Also, belated welcome to all the folks at Gaslamp Ball who came over and hung with us while GLB was unavailable. Good to see so many familiar names as I browsed through the IGD.
The national story will be that Trevor Hoffman blew a save. Hooray for the media. Here are some other stories that won’t get as much play:
- Brian Giles struck out chasing ball four in the third. Paul McAnulty followed with a walk that would have loaded the bases. Adrian Gonzalez then grounded into a double play that ended the inning.
- With runners at the corners and one out in the fifth, Gonzalez killed another rally with an inning-ending double play.
- Earlier, Josh Bard led off the same inning with a single to left that anyone but he or Gonzalez would have turned into an easy double (which of these guys, incidentally, gets the nickname “Piano Man”?). Bard was thrown out. The Padres proceeded to hit three straight singles and only scored one run. In the third and the fifth, San Diego had golden opportunities to put the proverbial screws to Matt Cain and it just never happened.
- Scott Hairston flirted with a homer in the bottom of the eighth. Next inning, Jim Edmonds flirted with one of his own that would have won the game.
The main problem with Hoffman isn’t that he’s blown a couple of saves, it’s that whoever is closing games for the Padres needs to be absolutely perfect. That’s a lot to ask of anyone, let alone a guy who clearly is in the decline phase of his career.
So, now we’re left with questions. Some of these I find more compelling than others:
- Is it time to replace Hoffman as closer?
Boring question, in my mind, because the answer is “yes” or “no”; at this point, it’s a political debate between those who would cite a few weeks worth of data and those who would counter with several years worth of data. It’s a worthy discussion, just not one that interests me much at this stage.
- If it’s time to make a move, then who takes over for Hoffman?
This is a slightly better question, but it’s still not real interesting. The only viable in-house option is Heath Bell, and right now he’s looking more like Scott Linebrink version 2006 than Linebrink version 2005. If Bell can’t answer the, um, bell, then you have to start looking outside the organization. And if this team is as bad as people keep telling me it is, then how much should the front office give up to get someone who can finish games? I hear, based on 22 games, that the Padres are a second-division club. Well, who cares who the closer is for second-division clubs? I don’t agree with this assessment of the Padres, but really, if they suck as bad as folks seem to think, then stick Wil Ledezma out there. At least he’ll be entertaining. People complain that this team is boring. I guarantee you, Ledezma in the ninth would liven things up a bit. (This line of thinking was inspired by reader Lance, who somewhat jokingly suggested Glendon Rusch. Or was it a monkey on roller skates?)
- If Hoffman can’t close, what can he do?
Okay, here’s the fun one. If Hoffman can’t close, he’s essentially useless. The Padres employed three key setup men in 2007: Bell, Cla Meredith, and Doug Brocail. The least-used of those, Brocail, worked 76 2/3 innings. The last time Hoffman worked that many innings, Bill Clinton was just starting his second term as 42nd president of the United States. So Hoffman isn’t a setup man. Long relief? The word “long” implies an ability to pitch more than one inning at a time. So much for that. Mopup? Beyond the issue of whether it’s reasonable to pay a guy top dollar to work primarily in meaningless situations, there’s the matter of Hoffman’s history with the club and community. I don’t know that there’s a way to turn him into a mopup man without causing — well, let’s just say that if you think the Padres have some PR issues now, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. And this leads us to the only viable alternative: Force Hoffman to retire and pay him like he’s still closing. It’s not the best use of a mid-market team’s money, but at the very least, nobody will accuse the Padres of being cheap.
I’m still not prepared to give up on Hoffman or this team, although I seem to be in a dwindling minority these days. The Padres are 9-13, which is one game better than they were at the same point in 2006, when they won 88 games.
I maintain that we are witnessing an 85-win team that currently is playing like crap. You will tell me I’m wrong, and I look forward to hearing the basis for your conclusion.