Normally a team sitting at 47-33 in early July, with a 3.5 game lead in the division, is almost certainly going to be “buyers” at the deadline. The idea, of course, is that a team in that position is set up to make a run at the playoffs, if not the World Series. Adding players at the deadline both increases the team’s chance of making the playoffs and going deep into the playoffs once they get there.
The San Diego Padres (47-33, 3.5 game lead, conveniently just like our theoretical team above), then, are going to be buyers at the deadline, right? Right? Well, according to Dave Cameron and Tim Marchman, maybe they shouldn’t be. Marchman, I think, is a little extreme and off-base with his take, and he receives some deserved, if not slightly over the top, criticism at GLB. Cameron is more fair with his assessment.
Anyway, the issue, if you don’t read the articles, is that the Padres are not your typical 47-33 first place club. Yes, they are playing good, and undoubtedly they are better than the preseason projections. However, there’s little doubt that they *should* come back to Earth a bit in the second half. The argument can be made that they should stick with their original plan, before all of this winning baseball got in the way, which was likely to trade players like Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell at the deadline, getting as much value out of their star players as possible, and rebuilding for a future perennial contender.
That’s a fair argument and I don’t think it is crazy, but I am not going to make it. The old adage, “flags fly forever,” rings true. Sure, the Padres could look to build a powerhouse in, say, 2012 or 13, but that plan – acquiring a “can’t miss” prospect or two for veteran stars with expiring contracts – might not materialize either. Meanwhile, the Padres sit in first place, and adding a couple of legitimate players at the deadline will only increase the likelihood that they will be playing post-season baseball this season, and if not, at least be in contention through September. It is not easy to build a .588 team with a good shot at the playoffs, so once it happens, even if by accident, it doesn’t usually make sense to disassemble it.
Further, giving up on a season like this, even if it is the correct decision long-term, will never sit well with a fan base. While you can’t always try to please the fans – Jed Hoyer was part of a Red Sox front office that traded Nomar Garciaparra during the 2004 season; it turned out okay – it would be scary to see the reaction in San Diego after blowing up a first place team and dealing away the franchise player.