Fifteen years ago, the San Diego Padres spent their first-round draft choice on
Today, the Padres are among the worst teams in baseball. There are a myriad of reasons why -- their reluctance to sign high-priced free agents, their dependence on bargain-basement veterans, and their blatant disregard for offense, to name a few. But more than anything, they are here because of the draft. Since they took Lee in 1993, they have put together a string of first-round picks that make
Of the last 14 top picks by the Padres, only one is currently in the major leagues. Seven are out of baseball. Of those seven, four never made the majors and none made a significant impact. In the past five years, the Padres have drafted three pitchers and a shortstop they turned into a pitcher. All four of them required reconstructive arm surgery. It is not as though the Padres always pick late in the first round, either. In the past 14 years, they have picked first, second, third and fourth. Each of those bonus babies went bust.
The baseball draft, by nature, is a complete crapshoot. A team that hits on one out of every four first-round picks will be hailed by
Part of their problem is miscalculation, and part of it is misfortune. In some cases, the Padres could not take the player they really wanted because ownership was unwilling to pay the signing bonus. In other cases, the scouting department simply whiffed. In the interest of full disclosure, I am from San Diego, so I have long since committed the following names to memory. When I look at the standings each morning, which currently show the Padres with the second-worst record in the National League, I think of them.
It is remarkable, given some of those wasted picks and wasted signing bonuses, that the Padres won the National League West in 2005, repeated in 2006, and came within one strike of winning it again in 2007. They have only two home-grown regulars -- Greene and Peavy -- but general manager
But there is hope. This year,
The Padres' first pick is at No. 23. They are due.