The San Diego Padres have had just one winning season since 2006 -- that's 2010, when the Cubs helped keep them out of the playoffs by taking three of four from them in San Diego in the season's final week. They have finished 76-86 each of the last two years; despite that, Bud Black keeps on keeping on as manager, now in his eighth season. That makes him the fourth-longest-tenured current manager (in his current position), behind Mike Scioscia, Ron Gardenhire, and tied with Bruce Bochy... who was his predecessor.
Bochy managed the Padres from 1995-2006, during which they made the playoffs four times -- but also had seven losing seasons.
Imagine that -- a team with just two managers in 20 seasons, while not doing all that well. Must be something in the water in San Diego.
The Padres are probably headed for another 76-86 season. They really made almost no offseason moves; the "biggest" was sending Luke Gregerson to the Athletics for Seth Smith (but see below). Big whoop.
Don't get me wrong. The Padres have some good players. Chase Headley, despite a down year in 2013, is still very good. Jedd Gyorko had a fine rookie season (.249/.301/.444, a team-leading 23 home runs). Everth Cabrera stole 37 bases (in just 95 games) and Will Venable showed power he hadn't before, with 22 home runs and a .484 SLG.
But San Diego's strength is in their pitching staff, which is the right thing to do in pitcher-friendly Petco Park, although you wouldn't know it by the 700 runs allowed, which ranked 13th in the National League. Will this be the year Andrew Cashner really breaks through as a true No. 1 starter? He was good last year, but the Padres need him to be better than "good." (And hey, Andrew? Don't let that bubble gum get caught in your beard.) They also have to hope that Ian Kennedy, acquired at the trading deadline last year, returns to his 2011 form.
You'll notice I didn't list Josh Johnson as a "big" acquisition. That's because Johnson has been injured so often, his status as "ace" of a pitching staff has been left in 2010. He's made 30 or more starts just twice in a nine-year career. If healthy, Johnson, who just turned 30, can be a major help to a pitching staff. Otherwise? The Pads will choose from among journeymen like Eric Stults, Burch Smith, Joe Wieland and prospect Robbie Erlin to fill their rotation.
Which will lead to the annual "Where are the Padres going to trade Huston Street at the deadline?" rumors, come July. Street has been very good for the Padres in his two years there, but you'd never know it, largely because the Padres have been mediocre and a lot of his saves are posted after midnight Eastern time. He did give up a scary number of home runs in 2013 (12 in just 56⅔ innings).
Like I said: 76-86 again. Book it.
The Cubs will visit San Diego for a four-game series May 22-23-24-25, and the Padres come to Wrigley Field exactly two months later, for three games July 22-23-24.