Top of the ninth, two on, one out. Adrian Gonzalez steps to the plate. Braves manager Bobby Cox summons ex-Padre Royce Ring, who promptly hangs a breaking ball. Gonzalez swats it high and deep down the right-field line. He, catcher Brian McCann, and plate umpire Wally Bell all watch as it sails into the Atlanta night… just foul for strike one.
Ring proceeds to fan Gonzalez. After a pitching change, Kevin Kouzmanoff lofts a harmless fly ball to center, into the waiting glove of another ex-Padre, Mark Kotsay. Game over. The Padres lose again.
That’s the season in a nutshell so far. The Padres play poorly, and then, when they get opportunity, it fizzles… or misses by a few feet, whatever.
I’m not prepared to give up on the season. Maybe it’s a reflection on how well the Padres have played since moving to Petco Park, or maybe it’s just my own stubbornness, but I refuse to believe that these next 129 games should serve merely as an audition for 2009. This seems too much like panic to me, and I don’t like making decisions based on fear.
That said, changes are needed. And from what I hear, they are a-comin’, possibly as early as this weekend. Some of these are already rumored to be in the works and have been discussed in the comments, but here are a few moves I’d like to see made to improve the Padres for this year and give them a better chance to compete right now:
- Use Colt Morton or find a backup catcher that Bud Black trusts and is willing to pencil into the lineup twice a week. Josh Bard‘s fumes are running on fumes, and his entire game is suffering for it. Bard is a solid big-league catcher, but you’d never know it from watching him the past few weeks. Black needs to get him more rest. Say what you will about Bruce Bochy’s in-game tactics, the guy knew how to utilize his bench. This would not have happened under Bochy’s watch.
- Offer Callix Crabbe back to the Brewers and get a real utility player. Crabbe is a second baseman with decent on-base skills masquerading as a jack-of-all-trades. He isn’t the second coming of Bip Roberts, and he isn’t a legitimate option at shortstop — the fact that he hadn’t played an inning at the position since 2003 in the Midwest League should have been a clue, but apparently not. Who takes Crabbe’s place? Oscar Robles? Oops, the Phillies claimed him off waivers. Luis Rodriguez? Oops, he’s on the disabled list. Sean Kazmar? Well, he can play shortstop but he’s hitting .179/.273/.253 at Double-A. I never thought I’d utter these words, but I actually kinda miss Geoff Blum.
- Release Jim Edmonds and try someone else in center. I don’t really care who — Scott Hairston, Jody Gerut, Chip Ambres, Will Venable if he’s healthy. Heck, even Drew Macias wouldn’t be terrible, which is more than can be said for Edmonds. Bringing in the veteran on the cheap was a nice idea, but this is less Mike Piazza/Greg Maddux and more David Wells (Second Edition). When the Padres picked up Edmonds I figured that his bat — with the possible exception of residual on-base skills — was done but that he might have value defensively in center field. Well, he doesn’t. So now the Padres are starting a no-glove, no-hit guy at a key position and batting him fifth. That’s an outstanding way to lose ballgames.
- Remove Justin Germano from the rotation. His smoke-and-mirrors act isn’t fooling anyone. The Padres have plenty of internal options to replace Germano. None is particularly exciting, but I’m prepared to accept “passable” right now. Clay Hensley has suffered a setback in his rehab and Mark Prior… well, who knows what he’s doing. On the big club, Wil Ledezma is pumping mid-90s octane from the left side in garbage time. How well will his success in meaningless situations translate to a starting role? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t mind finding out. Other possibilities include Josh Geer (a Germano clone, less the detailed scouting reports against him), Cesar Ramos (a lefty version of Geer), and Shawn “I Was Good in ’97″ Estes. So, yeah, let’s try Ledezma.
- Keep Joe Thatcher out of crucial situations until he figures out what he’s doing. Make him the long man or, better, send him back to Triple-A and bring up someone else from Portland — perhaps Dirk Hayhurst (3.48 ERA, 11.76 K/9, .213 BAA in 20.2 IP).
- Lose Glendon Rusch. I have no explanation for his continued presence on the roster. Honestly, I’d rather see his spot occupied by a position player. One of my few criticisms of Black as a manager is his insistence on carrying seven arms in the bullpen and concurrent refusal to trust more than four or five of them. If the guys at the back of the line can’t be relied upon to perform their duties, then they don’t belong in the big leagues.
I’m also wondering a bit about the coaching staff. The Padres’ baserunning has been atrocious this year. Some of this can be blamed on a general lack of speed, but even slow guys can run the bases intelligently. I don’t know who or what is at the root of the Pads’ recklessness on the bases, but if I’m third-base coach Glenn Hoffman, I’m not feeling real comfortable right about now.
Same goes for Wally Joyner. This team has a recent history of axing its hitting coaches, and both Dave Magadan and Merv Rettenmund were getting much more out of their charges when they were let go. The fact that Joyner and Kevin Towers were college teammates could complicate matters, but they’ve been in the business long enough to know how it works.
There are a bunch of trade rumors floating around as well, but it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, so we won’t go there. That and I’m out of breath. Stay tuned…