Notes from Peoria

I’m back. There is an overwhelming amount of information for me to process, so we’ll just go with bullet points of things learned or rediscovered along the way:

  • The late Jeff Buckley was a musical genius.
  • The parking situation at Phoenix Municipal Stadium stinks. How a parking lot cannot prepare itself to accommodate actual cars is beyond me.
  • There are some pretty smart A’s fans out there; we were fortunate enough to chat with some of them on Friday and even more fortunate to run into them again on Saturday.
  • Oscar Robles can handle the bat. He did a nice job on a few hit-and-run plays, and generally made a nuisance of himself at the plate in a Dave Roberts kind of way.
  • Andrew Brown looks like a project to me. Rich Campbell has concerns about Brown as well.
  • Haus Murphys features excellent German food, beer, and one particularly feisty and hilarious waitress.
  • Russell Branyan is unbelievably strong. He hit two absolute bombs this weekend. Both were foul balls, but the one on Saturday against Milwaukee at Maryvale cleared the stadium. The one on Sunday was off his front foot on a pitch that fooled him.
  • Jake Peavy is nibbling again. It’s only one spring training start, and maybe he was working on some things, but I’d like to see Peavy get a little more aggressive when he’s ahead in the count this year.
  • The ball comes off the bat real fast. You may have heard about Kevin Towers’ accident on Saturday. Didi and I were sitting directly behind him, and SD Padres Gal was just a few seats to his left. Scary stuff.
  • Brian Giles still knows how to work a count. He had a great at-bat Saturday against lefty Chris Capuano. After falling behind 0-2, Giles fouled off some tough pitches and eventually worked a walk.
  • Speaking of SD Padres Gal, it was great to meet her, SD Padres Guy, and Steve C. and family at the game in Maryvale. You know what else was great? Being at a road game and hearing Padres fans outnumber the opposition. That’s a twist.
  • I don’t know anything about Tim Brown, but he absolutely crushed a Derrick Turnbow fastball for a three-run homer. Even in spring training, if you crush a Turnbow fastball, you get my attention.
  • Saturday evening, SD Padres Gal, SD Padres Guy, LynchMob, and friend, lovespooh2 (sorry ’bout that!), Didi, and I all met up at Dillon’s for outstanding barbecue and conversation.
  • Peoria Sports Complex is huge. There are 12 fields in addition to the stadium, and if you park on the Mariners side of the complex, you are in for a very long walk to the Padres practice fields.
  • Bruce Bochy in a Giants uniform is just wrong.
  • Adrian Gonzalez can hit a baseball. He homered to right-center on Sunday and hit another high off the batters’ eye in center at Peoria that would have gone out in just about any big-league ballpark.
  • Cla Meredith, Heath Bell, and Scott Strickland all pitched well on Sunday. Meredith’s line isn’t great, but everyone he faced hit the ball on the ground.
  • The drive back seems a lot longer than the drive out, especially when you don’t get started till 4:30 p.m., after having baked in the Arizona sun for several hours.

Other Stuff

  • I’m working on getting photos posted. Some are already up; the rest will be there soon.
  • Thanks to Billfer at Baseblogging for the kind review and Q&A of the Ducksnorts 2007 Baseball Annual. Thanks also to everyone for buying it and for providing feedback. Once you’ve read the book, if you’d consider rating and/or reviewing it over at, I’d appreciate it. And keep the comments coming; I’m already planning for 2008. :-)
  • Some encouraging words in this piece in the U-T on clubhouse chemistry: “Veteran infielder Geoff Blum said it appears that Black is a tad less oriented to veteran players than was his predecessor, Bruce Bochy, and that Black has done more to involve the younger players.”
  • Sports Illustrated is adding blogs to their coverage (very cool!). Right now they’re running a poll to determine folks’ favorite team blogs. Ducksnorts is getting smoked; go fix that, would ya?

That’s all for now. Tonight’s game against the Royals will be televised on Channel 4SD. We’ll have the IGD up and running around 6 p.m. PT.

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17 Responses »

  1. Looking ahead, the April Schedule seems to line up for the Pads well…12 of 26 games at home. Only 6 games against over-.500 teams. Granted, AZ, CO, and SF are improved, but it is promising.

    Now, we also have 23 of 26 games against the NL West. If we start off well, that should set up the season VERY well…if we stumble out of the gates, it could be a long summer of catch-up.

  2. Went to the poll and voted…I like Gaslampball a lot, but c’mon! Ducksnorts is the place to be overall, hands-down.

    Funny though, check out the “team leaders” section on the padres page…how can you have the wrong Chris Young shown? Is there anybody in charge of QA over at Sp. Ill???

    OK, this Preview thing below is freaking me out a bit. Stop copying me! Stop! Stop now!

  3. 2: I think I’d rather the Dodgers have Clark than Dessens. I like it.

  4. Does dropping walker make way for p-mac?

  5. Releasing Walker makes baseball sense, but not business sense. They’ll probably have to defend themselves against a legal challenge. They’ll definitely piss off some players. Saving the money isn’t worth it, especially if they only save it until the grievance is resolved. They’re way under last year’s budget.

  6. Yeah, the Walker thing is a bit distressing, particularly since we’re sort-of up the creek if something happens to NOG. Still, from an optimistic perspective, this should provide more $ in the pocket for deadline deals…Let’s just hope that the natives don’t get too restless…

  7. P-Mac is hurt. I hope he makes the team with Todd Walker being released.

    Notes from
    Pads and ends: It looks like McAnulty won’t be back on the field until mid-week at the earliest. The outfielder hasn’t appeared in a game since March 18 when he injured his right knee, the same knee he had surgery on during the offseason. He will be re-evaluated Monday.

  8. I can understand both sides of the Todd Walker deal. However, I think I’ve got to take the side of the front office when it all comes down. The Pads offered a guaranteed contract of $3.2 million before arbitration. If he goes to arbitration, Walker knows that contract, even if he wins, will not be guaranteed. It’s a risk vs. benefit analysis that he, and presumably his brother, the agent, worked through before they opted for arbitration.

    Baseball players, if they agree on a contract, get guaranteed money. Without the guarantee, they can be treated as football players and cut, unceremoniously. I’ve got to think that some of the players are thinking that the guarantee is worth more than the extra he won at arbitration. (I’m reminded of SA’s stance on the umpires when they announced they were resigning/striking: “Fine.” Offer accepted.”)

  9. 10: I’m not sure that’s the case. I believe the contract is guaranteed but the Padres hope they have a loophole, either for performance or because they hope to get a pro-owner judge/mediator.

    When the Padres offered arbitration, they agreed to accept the decision of an arbitrator. They don’t like how things worked out. Tough. Next time don’t offer binding arbitration.

  10. I believe LaMar is exactly correct, and I’ve asked a boatload of sportswriters about this situation (most of whom didn’t know). I’m not sure if it is the same as the releasing of NFL players, but I am sure that Walker’s arbitration award is non-guaranteed to the extent that he can be released as is being done, and he’s only owed the 1 million. It sure looks like he should have taken the contract that he was offered. His poor play this spring and the preponderance of lefty hitters on the club should justify his release. I’d let Mac heal up completely, and bring back right-handed hitter Craig Stansberry, who is versatile, fast and has some 3-A pop. It would also help the club’s legal argument about lefty/righty needs. I seem to remember that Robles hits left; could be wrong. Anyway, nice analysis LaMar.

  11. Peoria was great! Thanks for the fun evening at Dillons! My thots from ST are:
    1. Greg Maddux in a Padre Uniform-Awesome
    2. Seeing #22 Tony Gwynn on the scoreboard at Maryvale and watching him bat.
    3. Finding out that the poor guy hit by the baseball WAS Kevin Towers!
    4. “What did you boys do during spring break?” “We played catch with Brian Giles!”- The Hoffman boys
    5. Traffic out of Arizona on 8 West sucks!
    6. Your Book ROCKS!
    7. Sunshine, green grass and baseball. It doesn’t get any better.

  12. Geoff, the pictures are great! I forgot to list as #8 on my ST list:
    The Sausage Race! Classic. The fact that Cameron and Giles almost got run over by a giant sausage.. too funny!

  13. 12: I wouldn’t expect sportswriters to know. What matters is what the Players Union thinks it can prove in relation to the CBA, and which argument the judging party finds valid.

    You can be sure that if a player the team liked was in the same situation – arbitration offered and accepted, doesn’t matter who won – and then tried to quit during spring training to play for another major league franchise, the team would cover him in lawsuits.

    Maybe the Padre legal team thinks it can win this, or maybe they think Walker won’t fight. If this was such an open-and-shut reading of the CBA, somebody else would have tried it before now.

  14. #15: It seems I remember reading that there has only been one other time that a player who won at arbitration got released by the team. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the details, but I don’t think there was a huge fight with the Player’s Union.

    I think the legal issue arises as to “why” the player was released. The Player’s Union can argue that the player was released because he won his arbitration and the team released him in retaliation. The team’s argument will be that he simply didn’t perform well enough to justify his remaining on the team. Without the guaranteed salary, it’s AJ Smith’s adage, “Line ‘em up 3 deep and let ‘em play.” In this case, Walker was “out-played.”

    Given the fact that the Padres are still shelling out $1 million to Walker in total, I think the front office has the better argument, especially with the sympathy value when Towers lisps the argument, due to his missing tooth.

  15. 16:

    It was Brian Hunter, and he apparently there was a lot of other stuff going on that neither he nor the union wanted to make public. Drugs? Multiple wives?

    The problem is, we’re going to be keeping players with worse performance. Walker’s legal team, if he has one, will be able to point to literally hundreds of cases in which teams kept people who didn’t hit well. They’ll have dozens of examples just from the Padres of the last 10 years.

    The way I read the CBA, the player has to be either not trying or physically unable to play. And I haven’t yet seen anything that says the contract wasn’t guaranteed.