the San Diego Padres
(my tribute to the National League champions of 1998)
Some facts on the 1998 San Diego Padres now, my personal musings on the 1998 season, and the postseason:
I'd have to say that when you look at the entire picture, the 1998 season was probably the best in the team's history. Especially when you consider the expectations, which were peachy-keen in light of SD's last place finish in their division in 1997, and the signing of Kevin Brown during the offseason. Once the season started, though, they just basically took off and never looked back, pretty much leading their division from start to finish. Despite Tony Gwynn, the perennial All-Star, for the most part, struggling with his health and his hitting. Despite Ken Caminiti, 1996 N.L. MVP, doing the same. What carried them mostly was, in no particular order: Despite the success of the regular season, the Padres really had a hard time winning games at the end of the regular season. Was it overconfidence? Slacking? Looking too far ahead to the postseason? Most had San Diego given up for dead at the hands of whomever they would face in the N.L. semi-final series, which ended up being the Houston Astros. Optimists pointed to the previous N.L. champs, the Florida Marlins, who limped into the playoffs and walked out as World Series champions.

They promptly went on to shock the Astros in Houston in game 1 by beating their ace, Randy Johnson, with their own ace, Kevin Brown. The Padres showed heart in coming back in the 9th inning to tie the game on a Jim Leyritz homer, but ended up losing. The Padres had the series in their hands, theirs to win at home, and they did not blow it, winning both games 3 and 4 in San Diego. Final insult to injury? Randy Johnson was handed his second loss of the series in game 4. MVP of this series was Kevin Brown, IMO.

It was on to Atlanta from there, the Braves of the perennial postseason appearances, the 1995 World Series champions, home-field advantage, and light years more postseason experience than the Padres. Heck, Chipper Jones played more postseason games than Tony Gwynn. Did not mean much apparently to the guys, who won both games 1 and 2 in Atlanta. The Braves looked to their best pitcher, and some would say the best pitcher of all time, Greg Madduz, to win the must-win game 3 in SD. He lost to the suddenly unbeatable Sterling Hitchcock, putting the Braves in a never-overcame 3-0 hole. To their credit, they bore down and won games 4 and 5 in San Diego. Now the pressure was on the Padres not to choke and let it go to a game 7 where the Braves would have all the momentum in the universe. Game 6 was won by Sterling Hitchcock, in a Padre shutout of the Braves, which meant the Padres would be going to the World Series for the first time since 1984, when they lost to the Detroit Tigers in 5 games. My MVP for the N.L. Championship series was Sterling Hitchcock, who won game 3, a must-win game for Atlanta, and game 6, practically a must-win game for San Diego.

The World Series result was almost forgettable, as the New York Yankees swept the Padres. From my point of view, San Diego should've won games 1 and 3, which they led deep into the games, were it not for untimely walks and homers surrendered to the opportunistic Yankee hitters. That would've left the series tied 2-2, and who knows? The heroes of the World Series for San Diego were, in no particular order:

And, the "goats"? I hate to point fingers, but... Still, even given their World Series downfall, it was a stupendous season in almost every other way. No one really expected it, probably not even the most optimistic of Padres players, or even fans. Congratulations to the 1998 San Diego Padres, who got farther than probably anyone expected, and hope they can make the return to the 1999 World Series and finish what they started!!! Go Padres!
back to the rest of the game!