We greet fall with a grin in North County. Locals know it’s just another label which doesn’t fit the reality of our endless summer.
But with the summer months ripped from the calendar, so too is baseball. The Padres put a bow on another losing season on Sunday, their seventh-straight year under .500.
The future, the Padres swear, is bright. And they found some keepers in a season in which development trumped winning.
The Padres did eclipse their win total from last year, and with a break or two, they’re contending in a year or two. Patience please.
But with the Padres packing up, that doesn’t mean familiar folks aren’t headed for the playoffs.
North County is a rare region that features three major-league mangers: the Rockies’ Bud Black (Solana Beach), the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts (Cardiff) and the Tigers’ Brad Ausmus (Del Mar).
Black has Colorado near a National League wildcard playoff spot. Roberts has directed the Dodgers to their fifth straight NL West title and 100 wins. Ausmus, after four seasons in Detroit, is heading back to the beach.
The trio of North County skippers will dwindle by one as Ausmus, the former Padres catcher and executive, is being dismissed by the Tigers.
When word came of Detroit’s decision, Ausmus looked more relieved than blindsided.
Ausmus wrestled with his employment status for most of the Tigers’ dreadful season. When the players and coaches had nicknames on their jerseys last month, Ausmus suggested: “Fire Ausmus.”
“If you can’t make fun of yourself who can you make fun of?” he said.
Black brought smiles back to Denver. The ex-Padres manager who’s in his first year with the Rockies has flipped an also-ran to one sprinting toward the finish. The Rockies are close to being back in the playoffs, which will get Black attention as the National League’s manager of the year.
Charlie Blackmon, a NL most valuable player candidate, is a Black backer.
“I really enjoy playing for Bud,” Blackmon said recently at Petco Park. “He is a great baseball guy and he really knows his stuff from a managerial perspective. I think he is doing a great job.”
Black has connected with the Rockies and Denver much like he did with the Padres and North County.
Despite working in the visitor’s dugout, he entertained a parade of visitors during the Rockies’ series in San Diego. Well-wishers were saying, “thanks” to Black for helping the community he still lives in.
That doesn’t surprise Blackmon.
“Outside the lines he is pretty laid back,” Blackmon said. “He has a consistent personality that people enjoy being around.”
Roberts, the former Rancho Buena Vista High star, has had the Dodgers near first place since April. Although a late-season collapse raised eyebrows, Roberts is confident of the Dodgers reaching their first World Series since 1988.
But it won’t be easy.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Roberts said. “This is just the beginning.”
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @jparis_sports
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports