Do What You Cannot Do

The way it works with cover bands in this town is you play two nights — Friday and Saturday — from 9 p.m. to close. Three one-hour sets punctuated by 10-minute breaks, with a longer (80-minute) set to end the night.

Geoff and his guitar
Wait, are we playing Jimmy Buffet and then Slayer, or is it the other way around?

First set is oldies, mellow stuff, and anything we’re trying to work into the repertoire — Beatles, Eagles, Crowded House. Second set is classic rock. Third is upbeat music for dancing — Kool and the Gang, Commodores, Romantics, a little AC/DC to give a hint of things to come. Fourth set is for the headbangers. People stop in for one final drink on their way home from wherever they were. Judas Priest, Bush, White Stripes, Lit. Not all classic metal bands, but we play ‘em hard.

One Friday night I’m sick as hell. We’ve been wanting this gig for a long time, so I’m not about to bail. I’ve got a Gibson Les Paul (Studio, not Standard, thank goodness) strapped to my back for 4+ hours and I sing lead on about a dozen songs. I’m pounding water to keep my throat lubed. I take catnaps in my car between sets. My voice gives out toward the end of the third set, so we have to rearrange our fourth set to get rid of all my songs — no Green Day, no White Stripes, no Neil Young.

Details of that night are fuzzy, but I remember my bandmates telling me after the show that they’d never heard me play guitar like that before. Didn’t know I had it in me. I have no idea what I played, and how much of their praise was an attempt to keep me motivated for Saturday’s show, but I’m guessing that since most of my energy was focused on not passing out onstage, I didn’t concern myself so much with playing according to my capabilities. I kinda said “screw it” and let fly with whatever, hoping for the best.

One thing I do remember is going a little crazy during The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues.” There’s this long, drawn-out solo that starts with a bunch of fast Chuck Berry licks and then goes on for-friggin’-ever. At some point I get tired of playing single notes, so I start throwing down chords. This is the fourth set and we play it heavy, so I bust out the riff from Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” That got some looks, but it’s a great riff that works surpsingly well here. Plus it’s a lot easier than noodling around in pentatonic scale purgatory. The headbangers dig it because Metallica rules. My bandmates dig it because — dude, what the hell are you doing?

They didn’t know I had that in me. I’m not sure I did have it in me, but there it was.

I made it through the Saturday show, too. Then I crashed hard and slept for two days.

* * *

Cocteau Twins in my head. Cheap lamp to my left. A stack of books. This room is my life — messy, but with a certain logic.

The Padres beat the Mets in the opener at their new ballpark. I made it home just in time to see Heath Bell record the final two outs against his former team. Have you thanked the Mets lately for their generous gift of one outspoken but effective closer?

I love that Bell called out ESPN for covering three teams and ignoring the other 27. Everyone knew that already, but it’s cool to hear a big-league player acknowledge it. As I’ve said before, San Diego is not ESPN’s market. That’s not a complaint, it’s a fact. We have no use for each other. I would rather invest my time in “Millionaire Matchmaker” or “Cash Cab.” If I’m going to watch crap, it should be entertaining.

Jody Gerut hit the first ever home run at Citi Field. Didn’t care.

* * *

I missed the final two games of the series. Work, taxes, life. Sounds like one was fun, the other not so much.

Love that David Eckstein was yelling balk when Pedro Feliciano, well, balked in the winning run on Monday. Eric Owens. Dave Roberts. Eckstein. It’s a proud tradition of guys who don’t have all the riches in the world but who give what they can.

Chase Headley driving in three after two walks (one intentional) to Adrian Gonzalez on Thursday is solid. Make ‘em pay. Learn ‘em that this is not a one-man lineup.

* * *

Smitty is doing much better than expected. We still don’t have much time with him, but he isn’t going down without a fight. Two things I’ve learned from him: Never give up, and never feel sorry for yourself.

Thanks for the kind words. It means a lot.

* * *

Mission Bay before work. Down Clairemont Drive, past where the thrift shop used to be. Dogs walking. Ducks and seagulls in the shallow. Old people. The steady swoosh of I-5 behind me. Jets taking off from Lindbergh. Sunshine and a silhouette half-moon. Palm trees reflected against rippling water. Two men in a boat with fishing poles. What is there to catch here? Hepatitis?

Friday in Philly. Down 7-1 after four against Cole Hamels? No problem. The offense will keep the Padres in games this year. Anyone with even a rough understanding of park effects already knows this, which is to say that most folks get it wrong.

Headley and Scott Hairston are hitting everything. Luis Rodriguez is playing way over his head, which makes up for the disappearance of Brian Giles’ bat.

Pitchers should stop feeding Nick Hundley fastballs. As Hamels discovered, he can hit those a long way.

Headley nails Greg Dobbs at the plate to end the eighth and preserve an 8-7 lead. Nice defensive work by Headley, mere innings after kerryrobinsoning a fly ball off the bat of Raul Ibanez into a triple.

Jake Peavy needed 44 pitches to make it through the first inning of his last start. Chris Young needed 43. This puts a tremendous strain on a bullpen that isn’t oozing with talent even when fresh. My familiar refrain from seasons past still holds for Peavy and Young: More efficiency, please.

* * *

Balboa Park. Walked along El Prado across the bridge high over 163 to where the museums are. Popped into the San Diego Museum of Art to feed my developing obsession with Monet.

This team is crazy. Down 5-4 headed to the ninth, the Padres score four off Brad Lidge, who hadn’t blown a save since September 2007. Kevin Koumanoff deals the death blow, a three-run homer to left on a 2-0 fastball inner half.

I love Kouz. League-average third baseman, I know. Joe Crede with a shaved head, I know. But I love him.

Gerut leads off the inning with a double to right-center. Eckstein grounds to second, advancing the runner. Brian Giles grounds sharply to first, driving home Gerut to tie the score.

Then Lidge, who threw 32 pitches the night before (Padres loaded the bases with nobody out; didn’t score but made him work), walks Adrian on four pitches. Headley steps to the plate and falls behind, 0-2. He comes back to draw a walk, setting the stage for Kouz.

Lidge has thrown six straight balls. I’m screaming at the TV, “Dude, if it’s a fastball anywhere near the plate, whale on it.” It is, and he does. Mayhem ensues.

Shawn Hill struggled to work five innings. His two-seamer has nice late movement and he sells the changeup well. He isn’t exciting, but he could be late model Brian Lawrence.

Four innings again from the ‘pen. These starters have to work deeper into games. Duaner Sanchez, running on fumes, missed badly with location on a fastball to Chase Utley, who hammered the pitch into the right field seats to lead off the eighth. Changeup was supposed to be down but it arrived at the letters, middle in.

Cla Meredith came in to stop the bleeding. Got Jayson Werth to roll over on a first-pitch sinker, but the ball bounded just to the left of a diving Luis Rodriguez. Sac fly brought home the go-ahead run. Meredith made his pitch and got the grounder… Game of friggin’ inches.

Adrian pounded a two-run homer to center in the third. Off an 0-2 pitch from Brett Myers. No disrespect to Phillies hitters, but if Adrian gets to play in that park 80 times a year, he knocks 40-45 bombs easy. He hit the ball one handed. It probably reaches the warning track at Petco Park and dies there.

I was a little concerned when Bell entered the game. He’d worked each of the previous two nights and thrown a lot of pitches (18 on Thursday in New York, 29 on Friday). He retired the side in order on Saturday for his seventh save in as many opportunities, so it worked out okay. Still, Bell has thrown 67 pitches over the span of three consecutive days and I wonder if that will come back to haunt him at some point.

* * *

We take the dogs to Hospitality Point for a whiff of salt air. Breeze coming off the jetty. Boats. A few wispy clouds.

We come home in time to watch the crappy parts of Sunday’s game. Padres had a 4-0 lead through five, and Josh Geer pitched as well as he ever will, but the bullpen finally faltered.

Edward Mujica serves up a pinch-hit homer to Jimmy Rollins in the eighth. Cuts the lead to 4-3. With Bell unavailable, Edwin Moreno gets the call in the ninth. Due up for the Phillies: Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Matt Stairs. “There is no way we win this game,” I tell Mrs. Ducksnorts and hope I am wrong.

Reminds me of the World Baseball Classic in ’06, when that high-school kid from South Africa tried to save the game against Canada. A 17-year-old against guys like Jason Bay, Justin Morneau, and Stairs? Makes for a brilliant story if it happens, but the odds are beyond brutal.

Sure enough, Howard bloops a single to center. Ibanez crushes a homer to right. Game over.

I feel for Moreno. He isn’t a big-league pitcher. No amount of wishful thinking will transmogrify him into one. From the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual:

Moreno maintained his hit and strikeout numbers on advancing to Triple-A but saw his home run and walk rates explode. That’s not a good combination, especially for a guy that is older than most of his competition.

Moreno gave up 1.45 homers per 9 innings last year at Portland. He never had to face a lineup like the Phillies in the PCL.

It’s hard to be upset with Sunday’s loss. The Padres are 9-4 and have fought well against some of the league’s top teams over the first two weeks. Plus, a game at Citizens Bank Park featuring Geer, Mujica, and Moreno shouldn’t be as close as it was.

* * *

This team doesn’t quit. These guys never give up on themselves. They don’t know that they cannot do this. They have no appreciation of how much they are supposed to suck. They just go out and play, unburdened by expectation. This may not last, but right now it’s a beautiful thing.

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17 Responses »

  1. The Friday night show was like the Jordan flu game.

  2. It’s a beautiful thing, indeed … the Padres … and Ducksnorts … thanks, GY … live on!

  3. I’m going to guess “Welcome To Paradise,” “Fell In Love With A Girl,” and “Hey, Hey, My, My”?

    One thing this Padre team definitely has going for it: it might be full of “dumpster” acquisitions and retreads, but nobody on this roster is as bad a ballplayer as Kerry Robinson, thank God.

  4. #4@Nick W: Good guesses, but no. “When I Come Around,” “Seven Nation Army,” and “Rockin’ in the Free World.” We sometimes also played “Basket Case.”

  5. OT … is reporting this …

    Milwaukee’s Trevor Hoffman will pitch in his first game of the year when he takes the hill for the Nashville Sounds in Memphis.

  6. Another great piece.

    I’m still trying to figure out how Adrian Gonzalez barely scores from second base last night on a Kouz hit ball high off the right field wall that then kicks away from Randy Winn. BTW, If Moreno isn’t a big league pitcher than more than half of the staffs in the major leagues feature career (non major leaguers) minor leaguers at the back of their staffs. Moreno has some nice late movement on his pitches as well –he made a bad mistake to a great hitter in Ibanez but the previous hitter in the inning, Ryan Howard, hit a seeing eye Texas Leaguer to start the fateful ninth.

  7. But then again, as far as Edwin Moreno (after yet another bad outing)…I am probably thinking with my heart rather than my head as the minor league stats that you posit are brutal.

    It’s early, but Brian Giles looks as bad as I have seen him for any stretch as a Padre. He is pulling off of the ball quite a bit –you have to wonder if all the off season distractions have taken a toll.

  8. Nice to see Chad Gaudin getting in shape down at AAA Portland …

    5 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 7 Ks … yowza!

  9. Just have to say that these recent posts are, IMHO, your best writing ever. You just get better. The tone, the shifts, the slices of your days… it just works, GY. Has the texture of jazz improv. Anyway, thanks.

  10. #11@dprat: dprat, great to see you posting! I agree with you about these style of posts. This is the sort of narrative Geoff excels at. He certainly does excellent analytical posts, too, but this type of freely flowing and free association of ideas from all parts of his life, weaving baseball in and out, is often the writing of his I enjoy most.

  11. Hm, talk about a ridiculously small sample size, I noticed there were 4 HR’s hit yesterday at Petco, including what was said to be the longest ever by AG. We have discussed before the ball does seem to carry pretty well during the day, and yesterday was a Sunday day game. I wonder if we will see any difference in HR’s at night after the weather warms up later this season or if yesterday was simply an anomaly. I believe the construction around the park is pretty much finished so we should be seeing the sorts of conditions which will prevail going forward now rather than what may have existed in the first few years as buildings were still going up. Could be something to watch.

  12. Am I perverse in being excited by looking at the box score and seeing Kouzmanoff going 0-3 but drawing a BB?

  13. Hey, Mujica with 2 scroreless and 3 K’s! OTOH, is it just me or has Meredith absolutely stunk so far? A classic case of where things such as W-L and ERA can be misleading for a reliever.

  14. Awesome to see Dick Williams going into the Padres HOF! Too bad it wasn’t done long ago and seems to be sort of a knee jerk reaction to his recent enshrinement in the HOF at Cooperstown. Nonetheless, it’s a good thing and I’m glad he’s being recognized.

    Tirvia anyone? Name the other 7 people enshrined by the Padres.

  15. #8@Tex Padre: Thanks for the kind words. What a crazy play. Credit Aaron Rowand for backing up Winn and Adrian for being really, really slow.

    #11@dprat: Thank you, sir, and great to hear from you! I was reminded of last year’s road trip when I drove to Elsinore yesterday for the Storm game. We will have to do that again one day.

    #13@Pat: This is a great question and definitely something that bears tracking.