Catching prospect Luis Torrens has turned torrid for the San Diego Padres, his average up to .176 - three for 17 in his spring mayfly flight.
In a world of reason, Torrens' ticket would already be punched to Lake Elsinore of the California League, the rightful place for a 20-year-old, who's never played above Class A. But this world has gone mad. Because the Padres grabbed Torrens in December's Rule 5 draft, they must either keep him on their 25-man roster all season, or he'll return to his former team, the Yankees.
Who sits a 20-year-old for an entire year, basically rotting him on the bench? Who subjects a team - and, for that matter, its fan base - to playing a full season down one man, with only 24 game-worthy players? The answer: San Diego, a city so pissy about losing the Chargers that apparently it's willing to jettison the 2017 Padres in the hope of someday becoming a power. The season hasn't begun, yet they're already channeling the NBA's 2015 Philadelphia 76ers - (18-64, in case you forgot) - generally believed to be the least competitive pro team our species ever produced. (Sorry, '62 Mets!)
But to achieve pure mendacious mediocrity, the Padres must out-suck the White Sox. That won't be easy. Chicago spent the off-season ditching its best players, and it's now dangling Jose Quintana for whatever prospects the Yankees will give. Finish low, draft high, wait your turn, eventually win... it's the NBA way! (Unless you're the Knicks, but that's another story.)
Both teams eye the Yankees as their carnival rube. That's because we're stuck in Hal Steinbrenner's dream world, where his teams somehow simultaneously contend AND rebuild. (How, you ask? We're the Yankees, he says!) For four years, we have played in Hal's quicksand, chasing wild cards like ice cream trucks, ever-hovering around .500. Last July, when the owner finally authorized a sell-off and collapse, the fan base erupted with a joyfulness not seen since 2009, our last walk down the Canyon of Heroes.
And why not? Reaching meltdown mediocrity propelled the Cubs to the World Series and has made Boston the 2017 AL favorite. Just finish last. Eventually, you'll win. The key is to be really, REALLY bad - not just middling bad. Go down to the cellar, and start digging. If you can still see .500, you're going nowhere.
For decades, small market fans blasted Yankee spending as the ruination of baseball. It didn't matter that many small market owners were as wealthy as anybody on this planet - they were just cheap bastards, milking their cities. Today, thanks to strict luxury taxes on payrolls, all teams are basically equal in financing, though some owners - billionaires all - remain skinflints. A cheap bastard is a cheap bastard.
But now we have teams actually lying down before opening day - planning a 24-man roster or a mid-March salary dump. Welcome to the NBA, folks. What's next? A draft lottery? Another round of playoffs? And how 'bout them Knicks!