Mat Latos doesn't like the Giants. Presumably, the Giants don't like him much, either. It's rare these days, that you see players and teams who actively dislike each other. It is an era where Red Sox and Yankees tend to get along, where the fans are more absorbed by rivalry than many players. But Latos and the Giants... that's something that has been building for a couple of years, and even after leaving San Diego for Cincinnati, there's no escaping it.
Mat Latos likes to talk, and that's the primary reason we know of his dislike for San Francisco. It all began back in 2010, when the Padres were in first place for 133 days of the season, until the Giants came from behind to take the division away. The Giants had made a few trades and August waiver claims, and this was all very upsetting to Latos:
"Baseball works in funny ways... The only way I could honestly put it is, we could be like the Giants and go and change our whole lineup, put guys with 'San Francisco Giants' across their jerseys. We didn't."
That's from a September 29 story at CBS Sports, after a Latos start the day prior in which the Padres lost 5-2 to the Cubs. The Giants were two games up on San Diego at the time, after they had been 7½ back on July 4. Latos is right; in the sense, the Giants changed their lineup by adding Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, and Mike Fontenot. But why this was a problem was a little strange -- teams rarely look in October like they did in April, and the Giants were no different. For that matter, neither were the Padres: San Diego traded for Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick, and if not for Tejada's resurgence with the Padres, they would have been further back than two games at the time of this interview.
The Giants did not approve. Cody Ross:
"It's asinine to say, 'We're a close-knit group and this is our team,'" Ross told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Every team goes out at the trading deadline and tries to make a deal. It's very rare for an organization to say, 'We don't need any improvements. We're as good as we're going to be.' Every team looks to improve, whether it's one, three or five guys."
This is the point where we should mention the Giants acquired Ross on a waiver claim in part to keep him away from the Padres -- when the Marlins were happy to just let him go for nothing, the Giants gladly took him for themselves. One wonders what Mat Latos would have had to say if Ross had helped to power the Padres, not the Giants, to the World Series in 2010.
It wasn't just the Giants who felt this was out of line. An anonymous Padre told the North County Times that the comments were, "just not smart." You don't have to go out on a limb to assume that it was someone older than Latos, with more experience and understanding of how baseball teams operate.
More of a problem than the new Giants was Latos' own pitching down the stretch. September started well enough, but the 21-year-old looked tired for most of the month, giving up 18 runs over 16 innings in his last four September outings. On October 3, he faced off against the Giants in game 162 -- winner took the division, and the lone playoff spot left following an Atlanta victory. Latos scattered eight hits, surrendering just two runs, but it wasn't enough, and that squad full of fake Giants won a very real division title.
The next year, the Padres were out of contention, but Latos and the Giants remained a thing. Latos signed three baseballs for charity in February of 2011, but didn't just sign his name: he also wrote "I hate SF" on them. Admittedly, this is in good fun -- personalizing them like that could make someone pay a bit more -- and the baseballs sold for $1,100, with half going to charity. It's not always in fun, though, as then-teammate Mike Adams, in a Yahoo! Sports story, spoke generally about Latos and his talking:
"Say what you want," Adams said, "but if you're going to talk, you'd better not look like a dumbass. He's 23. He's going to have to be told every now and then to back off a little. It's more correcting him. He's still young. He's learning. Sometimes, he forgets that.
This is all fair: Latos hasn't made any similar comments since, but that hasn't stopped Giants fans from disliking the pitcher. It probably didn't help Latos' image in the eyes of Giants' fans when he smashed announcer Dave Fleming's windshield with a baseball. (Accidentally! He's not a monster, people. Well, maybe to some.) Or, when he said he "could care less about people in San Francisco." (Technically, he said he does care about them, but we'll assume he meant "could not" while making an all too-common mistake.)
Now, Latos is facing the Giants in another elimination game, this time in the playoffs as a Cincinnati Red. The Padres traded him this past off-season, in part due to the immaturity and attitude issues that Latos seems to embrace, and it's extended his rivalry with the Giants despite leaving California. Then again, Mat Latos hasn't had anything to say about the Giants' mid-season acquisition of Hunter Pence, so maybe he's growing up after all.