Cheering for Nordberg

I watched a replay of the ’98 NL West clincher Tuesday night on Channel 4. Mel Proctor and Rick Sutcliffe called the game (with Mark Grant handling the John Weisbarth “roving reporter” role), which made me realize how very dearly I will miss Matt Vasgersian this year.

The fun part of that game, of course, was that the Padres came back from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Dodgers, whose pitchers forgot how to throw strikes in the sixth inning. The cameras kept cutting to a visibly uncomfortable Glenn Hoffman, who managed the Dodgers at the time. The only thing missing was the voiceover: “Want to get away?”

It was strange to see guys like Ken Caminiti and Jim Leyritz before their lives fell to pieces. Those were happy times for Padres fans, but now it’s a little bittersweet in a Nordberg kind of way.

Meanwhile, at Wrigley Field that day, the Cubs and Brewers played a ridiculous game that featured, among other things, Sammy Sosa’s 60th home run of the season. Proctor and Sutcliffe went on at length about what Sosa and Mark McGwire were doing for the game of baseball. The Padres even planned to honor Sosa when the Cubs came to town later that week.

Was that really a decade ago? It’s funny, you don’t hear a lot of talk about honoring Sosa and McGwire these days… probably won’t for a while.

Back in San Diego, a few more items grabbed my attention:

  • Fresh off the disabled list, Mark Langston made his second career relief appearance in the seventh inning, retiring Matt Luke on a weak grounder to first baseman Wally Joyner. Proctor and Sutcliffe talked about how popular Langston was among his teammates, and speculated that his curve ball might prove effective against left-handed hitters in the postseason.

    It did, in spectacular fashion, when Langston struck out Tino Martinez with the bases loaded in Game 1 of the World Series to end a Yankees threat in the seventh and preserve a 5-5 tie. Home plate umpire Richie Garcia saw things differently, of course, and Martinez remained at-bat, eventually knocking a grand slam that put the game and series out of reach.

  • Trevor Hoffman entered the game in the ninth to AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.” Although we came to take that for granted over the years, at the time it was still new and Proctor actually explained what was happening. Then again, with Proctor, one could never be sure whether he explained things for our benefit or his own.

    Either way, the crowd of 60,823 was delirious. Hoffman put a couple runners on before fanning Luke (who had driven in five runs on the night) with a steady diet of change-ups to end the game. Once upon a time, Hoffman could get away with that approach against lefties. Actually, “get away” isn’t the right phrase; I think “dominate” paints a more accurate picture.

Good times, those…

* * *

Speaking of Hoffman, reader Schlom points us to Josh Kalk’s examination of the all-time saves leader’s repertoire. One of Josh’s conclusions is this:

If the ninth inning rolls around and there are several tough lefties due up it would probably be a better bet to have Brian Shouse (if resigned) or Mitch Stetter try for the save.

Given that Hoffman isn’t as effective against lefties as he used to be, I’m inclined to agree.

* * *

Finally, the Padres have signed second baseman Chris Burke [h/t Kevin] to a 1-year deal worth $650,000. Bravo. If you’re going to stick a guy who couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag at second, at least have the decency to get him cheap.

Burke will compete with Matt Antonelli and Travis Denker for the starting gig. My guess is that Burke will land the job, before eventually yielding to Antonelli and retiring from baseball to put the band back together.

The Padres also re-signed right-hander Mark Prior. Whatever.

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12 Responses »

  1. I don’t get the Burke signing… Are they trying to make a run at the NL West this year? If so, do they think Burke will lead them there? All Burke will do is take AB’s away from one of the Padres young 2B who is more likely to help in 2010.

    Unfortunately I think GY is correct in his assessment that Burke will “win” the job in ST and they will send Antonelli back to AAA so that his MLB clock won’t start and they can get another year of cheap service out of him…

    I guess this move would scare me a lot more if Bochy was still here.

    I do like the Prior deal…. If he pitches in the majors this year he gets $1mil and it’s something the fans can look forward to. If he blows out his arm again he gets paid like a AAA player — no harm, no foul.

  2. I was at that game in ’98. We had just decided randomly to hit that game, about a month before the game actually took place. I vividly remember sliding my Compadres card and the screen telling me that the Magic Number was now 1.

    It was utter pandemonium at the Q when they won that game. I still remember the players walking around the field after the game with bottles of champagne. That was truly a season that I will never forget.

  3. re: Burke … great signing … no way Antonelli should do anything but start the season at AAA … he needs to have some serious success at that level … and I think he will … and then he will contribute to the Padres … perhaps that’s not until 2010 … but it’s still my expectation …

    I saw a note in my local paper yesterday about the White Sox invitations to spring training … Bryan Myrow amongst them … I’ll be rooting for that guy … he’s a hitter.

  4. #1@Steve C: Me either. They already had Denker and Lrod to act as Antonelli cushions. Maybe they see Burke as a possible SS, but it’s hard to see him as more of a possible SS than LRod.

    And right over there in GY’s BallHype links there’s a story about the Padres pursuing Craig Counsell. Yes, the Craig Counsell whose high — HIGH, mind you — OPS+ since 2000 has been 89. His average OPS+ for that period is 73.

    Every year somebody brings up Langston and Martinez. 10+ years have not dulled the pain.

  5. I don’t think they signed Burke with the intention of starting him. Towers can’t be that foolish can he? I think it’s likely that he’s here to be the last guy on the bench and be the utility fielder as he’s played every position except catcher in the majors.

    I still think that they have to trade Kouzmanoff, most likely for a shortstop. Again, it doesn’t make any sense at all to play two third basemen everyday and try to fit Gerut, Hairston and Venable into centerfield.