We Acknowledge, We Move On

Very frustrating loss in the opener Tuesday afternoon at Petco Park. The Padres, on the national stage for the second straight post-season and commanding more positive attention than perhaps they are accustomed to, came out flat against the Cardinals and never really were in this one.

Jake Peavy matched Chris Carpenter pitch for pitch through the first three innings before faltering in the fourth. After Chris Duncan led off that inning with a base hit, Albert Pujols stepped to the plate. Peavy induced Pujols to pop up behind the plate for an apparent out. Unfortunately, Mike Piazza didn’t pick up the ball immediately off the bat and misjudged it, the ball falling harmlessly to the grass beneath his feet. Pujols proceeded to battle Peavy and, as great hitters will do, eventually found a pitch to his liking and drove it out over the fence in center field, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

Not Pitching but Throwing

Peavy, whose intensity on the mound usually works in his favor, struggled after the Pujols homer, becoming more of a thrower than a pitcher. Whether Peavy was still thinking about the dropped popup is something only he knows, but the results were not good, as the Cardinals scored another run in the inning to take what would prove to be an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

Peavy’s accomplishments as a big leaguer at such a young age are impressive and not to be dismissed. That said, his first two career playoff starts have been nothing short of disastrous. Last season a broken rib suffered during the division-clinching celebration helped explain his poor performance. In Game 1 of this year’s NLDS, an inability to make quality pitches when needed proved to be Peavy’s downfall.

Unfortunately for the Padres, the Carpenter they faced Tuesday afternoon wasn’t the same pitcher they knocked around in his final regular-season start. Instead, it was the version that won the NL Cy Young Award in 2005 and that should receive serious consideration for same this year.

Poor Roster Management, Wasted Opportunities

The Friars did have their chances late, loading the bases with one out in the seventh. With a lefty reliever on the mound and Rudy Seanez due up, Bochy sent Mark Bellhorn to the plate. The only real fault with this strategy is that Bellhorn hasn’t reliably hit big-league pitching for a long time. Since the beginning of the 2005 season, Bellhorn’s line is a staggering .201/.306/.351 in 553 at-bats. It’s possible that he might run into one or the pitcher might walk him, but you don’t count on it. We are talking about a batter who has failed to make contact in over 31% of his plate appearances over the past two seasons.

Chart showing outcome of Mark Bellhorn's plate appearances during 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Given what we know about Bellhorn, it came as no surprise to see him strike out in that at-bat. It’s easy to get down on the guy, but we shouldn’t — he was doing what he does. The thing that boggles the imagination is that Bellhorn was brought into that situation at all. It’s not like his inability to hit just snuck up on everyone. We’ve had plenty of advance warning.

So, why was Bellhorn at the plate at such a critical point in the game? A good question, although not necessarily the right one. The likely answer is that Bellhorn was the one available player on the roster that Bochy was most comfortable calling on at that time. And now you see the right question: Why is Bellhorn even on the post-season roster?

I have no clue.

What I do know is that, as a result of Bellhorn’s and — let’s be honest — virtually everyone else’s inability to execute on offense, the Padres offered precious little resistance against a St. Louis ballclub that looked, at least for one day, much stronger than advertised. The Cardinals may have backed into the playoffs, but on Tuesday, they backed up and over the Padres. It was not a proud day for the Pads or their fans, which raises another point: We need to stop complaining about the lack of respect given the Padres by the national sports media. For one thing, respect isn’t given, it’s earned. What, exactly, have the Padres done to earn anyone’s respect? Obviously you and I love them because we are fans, and we’re justifiably proud of what they’ve done because we understand the context — three consecutive winning seasons is unprecedented in this franchise’s history. It’s a big deal.

To us.

Perception Is Reality

And now, a brief refresher course for the faithful on how I imagine the average baseball fan perceives the Padres:

  • They’re owned by the guy who invented McDonald’s, right? Oh, he’s dead? Sorry, I didn’t know.
  • Isn’t that the minor-league team Dave Winfield played for before he joined the great and glorious Yankees?
  • Isn’t that the minor-league team Ozzie Smith played for before he joined the Cardinals?
  • Oh yeah, they’re the team that got spanked by the Tigers in the 1984 World Series.
  • Right, and then they got spanked by the great and glorious Yankees in the 1998 World Series, hallelujah, praise be Richie Garcia.
  • What’s up with Roseanne Barr butchering the Star-Spangled Banner? Is that a west coast thing? I don’t get it.
  • Sure, I remember Tony Gwynn — he’s that Ichiro Suzuki wannabe who hit one out at Yankee Stadium one time.
  • Trevor Hoffman? He’s that Mariano Rivera wannabe. You know what would make Hoffman good? If he played for the great and glorious Yankees.
  • Wait, which part of LA is San Diego? Is it near Long Beach or am I thinking of some other place?

In other words, the Padres aren’t exactly on everyone’s radar. You and I may love ‘em, but most folks feel about them the way I feel about, say, the Yankees or the Red Sox, which is to say, not at all.

The other reason we need to stop complaining about “lack of respect” (you knew I’d get back to that, right?) is simple and goes a little like this: Who cares what anyone else thinks? We know that our Padres are a solid ballclub and that’s good enough for me — at least until they do something a little more worthy like, I dunno, win the World Series. For now, though, the focus should be on watching these guys battle and not on what some yahoos in Connecticut think about our team.

Put it another way: What do you think about Connecticut?

Exactly.

Last I Checked, “Series” Means More Than One

Okay, so what else do we know about the Padres? We know that they’ve been remarkably resilient throughout the season, that they never do things the easy way, and that they got beat by the best St. Louis had to offer. And I think, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that the Padres can take these guys. After all, what has changed? The Padres lost a game. And it sucked. I mean, it really sucked. But these things happen. Off day on Wednesday, then we’ll all meet back at Petco Park on Thursday and watch the Pads get out there and do what they do.

With any luck, we end that day laughing at our misery over Game 1 and see the boys off to St. Louis tied in the series. Plenty of baseball yet to be played. Time will let us know whether Tuesday marked the beginning of the end or merely served as a bump in a much longer road. Until I see good, hard evidence to the contrary, I’ll stick with the latter theory.

So. Who’s with me?

112 Responses »

  1. Ugh, that roster is ugly. I’d much rather have Sledge over Bellhorn and Johnson over Klesko. Without Johnson we have no decent RH hitter off the bench (I know Greene is on the roster, but there doesn’t seem to be much confidence in his health or his being sharp at the plate, and while Bard and Bowen can swing from the right side, it burns a catcher), and Bellhorn is just not a reasonable choice when you already have Blum, Walker, Branyan, Greene and Barfield to play the infield. There’s simply no reason to have him on the roster.

  2. I think I’ve finally figured out why Bellhorn is on the roster:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/recap?gid=260430125

    Psychologists say first impressions have long-lasting affects.

  3. Considering, I’d rather have Sledge than Bellhorn too.

    Maybe we could go with all lefties. No team has that many LOOGYs.

  4. I expected Carpentar to beat Peavy, but we should win the next two games with Wells and CY.

  5. Well, yesterday was one giant steaming mooseturd pie, and we all had to take a big bite. I am still very hopeful, and counting on the fact that this team seems pretty darn resilient. But it still smarts.

    Just sent this email to Joe Sheehan regarding what he wrote in BP(see #5 above):

    “Damn, Joe, you nailed it. Bochy’s roster is indefensible. If there was ever a case that post-season roster construction has turned a favorite into an underdog, this is it. I would suggest that Towers probably was at least an enabler in this mess.

    But thanks for succinctly illustrating just how awful these decisions were. I think it’s important to the future of my Padres that this be pointed out by respected writers like you. Thanks!”

  6. I was forced to watch the game on TiVo delay (damn corporate firewall) last night, and since I am addicted to the FF button I didn’t make a note of how many times Jake threw his change-up. Did anyone notice his change-up frequency, or have a resource to get that data?

  7. Here’s something you don’t see every day (from CBSSportsline Game Center):

    Martin hit into double play, Kent out at home, Drew out at home, Martin to second advancing on throw.

  8. From ESPN.com:

    “The Mets lost a second starting pitcher as the playoffs start when El Duque, who is expected to miss the entire postseason, was left off the roster with a torn calf muscle. John Maine will get the start for New York in Game 1 Wednesday afternoon against the Dodgers. Oliver Perez, who went 3-13 with a 6.55 ERA this season, will take Hernandez’s spot in the Mets’ postseason rotation and is slated to start Game 3 or Game 4 in Los Angeles.”

    Reread that last sentence. I’m glad I’m not a Mets fan.

  9. Have to say, this does still set up nice for the Pads if the guys can shake off Game 1 (recent history suggests: no problem). We really play well vs LA, so having the only team really dangerous to us (the Mets) get hit by all this stuff all at once (say it with me “Old pitchers are risky!!”) could be just what gets us through the NL.

    Again, assuming we can straighten up and fly right against the Cards the rest of the way here.

  10. re: Dogs vs Mets … I look at this as “can’t lose” … if the Dogs win, then the Padres won’t have to face Beltran/Wright/etc in the next round (if they beat the Cards, for you jinx-aholics) … if the Mets win, well, it’s *always* a good thing when the Dogs lose …

    1-0 Dogs in top of 4th in their game 1 …

  11. Eric Re: #29, Barfield clearly won the job in spring training, but when the pads got walker and branyan, barfields playing time got cut in half.

  12. Clayton – don’t say that too loudly (Wells, Williams)

  13. Sean – of course, our old pitchers are immune to such things!

    (cough cough – gout – cough cough)

  14. 61 – and both decisions make sense, neither reflect an unwavering preference to washed up veterans.

    I’m not defending Bochy, here, he makes a lot of bad decisions. I just think the impact of managers is exaggerated and overemphasized. There is some impact, but not to the degree we give them attention.

  15. Can anyone please explain to me why Ben Johnson isn’t on this roster instead of Mark Bellhorn?

  16. I understand the fact that Ben Johnson cannot be on the 25 man roster, if Khalil and/or Klesko are on it. What I don’t understand, or didn’t appreciate until now, is how could we go all year with no one off the bench to bat from the right side? Upon reflection, I realize that we had a bunch of switch hitters and, all too often, Bellhorn was brought up as our right handed pinch hitter. How’d we go all season without a right handed pinch hitter?

  17. Ahh watching the Dogers get pounded will never get old!

    4-1 Mets in the bottom of the 6th

  18. #65: Read both posts 41 and 43. Johnson could not have replaced Bellhorn as long as Bellhorn was healthy.

  19. re: 68

    So if Boch had injured Bellhorn, Johnson could have been on the roster? Any chance we could do this before the LCS?

  20. #69 — Nice option! That’s thinking outside the box.

  21. Why don’t those F-ING Dogs just give up and die? Quit coming back you asses!!!

    Mets and Dogs is 4 – 4

  22. Hmmm, Dogs using Brad Penny out of the bullpen? Who knew …

  23. Dodgers brought in Brad Penny in the 7th. Man they want this game bad enough to F-UP the rotation in game 1. Mets still got a run off of him though. This is a pretty good game!

  24. Weren’t the Dodgers favored in the NL West (pre-season) BECAUSE they have Brad Penny?

    so far:

    0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO

    6-4 Mets

    I have a REAL hard time rooting against the Mets in this one…

  25. 73, not quite, they said pre-game (on ESPNRadio) that Penny was available out of the ‘pen and that he would go in Game 4. Although his performance might be changing plans to pitch him then…

  26. re: 57 … thanks for the heads-up, dprat … here’s details on the bizzare baserunning … http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=AuO4CnDNVWE0L9OwFRa1E2sRvLYF?slug=ap-dodgers-outattheplate&prov=ap&type=lgns

  27. I’ve been thinking about the rest of the series for pretty much all day, and I think an interesting question is who goes for us in Games 4 and % (and I’m pretty confident we’ll get there). Jake has been shelled by St Louis the last three times he’s pitched against them (yesterday, in late May, and last year in the playoffs), so I’m not sure I want him starting again. That said, I would throw Woody in Game 4. Also, if there were to be a Game 5, I think I might want to let Clay Hensley have the ball. He’s been just as good as anyone we’ve had down the stretch, and earlier in the year against the Cards he tossed a gem. I don’t think anyone has ever used five different starters in a five-game series, but I think this route might get us the best match-ups. Jake can have the ball for Game 1 of the NLCS. Thoughts?

  28. I’m still on the bandwagon of wanting to play the Mets in the NLCS if we can make it. As much as I hate to say it I do not want to see LA after the comback game!

  29. Peavy will get a 2nd chance

  30. First the Dodgers tried to show that they wanted to lose more by making two outs on the same play at home. Then the Mets countered by letting a middle-reliever who had already thrown 1.2 IP bat with 2 outs and the bases loaded…

    What a comedy of errors… And we thought Bochy sucked…

    Mets win 6-5

  31. Dodgers lose.

  32. So why couldn’t they have just put Johnson on the roster instead of Bellhorn. I think that would have been a better matchup than what we saw yesterday.

  33. I do think it’s a mistake to not find a start for Hensley. He’s been very good, especially post-ASB. And to waste him waiting for Wells or Woody or Jake to blow up early, ’cause he’s “better suited for that role”… strikes me as another bad management idea. I’d much rather get 6-7 solid from him starting at 0-0 then digging out of a hole. And you’ve got a much better chance of 6-7 solid from him then from Wells or Woody.

  34. Completely off topic alert:

    I was just hearing Darren and Philly Billy discussing the feeling of discontent with Jake Peavy and his progress (and lack of post season performance). One argument Darren was saying was that Jake is only 25 and we should be patient. I started looking at other pitchers who are great and were considered up and coming in their early years. Guys like Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, etc. Then I remembered that baseball-reference actually statistically compares guys by age. One guy who they most favorable compare Jake to is John Smoltz. I actaully was kind of intrigued by this. They really are very similar…fiery competitors, hard throwers, etc. I think it would be great to get to get him this offseason and let him kind of show Jake how it’s done. I am pretty sure he’s staying in ATL, but I thought it might be worth discussing now or at a later date.

    Start Bard next time Jake starts.

  35. re: 83 … the answer to your question is in many comments above …

    re: 84 … dprat, you disagree with the judgement of the Padre’s management? They clearly value “experience” more than you … I think it’s a mistake too … Hensley was 10th best ERA in the NL this season! Wonder what the decision making process was …

  36. Clay should get ready, just in case Wells get a case of gout or something else during the game. Plus, he’ll give a very different look than Wells pitching.

  37. everyone see Tim Sullivan’s article in the UT today? It’s all about the Bellhorn thing . . .

  38. Re: LaRussa plays favorites and washed up vets more than any other manager — so the Bochy’s the problem theory is worthless.

    Bellhorn has hit bombs in the playoffs numerous times, carried the Padres early in the season for few games, and has experience. Not that I was enthralled with seeing him up yesterday, but those are the facts.

    All of those calling for the ineligible Johnson to have been on the post-season roster have only to look the last year’s playoffs to see how well that decision paid off. If only we had had Bellhorn last year perhaps we would have made it to the second round.

    Also, it appears the Dodgers will not re-sign Nomar. How about a platoon with Nomar and Branyan at 3rd next year? A one-year contract for 5 mill. plus incentives might get it done. Sounds like a lot for a guy who is old and often injured but it sure has paid dividends for the Athletics with Frank Thomas. Piazza and Nomar on the same team, one-year contracts and time for our minor leaguers to develop. Just an idea.

  39. I like the Nomar idea of a platoon if the price is right. I’m thinking he’ll want a longer deal, though.

    Somebody translate this, please? Although, I get the first one.

    http://tinyurl.com/e8hl3

  40. I am echoing The Fathers sentiments on yesterday’s IGD post (#639):
    If the Pads would have released Bellhorn, like they should have done, this situation would not have occured.

    Another thought: If you’re going to put the guy on the postseason roster, how about trying to get him more than 1 AB the last three weeks of the season?

  41. 91, love the cartoon. I don’t know at all what it means … but it just looks cool.

  42. 91: That is an awesome link. Like you I don’t understand it beyond Pujols pulling the load for the Cardinals.

    Thomas was signed by the A’s for 500,000 plus incentives. $5 mil is a lot more to pay. But I’m not against the idea of bringing in Nomar, even though I currently hate the guy.

  43. Is that a Nomar to play 3B ?

  44. I actually disagree on the Bellhorn case… Look at how poorly the team played after Castilla was released. Who knows if the team would have gone into some kind of psychological tailspin if they lost another “clubhouse” guy?

    Now that being the case, Towers should have ordered Bochy to keep Bellhorn off the roster, but we all know KT & Boch don’t work that way…

    I was talking to Paul R., an occassional poster here, today and he had a great off-season potential signing… Gary Sheffield. We talked about it for several minutes. Here are some of the high points:

    1. That bat is still potent. Assuming we re-sign Piazza we could send out the following lineup:

    RF Giles (L)
    2B Barfield (R)
    LF Sheffield (R)
    1B Gonzales (L)
    C Piazza/Bard (R/S)
    3B Branyan (L)
    CF Cameron (R)
    SS Greene (R)

    That’s quite a lineup (and not quite so prone to a strong LOOGY)

    2. Sheffield would probably be relatively inexpensive ($15-18 for 2 years).

    3. Sheffield would probably WANT to prove he can still hit; still carry a lineup… San Diego would allow him to come to “home” essentially (he came up with the Brewers, but Sheff wasn’t an established MLB’er until he got here. Furthermore, he left L.A. with more angst than he left any other team. Coming here would be a chance to stick it to the Dodgers again. Lastly, with Matsui-Damon-Abreu it’s unlikely he can start in NY unless he improves dramatically as a 1B…

    4. He’s been a malcontent sure, but he has NEVER been a bad seed the 1st year of a contract (if he’s an issue next year, his bat should be good enough you could trade him).

    5. I tend to lean towards the stat-side of the argument (slightly, consistently, but only slightly-I’m not a hard-core stat-head)… Anyway, despite what all the stats say (about PETCO harming right-hand hitters more than left-handers, I think Sheffield would wear out the Western Metal Co. Building (as would Soriano, but Sheff would come cheaper)…

    It’s elegant. I LOVE the idea…

  45. I’ve long-said that ff we did change managers this offseason, I’d want the manager search to start and end w/ Larry Dierker…

    Here’s Larry’s ‘blog – this guy is super-intelligent.

    http://blogs.chron.com/larrydierker/

  46. Sheffield is interesting. Is there enough of a spotlight in San Diego for Sheff and his ego? He’s pretty much a dead pull hitter. I think that kind of hitter can do well at Petco, it’s the gap hitters that have trouble. If he hits a few homers in the post season I think he’ll get closer to $10 million a year and it’s unlikely the Padres would spend that much on an older guy.

    But what about Giles hitting leadoff? He can’t really steal bases but maybe that’s a good thing. Aside from the OBP his best offensive skill is breaking up the double play, also useful for a leadoff hitter. The purist in me wants a Dave Roberts type but maybe Giles is a better choice.

  47. Taking into account platoon splits, playing time and injuries, the batting order I’d like to see Bochy use tomorrow is:

    Giles
    Cameron
    Gonzalez
    Piazza
    Branyan
    Roberts
    Walker
    Greene

    P.S.
    I hate Jeff Brantley.