SAN DIEGO -- With a week left in the regular season, the Padres find themselves on the doorstep of their first postseason appearance since 2006.
The Padres, who open a four-game series with the Cubs on Monday at PETCO Park, are a half-game behind the Giants in the National League West and a half-game ahead of the Braves in the Wild Card race with seven games to go.
So how did the Padres get here, two seasons after losing 99 games?
There are easy answers, but there's not one particular reason for their success -- consider the signings, deals and other events of the past 12 months that helped shape this team and organization into what it is today.
Here are 10 decisions that were made over the course the past year that stand out as significant reasons why the Padres are in contention for the playoffs.
For your review:
Unearthing Chris Denorfia: First-year general manager Jed Hoyer gets most of the credit here for finding the 30-year-old outfielder, who had 64 at-bats in the Major Leagues the previous two seasons. Denorfia fit what Hoyer wanted: an athlete who could run, had some pop in his bat and could play defense. Denorfia essentially carried the team in spurts in the second half and proved to be a big bargain, considering he came to Spring Training on a Minor League contract.
Signing Jerry Hairston: You can argue that Hoyer's most important off-season acquisition was signing Hairston to a one-year deal worth $2.125 million to bolster the bench. Instead, Hairston drove in 50 runs and filled in considerably at shortstop and at second base. It wasn't the role that he was signed to fill, though his value proved to be more than what the Padres ever could have hopes for.
Signing Yorvit Torrealba: Like Hairston, Torrealba was a relative bargain at one-year and $1.25 million in early February. He not only helped mentor catcher Nick Hundley but has ended up with most of the playing time in the second half. He's been good in the clubhouse, worked well with the staff and is hitting .338 with runners in scoring position. Another bargain that paid off big.
Taking the reins off Mat Latos: Black said in Spring Training that the 22-year old Latos would be limited to between 150 and 180 innings, as the Padres want to very carefully monitor his workload. It became evident in May that Latos was the top pitcher on the staff. The team was smart about giving him an extra day off now and then, but they have generally let him pitch in the second half without explicit concern, knowing they need him every fifth day to have a shot at making the playoffs.
Trading for Miguel Tejada: Hoyer swung a deal with the Orioles two days prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline, dealing a Minor League pitcher to get the 36-year-old Tejada to play shortstop. Some questioned Tejada's range and what he had left in the tank. He's been good in the field and knocked in 31 runs in his first 50 games with the Padres. He's been energized in a playoff run and, in turn, he's energized the team.
Extending Bud Black: The Padres made a big commitment to Black in July, as they extended his contract through 2013 with team options for 2014 and 2015. It was a move made as a reward for Black's ability to command the clubhouse, his preparation and his ability to teach young players the game. Patient yet firm, there's no question this is Black's team.
Hiring Jed Hoyer as GM: Hoyer had big shoes to fill when he replaced long-time general manager Kevin Towers. But Hoyer made several smart additions to the roster and in the front office, with important hires such as Jason McLeod and Jaron Madison on the amateur scouting side and former players Dave Roberts and Mark Loretta (special assistants), plus the promotion of Randy Smith to director of player personnel.
Not disrupting bullpen: Offering closer Heath Bell arbitration and, eventually, a one-year deal worth $4 million wasn't a slam dunk. And there were teams that asked for Bell before the Trade Deadline. Yet, Hoyer and the front office hung onto Bell to keep what has become baseball's best bullpen intact. Bell became an All-Star for the second time in his career, and the gregarious closer kept his teammates in stitches. Perfect match.
Keeping Tim Stauffer: Hoyer laughed in Spring Training at the insinuation the Padres had too much pitching and needed to move one of their pitchers without Minor League options -- namely Stauffer -- for offensive help. Hoyer, not in love with any of the offers made on Stauffer in March, stuck with the former first-round pick, who first helped the team in long relief and has now settled into the rotation. He'll be in the rotation in 2011.
Hanging onto Adrian Gonzalez: All of those rumors the Padres were shopping Gonzalez, a three-time All Star and two-time Gold Glove during first the winter and then in the first half of this season? None of them were true. Gonzalez might be the best bargain in baseball and the front office figured it made no sense to move him, and instead built around him. Now, the future is a different story, but keeping Gonzalez for 2010 proved critical to the success of this team.