Reality: You’re Soaking in It

Where do I even begin? That this isn’t the way I’d wanted to see the season end seems so beyond doubt that it hardly bears mentioning, and yet I just mentioned it. Even though a thing is obvious, it still needs a voice.

I hate writing this. I hate thinking this. Honestly? I hate everything about this.

But you can’t go through life hating, right? Well, you can, but it’s probably not a good idea. Besides, it’s just baseball.

“Just baseball.” I hate that, too. Like that somehow negates it all, makes the experience less important, less real. Yeah, buddy, screw you.

Anyway. Now you see the problem. I can’t even get started. Do I whine about Monday night’s outcome (box score), or do I express gratitude at having witnessed a tremendous game that most teams didn’t have the right to play? Do I make excuses for Jake Peavy, Brady Clark, and Trevor Hoffman, or do I give the Rockies their props for outplaying our guys?

Yeah, I said it. They outplayed the Padres. Deal, yo.

Or maybe we can think about Milwaukee. Sure, let’s play “what-if” there instead. Why did Hoffman throw eight bazillion change-ups in a row? What if he shows Tony Gwynn Jr. a fastball? (What if Gwynn hits it?) Or perhaps we’ll go back further and pin the blame on Mike Winters for baiting Milton Bradley, Bradley for gobbling it up, and Bud Black for taking out his own guy in the process. Or we could…

Here’s what happens when you go down that road. Aside from the fact that you make yourself miserable, you’re not even being honest with yourself. Replace every “should have” throughout the course of a 163-game season with “could have” and see what happens. When you say “should,” you’re basically conceding that games don’t even need to be played. Yeah, probability and all that. Okay, fine; I get it. But on the field, none of that matters. The only legal tender currency is what actually happens — you may know it better as reality.

Painful? Sometimes, yes; sometimes, no. But it remains constant even as it constantly changes.

I’m not making sense again. Sorry, it’s been that kind of life.

Another approach would be to take pride in knowing that the Padres, despite missing two of their starting outfielders and getting negative contributions from the best starting pitcher and best reliever in franchise history, pushed an improbably hot Colorado team to the edge of a mile-high precipice. This one might work better a few months from now, when the throbbing is less intense.

How can we reflect at a time like this? How can we analyze and be philosophical? Why would we want to even if we could? Now that the season’s over, it’s not like there’s a sense of urgency. Grieve, mourn, vent. Whatever it takes. Then sort through the rubble over the winter and return in spring with maybe a more prominent chip on the collective shoulder.

We can’t play in the big game? But, but… well, then, do it already. Nobody gives us respect? Oh, but they do; they give us exactly as much respect as we have earned. Want more? Okay, play better. Until then, suck it up like everyone else and get back to work.

The Padres have completed their fourth straight winning season. That’s the first time in franchise history if you’re scoring at home. They’ve made the transition from lousy/mediocre to good. How do they get from there to great? I don’t know, and I’m not prepared to think about it just yet.

I do know that this organization is in better shape than ever and that the better it gets, the more I want. This is a credit to the folks who run the club but also a burden for them. Not that the Padres have anywhere near the same track record, but I’m beginning to understand why the Braves couldn’t sell out home playoff games in the ’90s. At some point, as obnoxious as it sounds, reaching the playoffs isn’t enough.

To say nothing of not reaching the playoffs…

* * *

Man, this post sucks. I keep writing because… well, I don’t know what else to do. Is it spring yet?

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234 Responses »

  1. 197, 198: My take isn’t specific to Hoffman and his success or lack thereof in given situations. I’m just saying that if closing were easy there would be a lot more guys having a lot more success doing it, whether they were pitching in game 1 of 162 or game 7 of the World Series. Regardless of the value of the save stat, there are few pitchers with anything near Hoffman’s success rate, right?

  2. 191, 194: I actually think Black did a pretty solid job with bullpen management, about as good as you can while still clinging to the closer in save situations for one inning usage. He showed good situational awareness, bringing in Meredith against righties when a ground ball was needed, Thatcher against lefties, Bell for the strikeout. I would have liked to have seen more Bell in say the sixth or seventh of a close game with runners on and less Bell in games with four run leads, but that’s just nitpicking. Black couldn’t really let guys other than Bell go multiple innings because all of them had significant weaknesses in situations like that (Meredith and Thatcher more likely to face opposite handed hitters, Brocail and Hoffman old, Cameron prone to wildness).

    Black also did a good job not overreacting based on small sample sizes by mostly keeping Cameron and Hampson’s leverages low despite early success that was in large part due to luck.

  3. 201: Converting back to my non-medieval name.

    There’s only going to be 30-odd “closers” a year, and those that do it well have the inside track on keeping their job. For every setup man who “failed,” often in a small sample, I’ll find a closer or two who came off the scrap heap and held the job for years.

    Hoffman’s real selling point is longevity. San Diego hasn’t had a failed closer in 14 seasons because nobody else got a shot at the title. I’m not devaluing what he’s accomplished. He’s been a great to very good to good reliever for a long, long time. But a lot of failed closers fail for reasons other than mental toughness. Sometimes they don’t get a fair trial. Sometimes they get hurt. Sometimes they age fast.

    As someone else wrote above, if people really think Hoffman’s mental toughness is what makes him successful, you have to explain why that toughness deserts him at very inconvenient times. And if those failures are just random bad luck, you have to add random good luck back into the equation for his successes.

  4. The problem with “using Trevor in different ways” is the fact that he is effective in the 9th, and only the 9th. The Padres tried to move a veteran guy who got by with little “stuff” out of the 9th inning to earlier innings, and it didn’t work. His name was Rod Beck. He was lights out in 2003, and terrible in 2004.

    Why? Because veteran pitchers know how to take hyped-up batters, who know the 9th is the team’s last chance to win, and are grinding their bat into sawdust and use their tension against them. That doesn’t work when the batters are more loose and relaxed, like… say in the 7th inning.

    And please don’t tell me the only difference between Trevor’s first half and second half this year was BA on balls in play. Come on, now. I know some of us love stats on this blog, but a ton of hits Trevor gave up were CRUSHED somewhere. He was missing with location, take a look at the game last night… indicative of the second half of the season, his pitches were up and out over the plate and got hammered. So…. sorry, it was not “bad luck” as one writer put it.

  5. 204: I agree with all of that. I’m just saying (1) there’s more to closing than good stuff (which Hoffman certainly has/had), and (2) it won’t be easy to replace him.

    The Padres may be in a great situation next year where Hoffman gets another 40 saves while Bell is used to get key outs in the 6th-8th and maybe eases into the closer role, too. How great would it be for Hoffman to have a good year next year and in some way pass Hell’s Bells over to Heath Bell for 2009 and beyond?

  6. 201: Well, in any given year, there are many who are quite successful as closers. Take Hoffman this year… saved 42 of 49. That’s not wuite at his career averages, but still pretty good. But of the 35 pitchers with 10 or more saves this year, 20 of them (57%) had save rates equal to or better than Hoffman’s 85.7%.

    Hoffman has been amazingly consistent, had several great seasons, was very good for a long time – that’s why he’s an HOF lock. But in any given year, you have many guys who just need the opportunity to succeed. This year that includes such “proven closers” as CJ Wilson, Capps, Gregg, Hennessy, Accardo, Corpas, Myers, and Soria. Eight guys – previous experience: 8 career saves. That’s combined!

    And given the opportunity, this year they converted 168 of 197 opportunities, or 85.3%.

    And this happens pretty much every year.

  7. I think it’s interesting that Jayson Stark over on named his LVP’s (least valuable players) for 2007, and two Padres are on the list:

    Michael Barrett & Marcus Giles

  8. Andrew Jones or Mike Cameron. Who is the better option ? Can they get either one for a decent price ? Neither deserves a fat deal but today you never know. With the expansive outfields of the West it is obvious that we always need a hawk in center.

  9. Cameron vs Jones is an easy question if you ask me. Jones is younger. Jones has had a better career.

    Given the choice I’d take Jones every single time no questions asked.

    Anyone else hear Alderson on 1090…very glad to hear that they realize the rotation wasn’t good in the 2nd half. They need to upgrade the 4th/5th spots in order to get better.

  10. Check this out… Wikipedia has a San Diego Sports Curse listing:

  11. 208: And I can’t argue with him, much as I’d like to dispute nearly everything that man writes.

    209: Jones is the better player, cost is unknown.

    210: It wasn’t a cohesive unit the last two months, it was Peavy, Maddux, and a loose collection of pitchers all traveling in the same direction. Like the Bluesmobile in the last five minutes of the movie.

    I’m glad he’s saying we need to do more than put a league-average pitcher in Petco and save the money for the draft…, midseason acquisitions…, next year’s much more fertile free agent class. We’ll see how able they are to do it. Tomko would be an upgrade over this year’s #5s, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him penciled in at 4 and something like an Estes brought in for the bottom spot. And that would just suck.

  12. We lost by a hair to the best team in the NL. If guys like Jimenez or Morales continue to develop than they will be a bitch to deal with for seasons to come.

  13. God I hope Tomko isn’t back.

  14. 205: In 2000, Rod Beck pitched for the Red Sox. He had a 3.10 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in a middle relief role. The fact that he performed poorly as a setup guy in 2004 after performing well as the Padres de facto closer probably had more to do with his personal demons and less with his innate ability to pitch setup.

    Trevor has never been in a long-term setup role, so we don’t know how he’d do in that situation. I’m sure he’d do fine after an adjustment period.

  15. 214: Me too.

    I havent looked too deeply into thier numbers but what about Freddy Garcia or Joel Pinero or Livan Hernandez?

  16. Wait, what did Sandy say about free agent classes?

  17. Wow, I just contributed to Wikipedia, mispellings and all, I have finally arrived. Hoffy is still a bum.

  18. 218 … give us a link!

  19. Re: 43

    This morning, McClellan’s documented good friend David Justice said on the largest sports station in southern california that when he talked to Tim later without a microphone around, Tim would admit that Holliday never touched home plate. That speaks to me, it truly does.

    As to the delay thing? Delay, alright. But watch his face. Watch a replay and watch his face. HE MAKES A DECISION. And that decision is to end the game despite what he saw.

    McClellan is and has been slow on ball and strike calls. But this was not that kind of call.

    No, he knew what he was doing. What I can’t answer and only he can is why.

    As to the legality of blocking the plate. Honestly, I’d have to look it up but I do believe you are correct. But I also know that I was never once called for obstruction or interference on a runner trying to score from third. And believe me, there were absolutely plenty of times I did it without the ball.

    Ya know, Barrett should be pissed. The call is made correctly and Holliday is out? Barrett gets baseball iimmortality as the opposite of Ray Fosse.

  20. Here’s comments from a friend of mine … non-Padre fan … huge baseball fan …

    * First of all, there was no replay that showed clearly that he did NOT touch the plate. You certainly can’t see him touch it, but every single angle shows enough dust or some other body part in the way such that one can not definitively say one way or the other. If MLB had NFL-style instant replay, where the officials in the booth could only overturn if the replays were conclusive, they would *not* have overturned the call. I don’t think he touched it, but that’s not enough.

    * The umpire, Tim McLelland, is famous for the delayed call. He does it on balls and strikes, and he does it on the bases. He has been doing it for 20 years. He is considered a very good umpire. I have no opinion on the matter. McLelland likely was going to call the runner out if Barrett had held on, and safe otherwise. When he saw the ball, that was it.

    * The Padres were aided immeasurably by a controversial call earlier in the game when the umpire ruled that a Rockie’s hit did not clear the barrier for a home run, instead awarding a double. Again, I don’t think the replays were conclusive, but this call was on par with the play in the 13th.

    * I don’t believe Barrett ever tagged him. He goes over to tag him, but just sort of gives up once he sees the safe sign. He never quite gets there.

    * Hoffman gave up four consecutive rockets in the 13th. If the ump had called Holliday out, he likely would have given up a rocket to the next batter, sad to say.

    Your mileage may vary, of course.

    … which I think are all fair/valid points of view (ie. I agree with them, in fact, I’m 100% that Atkins’ “double” went over the fence)

  21. Take this from a Dodger fan and Padre hater:

    You fans have much to like about last night. It was a great game. You had some great performances, like Hairston, Gonzalez and Bell. Peavey was rolling with the punches without his best stuff. He kept it close early so you could pass Colorado. You haven’t played the Rockies in awhile. My team played them eight times in the last two weeks and lost every game leading up to this tiebreaker game. They beat us when we played well and killed us when we played poorly. The lineup is unstoppable and the pitching is not half bad. For most of ’07, San Diego was good enough to win the division or at least the WC. But in the final month of the season, good enough wasn’t good enough.

    Agnostic on the Holliday plating. I think he scored. The record books are less ambivalent. So it goes.

  22. From the Denver Post:

    I’m also being quoted by a guy on the Albany Times-Union website. I love this! Gang, remind me to write with my heart more often, will ya?

  23. 223: Wow. That’s one angry idiot there.

  24. I have seen playoff statistics compared to regular season statistics before (they mean almost nothing — making a rash decision on Hoffman would be similar to trading Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds after a poor playoff performance.

    But I have never, ever seen the All-Star Game being lumped with playoff games. Wow.

    And I have never seen big games defined as one on national television.

    First, Hoffman isn’t clutch. Now he’s not telegenic.

  25. Also, Joe Sheehan is right in his comments about the mental makeup of relievers. Or the mental makeup of anyone else.

    To mention Donnie Moore, as one poster did, is especially egregious.

    Yes, Moore blew a big game as many reliever have.

    But he didn’t kill himself because of it.

    He had serious mental issues and serious family issues with his wife at the time. Moore was a troubled soul. That’s why he killed himself. I’m sure giving up the home run didn’t help him. But unfortunate events never help the mentally unstable.

    I know, someone will say all of that meant he shouldn’t have been a closer. Bullshit.

    Baseball isn’t about character. It’s about the ability to play baseball.

    Clutch play isn’t about character. It’s about luck and the ability to play baseball.

    And Jimmy Rollins shouldn’t win the MVP. Sure, he’s a leader and make a cool preseason prediction.

    But he didn’t have the best season, when it comes to the ability to play baseball.

  26. 223

    your responses on that website were hysterical. That’s good stuff

  27. Kevin…since I was the poster who put Donnie Moore’s name up, I feel like I should respond…He was included because his spectacular failure seemingly rendered him useless as a pitcher, which goes directly to the mental make-up of a closer…I did not mention his unfortunate demise, nor did I make any reference to his personal life…just putting him in there with guys like Brad Lidge, Byung-Hyun Kim. or Mitch Williams as an example of how difficult it is to handle the closing job. It requires more than stuff, but also the mental ability to come back from failure and still handle the last 3 outs.

  28. So we’ve got a handful of guys who, on anecdotal evidence, maybe lost the ability to “close” because of their mental makeup. Some of those pitchers lost the ability to pitch well, period, so it may have been the strain of pitching in the big leagues, rather than the strain of closing, that got to them. But most of the pitchers who lost the closing job were the same pitcher before and after, except there’s not an emotion-laden term like “blown save” to describe giving up 2 runs in the 7th inning. Actually the pitcher does get one, but nobody pays attention to it if he’s not the closer.

    On the other hand, we’ve got an epic list of players who come out of nowhere and succeed in the closer’s role, often for long periods. This mental magic doesn’t seem all that uncommon. If anything, it’s the weaker mentality that seems rare.

  29. Adding on to 230 with my right name…..

    Every single day during the season we see hitters have good games despite being 0-5 or 0-4 the night before, sometimes having struck out with the winning runs on. That happens, without exaggeration, every day of the season. Nobody claims that all those hitters have remarkable mental strength, at least not remarkable in terms of the general population of major league baseball players.

  30. Tim McCellen was on the Dan Patric show this morning (AM 570). He said he has seen the replay several times and he thinks that he got the call right because he has not seen a replay showing that he got it wrong.

    He also said that he delayed his call because he wanted to see if Barrett held onto the ball or not, and when he saw the ball rolling away he called Atkins safe.

    DP asked him if Barrett would have hung onto the ball then Atkins would have still been safe anyways because he touched the plate before Barrett applied the tag.

    I dont know when 1090 is going to start playing the DP show in the afternoon but you amy want to toon in to see i they are going to play it, I think the interview starts about an hour and 20 min into the show.

  31. Re: 232 Holliday not Adkins

  32. 224 … says it all, thanks for the link, Rich!

    I especially like the observation about Hawpe … he saw … he knew … they all know … it’s done … take a breath … aaahhh … let it go … fun stuff …