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The Fall of Slam Diego: What Went Wrong?

The San Diego Padres were a popular pick to make the World Series this season. With a loaded lineup and a nasty rotation, all signs pointed to the Pads getting back for the first time since 1998. Everything was looking good until August 11, where they lost to the Miami Marlins, 7-0. Since that date, they've fallen out of the second wild card and are barely hovering over .500.

Their slide reached a boiling point when Manny Machado called out Fernando Tatis Jr. for "caring about himself instead of the team." The two All-Stars have made up since, but it exposed a major rift in the organization. Where did the franchise go wrong in their fading playoff campaign?

For starters, Blake Snell didn't pan out as advertised. He hasn't returned to form since his Cy Young season in 2018. The off-season acquisition from the Rays has had a WHIP over 1.20 since his stellar 2018 campaign, and his ERA+ hasn't touched 130. A.J. Preller paid a steep price to get Snell, and that trade is turning on him.

There was also the missed opportunity to get Max Scherzer from the Washington Nationals. Initially, San Diego had a trade in place to acquire the All-Star. However, the Los Angeles Dodgers swooped in at the last minute to acquire Scherzer, leaving the Pads empty-handed. The three-time Cy Young winner has an ERA of 0.78 with a WHIP of 0.66, a FIP of 1.35, and 4.8 H/9.

It doesn't help that Tatis Jr. has dealt with shoulder problems during the season. His left shoulder has bothered him for the majority of the season, leaving season-ending surgery on the table. There were times where the Pads needed their marquee star, only for him to be absent.

It also doesn't help that the St. Louis Cardinals have been on a tear in recent memory. With a 12-game win streak and their new acquisition, Nolan Arenado, dominating, the Cards have catapulted themselves in the NL playoff race. Suddenly, San Diego has a 1>% chance of getting in, likely to be eliminated in the upcoming days.

There are many "what if's" to San Diego's season. What if they acquired Max Scherzer rather than their division rivals? What if Fernando Tatis didn't miss time during the season? Whatever the case, it's too late for the Padres to recover. 2021 will be known as the season where Slam Diego disappointed.

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