Duped again?

Doesn't it seem to always happen this way for the San Diego Padres? Just when we are at our worst as a team, there appears a glimmer of hope out on the horizon; a dangled carrot positioned as a distracter from the reality of the everyday, which as quickly as it appears, is taken away without a trace.

There are times when I wonder if this isn't the marketing strategy for the San Diego Padres, as pitched by General Manager Kevin Towers. He drops hints about this player, rumors about that guy, he manipulates the press to be unwilling co-conspirators in the charade, and he positions team mouth pieces like Dave Winfield and Rick Sutcliff as more than willing barkers to the portend of something great. "I am hearing rumors that a certain catcher in Houston is looking to come to San Diego to finish his career", Sutcliff said during one broadcast. "San Diego will really love having a young middle of the line up power hitter, switch hitter like a Carlos Beltran as they enter Petco Park", he coined in another. Even the free thinking Winfield was heard spreading the corporate mantra on the air waves about spending and free agent acquisitions this off season. Who are we to believe?

Padre fans have spent the last three weeks (and for some of us the last three years) drooling over the possibility of bringing in the two home town boys from Pittsburgh to help us break the seal on the park and to hopefully break the .500 barrier for the first time in 5 years. The mere thought of adding Brian Giles and Jason Kendall certainly sparked a few extra season ticket sales, which coincidentally went on sale four days ago. The general manager has bounced around the possible trade, the potential trade, and the possible players involved for weeks now. He has been trying to…"position the Padres for the right moves as they enter the new park".

Well I feel like some positioning is happening but mostly it is me being bent over yet again by an organization who is very comfortable with near misses and almost deals as they work their fans for yet another go round of low budget jeopardy. "I'll take Brain Giles for 8 million Alex. What? You want decent quality players in return? Never mind."

Whether it is a huge blockbuster deal like bringing in Brain Giles and Jason Kendall to San Diego, or smaller deals like trading Kevin Jarvis away to save some cash and acquire a player who could help, or even bringing in a superstar like Ken Griffey Jr., it seems that the Padres are a lot more comfortable telling me about it then they are about showing me.

Now to their credit this does allow for a lot of plausible deniability; "we tried to get the quality players in here but it wasn't the right deal for the Padres". Bullcrap! Part of me knows its all a ruse, a cleverly designed effort to show the appearance of one thing while doing something completely different, it is like those funny mirrors at the amusement park, you know the ones that make you look taller or shorter and fatter or thinner depending on which your standing in front of. It is funny however that when people are standing in front of one that flatters them best, they are more likely to believe it is real.

As Padres fans we rationalize the same way. Going to sleep at night with visions of Giles and Kendall dancing in our heads, and should that not work….."Its ok boys and girls, that just means we can sign Vladimir Guerrero or some other star, go back to sleep, all is well." Only problem is that we will wake up on the morning of April 1st to find Rich Aurilia, Brad Ausmus and Greg Maddux on the roster. Nice names KT, but they aren't going to put fans in the seats, and are also not very likely to have a major effect on the win/loss total.

So maybe we are living through baseball's version of "Wag the Dog". Just wandering in a movie like setting where all is not as it seems, we dream of having a great benefactor who will provide for us a return to the glory, he fills our heads with hope and names designed to excite us to the core of our baseball beings. But is it all an illusion, a cleverly scripted play, with the end game being a return to the frustrations of National League West mediocrity? I hope not, but I fear so. I fear that looking at the future for the San Diego Padres is going to be the opposite of watching the road from your car's side view mirror….. "Objects in the mirror are FURTHER AWAY then they appear."

Greg Olmen can be reached at dgolmen@cox.net

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