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While I'd never include the word, "exactly" in a phrase like this, I'll keep it more generic and say that I have an idea how most die-hard Padres fans feel right now. If you don't know why, that's OK. This is no place to elaborate. I'll just ask you to trust me. I've been in a very similar spot as a fan and it worked out pretty damn well. 

What you just experienced, Padres fans, was the year before the year. This doesn't necessarily mean the Padres are going to win the World Series next year. Winning it all is very difficult and requires so much along the way, including getting lots of breaks. Ask the team that just extinguished the Padres' exciting 2020 season. The Dodgers have been one of the best teams in baseball for years and still don't have a ring. 

What I mean about the year before the year is that before 2020, there were still questions on if this Padres group could actually be the one to start making the leap. After all, there were some reasons for optimism, but ultimately the 2019 Padres finished in last place with a 72-90 record. We could speculate all day, but until the signs of the turnaround started to manifest themselves in the form of wins, it was just that: Speculation. 

We know now. We've seen it. The San Diego Padres are for real and they're spectacular. They were the second-best regular season team in the National League, possibly the most exciting team in all of baseball and came from behind in the Wild Card Series with the flair they showed in the regular season. They were swept by the Dodgers, yes, but they also showed there's no quit or backing down from the alpha of the NL. 

Moving forward, changes to the roster are inevitable, but the key parts are there. 

Position-player wise, Fernando Tatis is a bona fide MVP candidate and he's only 21. Manny Machado is also an MVP-caliber player and he's on a long-term contract. Youngsters Jake Cronenworth and Trent Grisham have proven themselves key parts of the solution here and aren't going anywhere for a while. Eric Hosmer (signed through 2025) and Wil Myers (through 2022 with a club option for 2023) showed they can still be valuable. Tommy Pham has another year before free agency. Austin Nola is under control for years. 

This isn't even getting into the Padres' fruitful farm system, the upper levels of which weren't touched by general manager A.J. Preller at his very aggressive trade deadline. 

On the pitching end, Mike Clevinger is controlled for two more seasons; Dinelson Lamet three. That's two frontline starters right there. Chris Paddack is far too young with far too much upside to discount, especially when he only has to pitch like a mid-rotation starter moving forward. Zach Davies is back for 2021. There's top-flight pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore while Luis Patino, Adrian Morejon and/or Ryan Weathers could have a say down the road. 

There's some building to be done in the bullpen with several key free agents departing, but Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, Pierce Johnson and Matt Strahm are back, among others. 

Listed above is an extremely talented, overall young, nucleus that is going to be together for a while. It's the type of championship core franchises dream about. There's little reason to believe Preller will be sheepish in continuing to go hard for a title in the near future, so there will be big additions (free-agent starter Trevor Bauer hinted on Twitter he wouldn't mind joining the fray, for example). 

These are all reasons why I believe the 2020 season will be remembered so fondly in San Diego. I believe this was truly the start of something special with an extended window of contention. Fans who suffered through all the losses for years will remember this team with these specific players as being the guys who broke through and started to show things were different now. You can't look at the San Diego Padres and view them as a pushover any longer. If there is a World Series title with this group, that season will be looked at with the most fondness, obviously, but 2020 will be a close second, as this was the year the fan base started to see it in action and truly believe, "this might just be the group." 

It very well might. The work from the front office and players is far from over.  We've seen the foundation and now it's time to build on that foundation. From a fan perspective, though, I'd advise you great San Diego fans to just try and sit back and remember all the good times 2020 provided on the field. You're very likely to get a lot more of those, but you'll never forget the year that this nucleus truly started to show what it would be capable of accomplishing.