Road Trip to Cooperstown: Knoxville to Durham

I don’t want to talk about David Wells, do you? Good, let’s move on, then, and pretend we’re still on the road.

After driving 873 miles on 4 1/2 hours of sleep and missing the Smokies game on Wednesday night, I ventured from the interstate and into the Smoky Mountains (ah, they take their name from the local baseball team). I was expecting a nice, quiet drive in the country, and eventually that’s what I got, but not before passing through Sevierville (named after Tennessee’s first governor), Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood), and Gatlinburg (named after the owner of a general store). Traffic came to a standstill, and people swarmed the streets to admire the blinking signs and fullfill the promise of dinner theater. It was Vegas gone horribly wrong.

How did I get here? I was aiming for a peaceful country drive and had found crowded tourist towns.

Eventually I made my way through the theaters, shops, and museums, and headed into the mountains. Very quiet, very still. A winding road, with a river beside it. An overwhelming number of trees — maple, birch, hickory, magnolia, oak, willow, elm. Things you sometimes forget exist when you spend all your life in a big city.

As was the case for most of the trip, I needed to get somewhere, so I couldn’t stop to look around as much as I would have liked. I snapped a few photos, but all you can see is trees and sky, which is nice but which doesn’t do the place justice at all.

On the way out of the park, toward Cherokee, N.C., I saw a sign for Mingus Mill while I was listening to Andy Summers play the music of Charles Mingus. (This was not my first “Close Encounter of the Mingus Kind”: When I drove to Dallas in 2003, I’d come across a town of the same name.) I had a few of those moments on the road where the tunes I’d chosen were unintentionally appropriate. A little disturbing, but not in a “Ruben Rivera running the bases” kind of way. More like Geoff Blum hammering a slider down and in — weird, but you’re mostly glad it happened.

On entering Cherokee, I saw many unusual signs. They told me to elect someone “vice chief” (I later learned this was part of a reservation), buy boiled peanuts, and visit Santa’s Land (ah, here is Rivera running the bases). I continued along US-19, through Paint Town, Maggie Valley, Lake Junaluska, and finally reconnected with the interstate just west of Asheville (home to yet another minor-league team I wouldn’t see on this trip).

Tom Waits, Neko Case, and NPR guided me from Asheville to Durham. Along the way, while driving through Winston-Salem, I heard then-unconfirmed reports that Wake Forest’s basketball coach had died. I immediately thought of Matt Antonelli, because he is the only connection I have to that university, and really, I don’t even have that connection. Still, when you hear that someone has died, you try to grasp for something.

I arrived at Durham about 45 minutes before first pitch of the Bulls’ game against Norfolk. My friend Jeff (aka Cal League Tour co-conspirator) and I scored seats right next to the visitors bullpen in an exquisite little park. I took the obligatory “Hit Bull Win Steak” sign shot:

Hit Bull Win Steak sign at Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Hey, check it out, there’s ex-Padre Jorge Velandia playing third base for Norfolk:

Norfolk Tides infielder Jorge Velandia

We watched about half the game before deciding that without a rooting interest, it wasn’t very exciting. Instead, Jeff showed me around town a bit, including the old ballpark, where Bull Durham was filmed:

Old Durham Athletic Park, where the movie Bull Durham was filmed

After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we headed to Jeff’s place, and I caught up some more with him and his wife. Then came sleep and dreams of an uneventful drive to Cooperstown (actually, Oneonta) the next day…

Padres Prospect Report

by Peter Friberg

You will not see… I don’t know, I wish I could say you would not see Wells toeing the rubber again — seriously, I think he’s done — but the Padres have so many starters injured they can’t cut Boomer…


Yordany Ramirez: 2 AB, 0 R, 1 H, 0 RBI; SO, SB – left game after SB
Tim Stauffer: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO, 0 HR


Nick Hundley: 4 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 3 RBI; 2B, SO
Will Inman: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO, 0 HR – nice!


No games scheduled…


Jeremy Hunt: 5 AB, 3 R, 3 H, 6 RBI; 2 HR
Corey Luebke: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO, 1 HR – whoa!

Short Season-A

Justin Baum: 5 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; 2B
Danny Payne: 4 AB, 2 R, 1 H, 2 RBI; 2B, BB, 2 SO
Yefri Carvajal: 4 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 2 RBI; 3B, SO
Keoni Ruth: 3 AB, 0 R, 1 H, 2 RBI; 2B
Christopher Perez: 4.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 0 HR


Brad Chalk: 5 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 0 RBI


Remember all those “experts” who said Inman had plateaued at AA; that he was a “High-A stud” but a “Double-A dud”? I think he’s doing okay…

Thanks, Peter. Padres and Cardinals again Tuesday night at 5:10 p.m. PT. You know the rest.

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33 Responses »

  1. Oh, but I wanted to discuss Boomer…

    Sounds like you had some crazy experiences on that trip o’ yours Geoff. I can’t really claim too many offbeat experiences as we were using mostly well-traveled interstate freeways between major cities on my trip. However, we did elect to use the 20 to get from Cooperstown to one of the major NY freeways, and we passed some rather quaint little towns that were dominated by a massive regional Wal-Mart DC.

  2. Well the good news is:

    Germano has looked better in his last 2 starts maybe he is learning to make adjustments, if his thumb is ok he maybe able tol hold down the fifth spot in the roation.

    Hensley also looked pretty good in his last few outings but the pads cant call him back p for six more days.

    Last I heard was that Young may be able to make his next start.

    Who knows maybe Ledezma can right the ship in a lager ballpark and with a team who plays good D (minus 2B when B(l)um is playing).

    And the new guys the padres got at the deadline have been able to hit the ball!

  3. Maybe Wells can go on the DL with a strained suck muscle. It would give him some time to rest, and we could give Hensley and/or Ledezma a tryout in the fifth starter role.

    The U-T game recap suggested there is a decent possibility that Wells gets released and Ledezma takes his spot in the rotation. Hensley couldn’t because he can’t be called up in time for the next start. If Wells just went on the DL, then Hensley could be called up for the start.

  4. U-T also says CY is good to go for his start Thursday, and that Germano is ready to take his turn in the rotation.

  5. Inman has looked great, but Garrisson has been quite a surprise. His last outing he went 8 innings in High A with 1 ER and 7 K’s. I think this deal is going to work out very well for us.

  6. DL may be the way to go that way he can still hang out with the team and not mess with the club house chemistry.

  7. #3: Yup, good idea. He gets to hang out with the team and chill.

    Cutting Wells is probably not a good idea. He can still be useful just don’t expect 6 shutout IP, more like 4 IP/ 80 pitches and replace. I think with prudence, he will still muster 5 IP 2 ER in September and that is useful to the team.

  8. Might have missed this last week, but did anyone see the article in the Wall Street Journal last Friday regarding evaluating pitchers?

    They did a piece on BABE (Sum of hits allowed plus one extra point for each double, two extra for each triple, and three extra for each homer…plus walks issued and HBP…all divided by number of batters faced)…the lower the BABE, the better a pitcher has been at minimizing the number of bases issued to opposing batters. The theory is “how a pitcher gives up bases isn’t the point — what matters is his overall ability to limit batters’ productivity.

    So, with that explanation, can you guess who #1 and #2 are? If you are posting on this board, chances are you would have guessed right…#1 Chris Young with a BABE of .330 and #2 Jake Peavy with a BABE of .343. This basically means that CY is yielding a base to roughly every third batter he faces.

    They do mention Petco being a factor (although Boomer ranks 94th of the 100 pitchers with enough IP to qualify) and also point out that there is a lot of variability year over year (i.e. Brandon Webb .406 was #1 last season, but #14 this year, two slots behind John Maine .402).

    In case you are wondering, here are the other pitchers in the top 5…

    1. CY .330
    2. Peavy .343
    3. Tim Hudson .359
    4. Brad Penny .376
    5. Danny Haren .378

  9. Byrnes signed an extension with the D-Backs. If was KT I would be on the horn asking about Carlos Quentin or Carlos Gonzalez. I know it’s probably doubtful they would be willing to trade either of them but they now have a serious log jam in the outfield with Byrnes, Young, Upton, Quintin, and Gonzalez. Might be a place to start looking for next year.

  10. Re: 9 no way do the D-Backs trade them to any team in teh NL west.

  11. Boomer’s road numbers are as bad as they could possibly be.

    Away .371 10 210 42 78 18 3 10 41 4 0 18 24 .417 .629

  12. 9, 10: I agree with Steve, but we can dream, right? They traded Hairston within the division once his stock had completely fallen. Quentin’s from San Diego; maybe he can be convinced to bad mouth the organization and fight with someone on the team so that the Padres can acquire him cheaply.

    Mainly I’m ecstatic that there is no way Byrnes will be on the Padres next year.

  13. Re: 12 I dont think the Pads would have given him 3y/$30 mil can anyone say Giles!

  14. 13: Yeah, plus Byrnes is definitely not in the mold of the typical Padres acquisition. He’s not very patient at the plate, will be coming off a career year, and is probably getting paid for the extra intangibles he brings in marketing and because of his hustle.

  15. 13: Giles has been one of our three best hitters this year (behind Gonzalez & Bradley).

  16. Giles says he thinks there are only 4 or 5 “big bats” in the game that PetCo wouldn’t contain.

  17. Being the third best bat on the worst hitting team in the League is not excatly something to brag about. you could also make the argument that Cameron has also hit better than he has as well.

    My point wasnt that Giles has not been productive, its that he has not come close to playing up to his 3y/$30mil contract.

  18. Re: 16 Giles lack of power is not because of Petco, he only has 2 dingers this year in 145 AB’s on the road.

  19. Fifth starter by committee with Wells handling home games and Ledezma and Hensley our respective lefty and righty on the road?

  20. Wells will probably retire.
    The Pads might as well run a bunch of guys up to fill his spot and see who sticks. Hensley will get the first crack.
    We need one more arm in this rotation that will give us four to five quality starts in the last two months. A waiver wire deal to get a starter like Trachsel or Armas or maybe the Pads roll the dice and give someone like Estes or Jack Cassel (or Wilfredo Ledezma) a crack. I am not too worried really–I think the Pads will hit more in the last 2 months and anyone will be better than Wells at this point.

  21. Wells’ next scheduled start is against Cincinnati. The Reds have been much worse this year against left handed starters than righties, so if Wells doesn’t go, it makes a lot of sense for Ledezma to take the start.

  22. Fuson just said on XX that they have shut down Nick Schmidt because of “elbow problems”.

    That’s not good!

  23. from

    Wily Mo Pena cleared waivers
    Piazza cleared waivers
    The Indians signed Russell Branyan to a minor-league contract

  24. I think their draft philosophy of taking the polished arm may have some problems on the injury front: Stauffer, Carillo and Schmidt. It is concerning as a pattern is starting to develop.

    Additionally, are the scouts from the south missing something in their evaluations in regards to injuries?

  25. 24.

    I don’t remember back to Stauffer but I remember Carillo and Schmidt were both said to have thrown a lot of innings going into the draft.

    Good news though… Mash Bush was promoted to Low-A

  26. As much as I think Matt Bush could be a great story and a very good relief pitcher….let’s not get carried away here, as we’ve seen the past few seasons relief pitchers grow on trees in KT’s backyard.

    Now Inman throwing like he has is something to be excited about, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was part of the rotation next year.

  27. XX reporting Thompson down Sledge up

  28. 26.

    Who’s getting carried away? Being excited on any return Matt Bush may give us seems totally reasonable considering the circumstance. I think a 21 year old kid with mid to upper 90′s stuff who has so far showed good control and apparently is mixing in a good change-up is pretty exciting. I don’t think anyone is out there saying he is the next Trevor Hoffman but I think every Padre fan is rooting for him big time.

    I would think KT is probably rooting harder than anyone because he is the one that called Bush’s name in the draft a few years ago. If MB turns into something KT is off the hook for a horrible pick. I know it may not have been KT’s choice ultimately but he is still the GM that picked MB 1st.

  29. 27: Hmm, that doesn’t bode well for Bradley’s health.

    Joe Sheehan did a cursory look at NL MVP candidates over at BPro, and it turns out Peavy is a legitimate one. There’s no way in hell he will win, or he even place highly, because his win total isn’t gaudy enough, but he has likely been one of the five best players in the NL thus far.

  30. Yes everyone is rooting for Matt Bush, I don’t think that has ever been a question. Until he looks more likely then Mark Prior to make his next appearance though I’ll be skeptical.

    Maybe I didn’t phrase it the way I should have, but Bush’s performance in light of the some of the progress this year within the system should be nothing more then a footnote, at best, right now.

    Hopefully the organization can now realize that Wells best days are behind him, or at least they can skip the prolonged contract negotiation next off season.

  31. FWIW, I heard Coach Kentera say on XX earlier today that a ML cross checker for another team saw MB pitch recently and said he was the best pitcher (or something to that effect) he has seen in the minors this year.

  32. I gotta say that I’m really disappointed that the Padres didn’t put out a waiver claim for Joe Kennedy or Byung Kim. Neither of those guys are great, but either of them could have eaten some innings as a 4th or 5th starter. The Dbacks got them both for nothing, despite the Padres being higher up in the waiver order.

    Maybe Peavy/Young/Maddux + some combination of Hensley/Germano/Ledezma will work, but I don’t see Hensley as having the arm strength to be more than a spot starter/long reliever in 2007, and Germano is not much better. Ledezma might be able to do it, but he has no track record.

    For those who still like Wells (if they exist), here are his splits for 2007:

    Innings 1-3: .299/.330/.494
    Innings 4-6: .338/.379/.535
    Innings 7-9: .440/.516/.480

    Those are pretty ugly. Imagine if he didn’t pitch in Petco!

  33. LMFAO

    “A little disturbing, but not in a “Ruben Rivera running the bases” kind of way. More like Geoff Blum hammering a slider down and in — weird, but you’re mostly glad it happened.”