Please allow me to start my story in June 1978. It was my seventh birthday. My parents had brought me a present and wanted to surprise me. So they told my younger sister not to tell me what it was. And since she was three years old and very obedient, she complied. She walked up to me and cheerfully told me, "We didn't buy you a baseball cap."
It was a plastic batting helmet, wrapped in plastic and full of candy, toys, and other treats. Once I dug through the bag and ate all the sweets, I studied the brown and mustard yellow design. I realized that the painted-on "SD" were the initials of the fine city that would now be my home, San Diego. I placed the hat on my head and tightened the plastic straps underneath. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and smiled the biggest smile that any seven year old with buck teeth ever had. I didn't realize it then, but that birthday gift began a love affair with a team that is now on its fourth decade. As I look back on that moment now, I smile, tip my head, and realize that I should've asked for a microscope instead.
So as the 2018 All-Star break approaches, I am writing to say that I am opting out of my lifetime fan contract with the San Diego Padres and intend to file for free agency at season's end. I have to clarify, I did not make this decision simply because the Padres have lost 21 or their last 27 games, or because they now own the worst record in the National League, and nor is it because they have been, year in and year out, one of the least significant franchises in sports. This is strictly a business decision.
I've marveled at Tony Gwynn's swing, been dazzled by Ozzie Smith's glove, awed by Dave Winfield's athleticism, loved Jake Peavy's guile, and been amused by Jerry Coleman's Coleman-isms. (I wanted to name another player to complete this list, but I couldn't think of another prominent player that grew up in the Padres' farm system that became anything during his time here.)
I've even watched this team go to the World Series a couple of times. Two times to be precise in 1984 and 1998. Granted, we went up against two of the greatest single season teams of all time and were cast away like the crew of the U.S.S. Minnow, but it was that fun...of sorts...
I've suffered through sixteen (and by the looks of things, soon to be seventeen) 90 loss seasons and two fire sales that gutted the roster faster than a Drano smoothie. I've seen ownership groups that have ranged from philanthropic (Ray and Joan Kroc), to incompetent (Tom Werner), to fraudulent (Jeff Moorad), to ambivalent (John Moores.) And even though this current ownership group, led by Ron Fowler is trying to make strides, it was time for a change. Perhaps I could find a venue like Buffalo or Cleveland that would give me less ulcers.
I'm thinking of my family as well. Namely, my wife and son. I mean, it isn't my son's fault that the Padres have been at or near the bottom of every major offensive category since 2007. It isn't my wife's fault that San Diego batters have been in the top ten in strikeouts seven of the last eight seasons and lead the majors this year with 924. They deserve to have a quieter house that isn't filled with curse words and echoing wails of, "WHY THE HELL ARE YOU SWINGING AT A PITCH THAT BOUNCED THREE FEET IN FRONT OF THE DAMN PLATE??? ARE YOU PLAYING CRICKET???" After all, family always comes first.
I've seen the Padres get no-hit ten times in their history. Hall of Famer Phil Niekro pitched one. So did Cardinals legend (ahem) Bud Smith who was making just his eleventh start in the bigs. Tim Lincecum of the Giants threw two no-nos against us. And Doc Ellis of the Pirates infamously threw one while tripping on LSD in 1970. But a Padre pitcher? Never. EVER. They are the last team yet to pitch one. There's a Twitter account called @PadresNoHitter. Their latest tweet was, "The #Padres have now gone 7,913 games without a #nohitter." I'm guessing that if there isn't one after 10,000 games, Major League Baseball might award them one out of pity. You know, a participation trophy.
I've watched as the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs ended their fans' long suffering with World Series titles. I hear their joy whenever they come to San Diego and fill the stands. It gets so loud at times sometimes I think we're in Wrigley. Or Fenway. (Or Chavez Ravine. Or old Shea Stadium. Or...)
I've seen the San Francisco Giants win their first three titles since they moved to California from New York in 1957. Bruce Bochy was their manager for all three of those titles. I wish San Diego could've had a skipper like that leading them at the helm of the franchise...
I've gawked in amazement at the Florida Marlins, a team established in 1993 win two titles. I've seen the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that was established in 1998, three years after I graduated college, win a title after just five years of existence.
I've watched big market teams like the two Los Angeles teams and the two New York teams win titles. And I've seen small market teams like Oakland, Kansas City, and Houston win them too. But what I haven't seen, and probably will never see since I've decided to take my talents to free agency, is a San Diego Padres World Series title.
And perhaps it's my fault. I should have wanted my front office to make smart decisions in free agency and not overpay for aging, past-their-prime talent. I should have wanted them to place a higher value on developing young talent in their farm system more. I hoped too much that they would actually get some value back in their trades instead of the Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner trades that we've seen lately. I have no one to blame but myself. I should have just been happy with a pretty stadium, nice weather, and fun giveaways. I forgot the value of never having to worry about missing meaningful Padre games after June 1st. Summer vacation plans have always been easier to make. Again, my family comes first.
I also want to wish the other diehard Padre fans that have been on this cliff-dive of a road along with me. All twelve of you that are left. It's been fu...well, it's been a grea...it's been. I keep hearing that big things are on the horizon for this team and maybe it's true. Maybe by 2020, you'll have the next Sean Burroughs or Khaili Greene headlining the roster. Good luck to you.
To the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball: My wants are negotiable, but playing good baseball is a must. If I had to choose between great pitching and bats light up the scoreboard like a pinball machine, I'd take the pitching. But since I just left a place that didn't have much of anything, either one will do. I'm very loyal and can be patient, but I am prone to bursts of sarcasm and do not suffer foolish play and lackadaisical players lightly. After 40 long years of both, I know that you will understand my reasoning.
Thank you for your consideration.