After their generally gleeful 2020 season ended with them snapping a 13-year postseason drought, the San Diego Padres probably didn't envision any scenario in which 2021 devolved into a gloomy slog punctuated by their two best players getting in each other's faces.
Life, as they say, comes at you fast.
Because they're just 10-24 since Aug. 11 and 4 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League wild-card race, the nadir of San Diego's 2021 season is arguably more of an ongoing thing than a specific moment.
But as a candidate for the latter, it's hard to do better than when Manny Machado lost his cool with a vulgarity-laden tirade at Fernando Tatis Jr. on Saturday.
Micro-wise, Machado was upset at Tatis for how he reacted to what he saw as a bad strike-three call in the fifth inning. As Padres manager Jayce Tingler, who was ejected for a league-leading seventh time in defense of Tatis, told reporters: "It's not viewed negatively. We're a family. We're not going to discuss the details, but we care."
Macro-wise, however, reporting from Ken Rosenthal, Dennis Lin and Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic and Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune paint a picture of a long-bubbling soup of frustration that finally boiled over.
The Players Made This Happen
Though they were eventually dispatched by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series, the '20 Padres announced their arrival as an up-and-coming superteam with a 37-23 romp through the shortened season. Then came trades for aces Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove during the winter, and a 34-19 start to the 2021 campaign.
During this span, the Padres were hailed as all sorts of things. The most fun team in baseball? Check. The best team in baseball? Also check. The saviors of baseball? Yup, that too.
Tatis was deservedly the face of all this. His MVP-caliber play and utter disregard for baseball's unwritten rules in 2019 and 2020 netted him a video game cover and a $340 million contract. He then began 2021 by making good on the hype by quickly grabbing the NL leads for both home runs and stolen bases.
A $300 million man in his own right, Machado had actually edged Tatis in the NL MVP voting for 2020. Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers also entered 2021 as name-brand stars. Darvish, Snell and Musgrove, meanwhile, would have combined for a 2.82 ERA and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings if they had been teammates in 2020.