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12/26/11 10:00 AM EST

Padres endure year of challenge, change

SAN DIEGO -- It was a year of change for the Padres in 2011, as after winning 90 games in 2010 the club slipped to last place in the National League West, struggling to score runs without All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez while also failing to replicate any of the mojo they had the previous season.

The result was a 71-91 season. After the season, general manager Jed Hoyer was allowed to leave for the same post with the Cubs as Josh Byrnes -- after spending a year with the organization -- was named GM.

Could even more change be in store for the Padres in 2012? To escape the cellar of the NL West, there will have to be.

There is no disputing that the Padres struggled mightily to score runs. In the first month of the season alone, they were shut out seven times. The Padres were blanked 19 times for the season -- tops in the Major Leagues.

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There were other palpable shortcomings that led to the Padres' tumble. Run prevention took a hit in 2010, from the pitching and defense side. The bench was thin. Chemistry in the clubhouse wasn't what the team had hoped.

Above all else, the team didn't win nearly enough.

"We need to play better and play consistently better as a group," Padres manager Bud Black said. "That's what we need ... the even performances and not the deep valleys."

Of all the story lines that played out over the past 12 months, here were the five biggest:

5. Byrnes takes over for Hoyer as GM
After spending the 2011 season as senior vice president of baseball operations, Byrnes was hired as GM in October, after Hoyer left for the same position with the Cubs. Several other moves later followed, as Byrnes assembled his front office. A.J. Hinch was then promoted to assistant general manager, Chad MacDonald was hired (assistant GM in charge of player personnel, he'll focus most on First-Year Player Draft) and then Omar Minaya -- the former Mets GM -- was hired as a senior vice president of baseball operations.

4. Byrnes makes first steps to shape roster
Brynes, after several smaller moves, pulled off a good old fashioned "baseball" trade when he dealt pitcher Mat Latos to the Reds for four players, including three prospects who could play prominent roles in the future of the team. Byrnes also signed free-agent outfielder Mark Kotsay to a one-year contract. The move was made to help with team chemistry and to help an offense that struggled badly a year ago against right-handed pitching. Byrnes also traded for catcher John Baker to give the team better depth at a critical position. Then, after three-time All-Star closer Heath Bell signed with the Marlins, Byrnes made a deal two days later to land closer Huston Street, doing so without having to part with any prized Minor League players.

3. New faces produce in 2011
The 2011 season saw the emergence of several players who were new or fairly new to the Padres. Cameron Maybin, 24, looks like he's on the cusp of doing some big things. Not only did Maybin rank second on the team in home runs and first in steals (40), but he also played a strong defensive center field -- enough to merit Gold Glove buzz from his teammates and manager. Jesus Guzman, promoted from Triple-A Tucson in June, carried the offense in the second half. Cory Luebke shined in long relief and also did so once inserted into the starting rotation, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning of a Sept. 19 start against the Rockies.

2. Padres pay homage to Trevor Hoffman
The Padres honored Hoffman during an hour-long pregame ceremony at Petco Park on Aug. 21, a ceremony that included not only his family but former teammates and coaches. The ceremony, which was equal parts amusing and poignant, climaxed with sobs as Hoffman's late father's taped image and voice rendered the national anthem on the video screen. "No one person deserves all this. We don't do things for accolades. It's a dream come true to have this bestowed upon you," Hoffman said afterward. "This is amazing."

1. Padres invest in their future with Draft, trades
The Padres increased focus on drafting and player development paid off big in June's First-Year Player Draft as the team spent more than $11 million to sign a talented Draft class. The team signed 22 of its first 23 picks and got three players, catcher Austin Hedges and pitchers Joe Ross and Michael Kelly, to forgo their college commitments. Also, the July 31 trade that sent relief pitcher Mike Adams to Texas yielded two highly regarded pitchers, Joe Wieland and Rob Erlin, two pitchers who could make their Major League debuts sometime in 2012. The Minor League system hasn't been this good in a long time.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.