In San Diego, one of the great robberies (an inside job, really) in recent baseball history took place in the Gonzalez deal this past offseason. The Padres, who missed the playoffs on the last day of the 2010 season, dealt their best player to the Red Sox even though he was under contract for another year. Instead of selling their fans in 2011 on the optimism of 2010’s great 90-win season, playoff appearances in 2005 and 2006 and a thrilling one-game playoff in 2007, San Diego folded, giving Gonzalez to the Red Sox for first-round picks Casey Kelly (a pitcher) and Reymond Fuentes (an outfielder), along with Anthony Rizzo, a first baseman. Remember, the Padres were an afternoon away from the playoffs, then traded their best player and received nothing in return to help them win this season or probably next. Rizzo has appeared in 35 games for San Diego this season, and he’s hitting .143.
The Red Sox didn’t part with any of their big league players in the deal. Not Jacoby Ellsbury, not Clay Buchholz, not Josh Reddick. Both Kelly and Fuentes have potential–Kelly is 21, Fuentes is 20–but neither is yet in Triple-A. Much space exists between Class A Lake Elsinore and Petco Park.
So as the Red Sox win, the Padres sold their fans a future that is at best cloudy and at worst illusory. Each day the Red Sox benefit from Gonzalez while the Padres wait for Kelly and Fuentes to reach the big leagues underscores the need for San Diego’s front office to have acquired big league talent that, at least, would have sent the message to fans that every year is next year.