The waiting game


The Super Bowl not only serves as the culmination of another season of football, but also as the day when America’s attention shifts to other sports. With the Broncos’ miraculous victory on Sunday we are now only days away from the start of spring training for several MLB teams. As early as Feb. 18 we will see pitchers and catchers from various teams report for duty in Florida and Arizona, all with the common goal of representing their team in the World Series eight months from now.

For the annually discouraging San Diego Padres, pitchers and catchers will start their practice regimen on Feb. 19. They will be joined by the rest of the team on Feb. 24. The feeling of fans and players about this year’s team is drastically departed from last year’s squad of big-name acquisitions and bigger playoff aspirations.

Already gone from last year’s flurry of trades are slugging outfielder Justin Upton and fireballing closer Craig Kimbrel. Upton, who was playing the 2015 season with a one-year contract, was easily persuaded to leave San Diego to the tune of $132 million from the Detroit Tigers.

Kimbrel, who had a career-low 39 saves in his only season with the Friars, was traded for prospects this winter in a move made with the franchise’s future in mind. Rather than pursuing the brightest and most expensive stars on the hot stove during this year’s free agency period, general manager A.J. Preller remained much more frugal this time around.

Preller inked shortstop Alexei Ramirez to a modest contract and also added outfielder Jon Jay in a trade with St. Louis for fan favorite Jedd Gyorko. It is still entirely too early to tell if the Padres will finally make that playoff push they’ve been promising for years.

Of course, other sports also start to heat up once the NFL’s stadium lights go dark. March Madness is right around the corner. While usual suspects like the North Carolina Tar Heels and Kansas Jayhawks will surely be in the mix for this year’s title, keep an eye on sneaky contenders like the Maryland Terrapins and Oregon Ducks. Over the next month, teams will jockey for tournament seedings and fight for spots on the proverbial bubble that will grant them access to college basketball’s most exciting tournament.

Until then, we’ll just have to wait.