They became the first team in MLB history to hit a grand slam in four-straight games, causing the team’s play-by-play announcer, Dan Orsillo, to nickname them the ‘Slam Diego Padres,” which later went viral.
What makes this streak a little more special is that it started with the infamous ‘Fernando Tatís Jr. vs. Baseball’s Unwritten Rules’ incident back on Monday, ended with a walk-off win over the same team in extras on Thursday, and every game resulted in a victory. Now that’s a way to respond to a five-game losing streak.
The four-game winning streak helped the Padres (15-12) pull ahead of the Colorado Rockies (13-12) for second place in the division and in a great position to make the playoffs.
Making matters better, Colorado’s schedule works in San Diego’s favor, as the Rockies will be hosting the juggernaut Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend, giving ‘Slam Diego’ an excellent chance to put some more breathing room between them and third place.
And this isn’t one of your typical, early-season “flashes in the pan” kind of teams either.
For starters, the Padres are already almost halfway through their season. But more importantly, this is a different San Diego squad, one that’s rightfully nicknamed ‘Slam Diego.’ And now all of a sudden, they have deservedly become the most fun and trendy team in MLB.
For years, San Diego was the place where offenses went to die, while the team itself was seemingly allergic to scoring runs. And being on the west coast, it made them even more repellent to the national media. But boy, are they a treat to watch now, while simultaneously turning into media darlings.
Led by burgeoning superstar, Fernando Tatís Jr., ‘Slam Diego’ is 2nd in home runs, total bases, & stolen bases, 4th in OPS & OPS+, 5th in wOBA, and 7th in runs-per-game & wRC+. In layman’s terms, they are great on offense and extra exciting on the basepaths.
One of the biggest reasons for their significant improvement at the plate is a better approach to supplement their number of talented hitters. San Diego has been the most patient team in MLB thus far, which explains their increase in walk-rate and a decrease in strikeouts.
They only swing at pitches in the zone, and when they do let it rip, they make contact at a high rate. And when they do connect, it’s harder than anyone else in the league.
Tatís Jr. is at the forefront of all this, posting a 1.092 OPS (as of Friday morning), slugging an MLB-leading 12 homers, swiping an MLB-leading six bases, and placing among the leaders in WAR.
The 21-year-old phenom is doing everything on the baseball diamond and doing so in style. His 2020 MVP campaign is helping his star rise faster than helium, and has turned the shortstop into not just must-watch television, but the most exciting player in MLB.
But he’s no one-man show…
Star third baseman, Manny Machado, is still on the roster and starting to find a rhythm after a slow start. Wil Myers (6 homers, 148 OPS+) and Eric Hosmer (5 homers, 134 OPS+) are both having career resurgences in 2020 and providing Tatís Jr. and Machado with the support they need.
Offseason acquisition, Tommy Pham, is currently sidelined with a broken hand, but when healthy, has shown to be a quality middle-of-the-order bat during his career, making an already scary offense that much more dangerous.
And of course, there’s the Padres’ other breakout star in Jake Cronenworth, who’s come out of nowhere after arriving with Pham from Tampa Bay in the offseason. He’s gone from a no-namer to Rookie of the Year contender and regular starter for a playoff contender. But the excitement goes beyond just the bats.
We already know of Machado’s greatness at the hot corner. Being the physical specimen that he is, Tatís Jr. is a must-watch with the glove. Cronenworth is an excellent athlete who makes plays wherever manager, Jayce Tingler, puts him.
Hosmer is known for his slick-fielding. Trent Grisham is a good, athletic center fielder. Austin Hedges is among the best behind-the plate, etc. However, let’s not leave out the pitching.
While his numbers aren’t up-to-par with his ability, Chris Paddack is one of the most exciting young arms in the game. Dinelson Lamet, among the filthiest pitchers in the game, is finally healthy and throwing like a Cy Young contender.
Garret Richards has proven to pitch like an All-Star in the past and is starting to look like his old self. And of course, the young arms in the farm system that are slowly beginning to find themselves on the big league squad one by one.
Whether it be hitting monster home runs, ‘Web Gem-worthy’ defense, excitement on the basepaths, pitchers with nasty arsenals, creative celebrations, or pure star power, the Padres have it all. They’re always doing something highlight-worthy that it can’t hurt to check in on their games from time-to-time.
And what makes them so much more entertaining is their execution. San Diego is a young team that displays such excellent team chemistry and genuinely-relatable excitement when playing. They bring specific energy and swagger that are fresh, and ones that MLB should hope for across the sport in hopes of connecting with the younger generation.
Where they end up this year is still an unknown, but one thing’s for sure: these aren’t your father’s or grandfather’s Padres. These are the Slam Diego Padres, and they’re ushering in a new era of Southern California baseball.
Image via Flickr/Smashdown Sports News