The Ride Is All We Have

Opening Day. An affirmation of spring, life, and all that is good in the world. Moments of perfection will carry us through difficult times. There is no other way.

Baseball is my pulse, my clock, my book of days. Seasons all run together. I was in high school discovering Roto, now I’m a month shy of 40. I don’t even remember blinking.

If you listen closely, you can hear Rick Sutcliffe asking Jake what he’s still doing here.

Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Randy Jones, and Ollie Brown threw out the ceremonial first pitches. Too many Dodgers fans here. Drunk woman and her boyfriend looking for a fight, find one. Escorted from the premises. Beer still in hand, she starts swearing at me like a sailor. I forget the first rule of engaging drunken jackasses, which is don’t do it.

I feel badly for her. Sucks to bring that much misery on yourself.

There was a game, too. We got our asses kicked, 4-1. Jake Peavy wasn’t at his best. Too much James Loney and Matt Kemp on the other side. The ball Kemp hit to center in the seventh… I thought the Pad Squad was shooting T-shirts into the stands.

Ned Colletti should trade Kemp for some crusty veteran with a glove. Get rid of Loney, too.

Padres had a chance in the sixth. Hiroki Kuroda gave up two-out singles to David Eckstein (10-pitch at-bat, thanks much) and Brian Giles. Then Adrian Gonzalez deposited Kuroda’s 2-0 pitch into the cheap seats down the right field line.

Foul ball, strike one.

Kemp robbed Jody Gerut of extra bases earlier in the inning. Kuroda could have been beaten this night, but he wasn’t.

* * *


After the game, Smitty had three seizures. Those of you who own a copy of the 2009 Annual will recognize Smitty as the dog sitting on top of our other dog’s head on the Dedication page. He’ll be 16 next month.

We drove to the ER. We sat in the car and cried. Smitty fell asleep on Mrs. Ducksnorts’ lap. Some Coldplay song on the radio. That shouldn’t be the last thing anyone hears, even if they can’t really hear.

We brought him back home instead. Mrs. D. watched over Smitty all night. Nobody slept.

* * *

A day after Tim Sullivan invoked the ’62 Mets (no love for the Cleveland Spiders?), Chris Young beat the Dodgers. So much for a perfect season.

Young dropped some sharp breaking balls. He also had Manny Ramirez swinging late at 88-90 mph fastballs, which you don’t see every day.

Edwin Moreno made his big-league debut in the seventh. Walked two batters before falling behind 3-1 to Manny and then retiring him on a popup to second to end the frame. Memo to Moreno: Don’t do that.

Nice at-bats from Nick Hundley. Drew two walks after falling behind in the count. Duaner Sanchez worked a perfect eighth. Cool goggles. We needed a setup man with goggles.

Mark Grant and Mark Neely called a good game. It’s different without Matty V., but Neely knows what he’s doing and plays well with Mud.

I’m liking Heath Bell as closer. He struck out the side, pumping 93-96 mph fastballs past Kemp, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Rafael Furcal. No disrespect to Trevor Hoffman — who was, is, and ever shall be Da Man — but it was awesome to see a guy just throw balls past hitters in the ninth.

* * *

Pads lost, 5-2. Crap pitching. Eight walks doesn’t get it done.

Former dishwasher Walter Silva looked okay. Average velocity, but his pitches have good downward movement. My favorite thing about him is that he isn’t Carlos Silva.

Edward Mujica gave up some cheap hits. Loney chopped one high off the plate. Orlando Hudson sliced a wedge shot off the glove of Kevin Kouzmanoff, who was in guarding against the bunt.

Manny’s double was legit. Crushed a ball in on his hands to deep right center. Dude is strong. He’s earned the right to wear pajamas on the field. Heck, give him a pipe, a harem, and a mansion already.

Leading off the ninth, Adrian tried to beat the infield shift (Casey Blake in the shortstop position, Furcal on the second base side of the bag) by dropping down a bunt. Hit it right back to Jonathan Broxton for the first out. Adrian tried the same thing a couple times the night before but fouled the pitches off. I don’t need to see that again from our best hitter.

Stupid baserunning. Scott Hairston turns too far around third on Tuesday, Gerut turns too far around first on Wednesday. Both kill innings. This team is not good enough to overcome stupidity.

* * *

Smitty went blind after the 2003 fires. Bumped into stuff for a day or two, then figured it out. He is relentless, unstoppable, happy beyond all reason. Makes me forget about wins and losses.

The moon is full and Smitty has a brain tumor. Doctor gives him three to six months. We will take what we get.

* * *

How sick do Dodgers fans feel after Thursday’s gift to the home team? Up 3-1 in the eighth, the LA bullpen coughs up three runs to the vaunted Padres offense. Then in the ninth, Hudson leads off with a triple. Ramirez, Andre Ethier, and Russell Martin can’t drive him home.

Hey, at least they left San Diego with a series split. And that sick feeling.

Four games into the season, the Padres are one game back of where they were in ’69. Clearly they will lose 111 games. Seriously, though, twenty-three walks allowed is too many.

* * *

Above .500? That isn’t in the script. Three in the first off Barry Zito. Strong work from Shawn Hill before he faltered in the sixth. Left with a 4-2 lead, bases loaded, nobody out.

Enter rookie Luke Gregerson. Double play, three-pitch (all sliders down and away) swinging strikeout of Aaron Rowand, please pay at the cash register… I want to buy Gregerson a lollipop and some Tonka trucks. Dude looks 12 years old.

Then comes the rain. Who ordered a 51-minute delay? Isn’t there a city ordinance against that sort of thing?

The eighth inning belongs to Scott Hairston. Top half he makes a running, leaping catch of a Bengie Molina drive that was at least a double, possibly a game-tying two run homer. Molina can’t believe it, and neither can I. Bottom half, Hairston blasts a three-run shot to dead center on a hanging Merkin Valdez breaking ball. Shades of September 2007.

More baserunning blunders. Luis Rodriguez thrown out trying to go first to third on a sac bunt. Out by a furlong. If the Padres insist on playing small ball (Eckstein laid down a bunt in the first inning of the opener; deja vu all over again), they should at least not suck at it.

Off-field, the Padres claimed another pitcher off waivers. Luis Perdomo is a Rule V guy so he has to stick with the big club all year — a la Jose Antonio Nunez in 2001. Drew Macias was shipped to Portland to make room for Perdomo.

On the bright side, the Pads are back at a 13-man staff. Good things happen to those who short themselves position players.

* * *

Perky young woman asks if we want a seat upgrade. Time share presentation? Sell my soul? I decline.

She assures me no money or other commitment is required, so I relent. We are now in Section 107. Ah, how the other half lives.

It’s Mexico Opening Day. Ex-Padres Vicente Romo and Sid Monge throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Romo I remember as brother of Enrique, setup man for Kent Tekulve on the 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates. Monge I remember as the man who served up Tony Gwynn’s first big-league hit.

Jake Peavy had trouble locating his secondary pitches early but soon got into a groove and worked with a refreshing efficiency that carried him into the ninth. His catcher, Henry Blanco, launched two homers to left. Move the fences back; this ballpark is a joke.

Both blasts came off changeups, prompting the Giants to update their scouting report. It now reads, “Don’t throw Blanco a changeup.”

Giants starter, lefty Jonathan Sanchez, was pumping 92-95 mph fastballs and hitting his spots. At one point, he’d thrown 20 of 25 pitches for strikes. Then he remembered that he has control problems and went 33 balls and 34 strikes the rest of the way.

Chase Headley hit a bomb to dead center in the sixth. Seriously, move the fences back already. It’s embarrassing.

Adrian Gonzalez, who received his Gold Glove Award before the game, dealt the death blow in the fifth. After striking out and grounding into a double play in his first two at-bats against Sanchez, he rapped a bases-clearing double to right-center that sent the Giants starter to the showers.

Giles made a diving, tumbling catch of an Aaron Rowand drive to lead off the eighth. Ended up in the back of the visitors bullpen. Dirt everywhere. Dude does nothing half-assed. He is full donkey all the way.

Back at home, Smitty is walking in circles. TiVo has taken the initiative and recorded Alfred Hitchock’s The 39 Steps, thinking I might like to see it. I might, and I do, and it is good.

* * *

Ladies and gentlemen, your first place Padres. Have to say that while I can.

What a rude treatment of Tim Lincecum. Cy Young Award winners aren’t supposed to get cuffed around by teams that can’t hit.

I love watching Kouzmanoff hit. So quick to the ball.

Another early sac bunt from Eckstein. Third inning this time. Assuming the guys ahead of him get on base, he’s going to lead the league in that category.

* * *

While all that was happening, we trekked up to Elsinore with a friend for the Storm game. Small Easter crowd, like the time Wally Backman launched F-bombs at Lancaster.

Front row, behind the plate. Ten bucks each.

Storm took on the Visalia Rawhide. I would make fun of their team name, but they completed a four-game sweep of the home team on Sunday, so levity hardly seems appropriate.

Seriously, though. The Rawhide?

Logan Forsythe didn’t play. Neither did Jeremy McBryde, the scheduled starter. Chris Wilkes, all of 19 years old, got the call instead. Got smacked around a little, which is what you’d expect from a kid that age making his full-season debut. Kept the Storm in the game, though.

Yefri Carvajal served up an outside pitch into right for a base hit early in the game. Struck out swinging at a pitch way down and way away late. Let a ground ball roll through his legs in left somewhere in the middle. He was consistent in his inconsistency.

Felix Carrasco is a big-bodied switch hitter who hasn’t had much success from the right side. Hit .149/.264/.277 against southpaws in ’08 at Fort Wayne. On Sunday, he rolled into double plays his first two times up, both against a lefty. Then he singled and walked against right-handers.

J.T. Snow eventually abandoned switch hitting because he sucked from the right side. Just sayin’.

After the game we dropped our friend off at his place in Encinitas and cruised back along the coast. Past Swami’s, the train station, people coming back from surfing, going out to dinner, walking their dogs, whatever.

Sunlight glimmered off the ocean water as waves rolled in and swept the beaches. The smell of sea and grilled meats. Clean. Perfect. Whole.

We come home to old dogs. My knee hurts like hell and taxes aren’t finished. Smitty is dying, the ocean never yields.

If I could surf, I would know how to keep my balance when things get rough. I could stand again when I fall and prepare for the next wave.

Enjoy the ride. It is all any of us has.

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30 Responses »

  1. Good post GY.

    Sorry to hear about Smitty.

  2. Maybe it’s the new hitting coach. Maybe it’s extended opening day adrenaline. Maybe this odd assortment of rejected and refurbished spare parts actually works (yeah, what’s the over/under on that?). Small sample, true, but this team has somehow found a way to win. I’m upping my preseason prediction to 76 wins.

    Sorry about your puppy. They never understand why you’re sad.

  3. THIS is why I check every day!

    It’s been a beautiful week of baseball … and life is going on ALL around it … welcome to spring … heading towards summer … LET’S GO!

    ‘cept for the Storm (who are short a few keys players with injuries), the Farm Boyz are kickin’ butt … check in to see how they did “yesterday” here:

  4. Thanks for the pointer to the Hairston catch … it’s up @ …

    … “What in the Willie Mays is goin’ on out there???” :-) :-) :-)

  5. #3@LynchMob: Seconded. The last two posts bring home how lucky we are to have Ducksnorts, in whatever form GY chooses to produce it.

    After 7 games the Padres have not yet induced the kind of head-in-a-vise mental pain that last year’s model was so likely to cause. Maybe it’s from watching the games at FF3 on my DVR until something interesting happens, but even the mistakes have seemed more tolerable.

    Does Blanco see another changeup all year? Thanks for the bat speed, Mickey!

  6. I usually agree with Joe Sheehan @ BP … sure do today …

    The Padres have 13 pitchers on their roster, which is just ridiculous. How they got there, however, is just as crazy. Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Heath Bell, and Cla Meredith have been with the team for a while. Edwin Moreno is a 28-year-old reliever who has been in the pros since 2000, and in the organization since 2007, after a stint in the Mexican League.

    Of the other eight pitchers currently listed on the Padres’ 25-man roster, none was in the organization last Thanksgiving, and six were acquired in the past four weeks. Read that again: half of the Padres’ pitching staff was working for someone else a month ago. That’s one reason, a big one, why I had them going 60-102 this season. It’s one thing to dumpster-dive for talent. It’s another to build a big chunk of your pitching staff with rejects from the Nationals (Shawn Hill), Giants (Kevin Correia, Luis Perdomo), and salvage cases from the Mexican League (Moreno, Walter Silva).

    I can’t think of a parallel for this. There have been teams who put together some awfully unimpressive pitching staffs, but that usually involved promoting unready or unworthy talent from within. I can’t remember a team importing seven guys in seven weeks, and honestly, it makes me wonder just how little talent the Padres have on hand that they can make spots available on the 40-man roster for the likes of Eulogio de la Cruz, Luke Gregerson, and Edward Mujica.

    It’s a great front office, a beautiful ballpark, and a terrific city. All three will witness a massive rebuilding project over the next few years. There may be no team in baseball with more on the line in this June’s draft than the Padres.

  7. Padres to the WS!!!

    Forget how starved we are for hitting and how spoiled we are for decent to good pitching. And really, did somebody actually steal a base. Holy cow!

  8. I love it when I get the opportunity to read a passage that seamlessly blends baseball reporting, the essence of the game, and real life.

    Sorry to hear about Smitty. Just try to remember that Smitty wouldn’t want you walking around feeling hurt and depressed on his account… you know, if he could tell you that.

  9. Sorry to hear about Smitty. Lost an old friend of my own just before I moved out of SD. She had been my best friend since 92. I miss her head butting my leg to get attention.

    How about our boys? Didn’t they get the memo that they suck? 6-2 now. Do I expect them to pull a worst to first? nah. But I’m gonna enjoy the ride. I predicted 70-75 wins (wanted to leave myself some room for error, I guess) and caught a lot of flack for being an optimist. Hey, I always have been. Sooner or later, I’m gonna be right about it.

    KT has once again managed to cobble together a decent bullpen out of thin air. Sure, they won’t finish with this ERA. But they are better than advertised.

    Let’s have fun watching our first place Padres while we can. Every day we lead the Dodgers, they get more email about trading prospects. *grin*

  10. Wow…great stuff, Geoff. It almost makes me feel better about this once-a-week thing ;)

  11. Is it obvious to you that Silva is not a major league pitcher? It is me … not that they have anyone better to replace him with … just that his spot in the rotation seems to be the top priority for KT right now …

  12. #11@LynchMob: Yes. He’s gotten away with a lot pitching in two really big parks, and still managed the 6.79 ERA and nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts. But more importantly, he just wasn’t very good in the Mexican League for a lot more innings.

    Gaudin will get stretched out and hopefully take his spot.

  13. OK, I’m just wondering who abducted my Padres and replaced them with major league ballplayers.

  14. Nice post Geoff. Excellent summary of a very nice week for the Pads. I think I got more pleasure from them this week than I expected all season. All gravy now.

    The only thing that caught my eye was your love of KK’s hitting. I am hoping for a hot start from hiim that creates something valuable in return. I hope I am proved wrong, again, but I am starting to give up on him. Of course, he is doing a lot better than Barfield.

  15. Great post Geoff–really nice job. My wife and I send our sympathy re: Smitty as well.

    11: I don’t know…Silva looked OK until Buddy left him in one hitter too long yesterday against the Mets. I’m not saying that he is a ML pitcher, just that I’m not positive that he isn’t yet.

    Our bullpen is going to be better than anticipated.

  16. Before I read this post Monday morning, I was swirling in pre-work week blah. I swung by Ducksnorts – “just in case” there was a new post. Yes there was.

    After consuming your lyrics, I finished my coffee. While walking upstairs my daughter passed me. I stopped her and said “It’s a damn beautiful day!!! — Let’s go get it!!”. It was.

    Thru words a mood was changed.

    So yeah it sucks there are no IGD’s but oh fricking well.

    The games have been great.

    It’s impossible to understand everything. Ducksnorts makes my day a tad better though.

  17. Thanks, all, for the kinds words. Smitty is a tough hombre. We still don’t have much time with him but he’s doing better than we’d expected.

    On another note, I finally posted pix from the Storm game:


  18. 17 … thanks for the pics! Ain’t it fun to get good seats behind home plate!!! wish I was there …

    DePo with his recap of the 1st week … … a bit vanilla, but sometimes I like vanilla …

    Down on the farm, I’m bum’d that we’ve yet to see Decker, Antonelli, Latos and Kulbacki due to injuries …

  19. #18@LynchMob: Ah, I didn’t read the “comments” on DePo’s blog … and he answered several questions … including about the injuries … to which he said …

    Antonelli seems to be coming along and is close to returning to game activity in extended spring training.

    Jaff Decker, Kellen Kulbacki, and Lance Zawadzki all played in the extended spring training game today, so hopefully it won’t be long before they report to their respective full season clubs.

    … hmmm, no word on Latos … hmmm …

  20. I’m a fan of the Friar John blog … and like this comment from Monday’s game …

    FJ’s tip of the cap today is to rookie right-hander Edwin Moreno, who pitched the sixth and seventh innings and did not allow a run. The Mets had charged back from a 5-1 deficit to tie the game in the fifth. Even after the Padres scored on a balk in the top of the sixth, the Mets appeared to have momentum.

    Moreno stopped them cold, however, allowing manager Bud Black to call on Sanchez and Bell late. Moreno is quite a story. You never saw his name on any Padres top prospects lists, but he quietly went about working on his craft and rising the ranks in the minor leagues.

    Moreno, 28, reaches the low 90s with his fastball and developed a pretty good change-up during his nine-year minor league apprenticeship. It’s his hard breaking ball — either a slider or cutter, depending on your perspective — that has helped him become a Major Leaguer.

    FJ remembers driving out to Peoria about a week after games started and listening to catcher Nick Hundley interviewed on XX Sports Radio. Hundley was asked which pitcher seemed the most improved, and he pegged Moreno. Might be a scout in the making there. Nice call, Nick.

  21. Heath Bell getting some well deserved kudos on the blog-o-sphere …

    Some pretty funny comments also …

  22. Our AAA boyz finally break out the whuppin’ sticks … 13 hits, 6 for extra bases …

    2B: Macias (1, Lansford),
    Venable (2, Marshall).
    HR: Ciofrone (1, 3rd inning off Webb, 0 on, 1 out),
    Venable (1, 3rd inning off Webb, 0 on, 1 out),
    Huffman, C (2, 6th inning off Marshall, 0 on, 1 out), Macias (1, 8th inning off Carson, 2 on, 2 out).

  23. #11@LynchMob: And I gotta think that #2 on KT’s “To Do” list is find another catcher … Nick Hundley’s just not ready …

    I’m looking forward to Jake putting on a good show tonight for the NY folks!

  24. This doesn’t comply with the comments policy (adding something to the conversation), but it brings a tear to my eye to read Geoff writing about the Padres playing baseball.

    Thanks Geoff.

  25. FJ with a fun recap of yesterday’s 6-5 win over Mets …

    Focus’d on this comment from Jake …

    “This is the most gratifying win I’ve ever been a part of,” Peavy said.


    ps. FJ also points this out …

    Bell reached five saves in a season more quickly than any Padres pitcher ever. By doing it in 10 team games, he reached five saves one game sooner than the previous mark.

    … I guess that’s what “moving on” looks like … well done, Heath!

  26. What a fun 10 games. We actually look, most of the time, like we know what we’re doing. “Break up the Pads!”

    GY, I probably feel worse for you and Mrs. DS than for Smitty. Tough to lose anyone, but, DS’ best friend is brutal.

  27. A very good Q&A from DePo today …

    Question #1 = why do the Padres have 13 pitchers?

  28. I hope the Pads have helped cheer you up this week. Thanks for the posts, they are great reads. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that these first couple weeks are a sign of things to come. The boys are starting to make me believe. Tell Smitty we are all on his side.

  29. I’m still concerned about the #3,4 starters. Perhaps, Prior could help there. If I had to pick one, I’d say the Padres’ key offseason acquistion was David Eckstein (sorry, basement dwellers).

    Sorry to hear about Smitty. I have nightmares about my dog getting hurt/dying like once a week (prob. because it sleeps with me).