Sunlight glimmers off the bay like sweat, like flashbulbs, a disco ball, coins from a slot machine, dice rolling, neon signs. Patterns of light moving impossibly fast, not moving at all. Stare long enough, it all becomes one. Time and meaning are lost, like the days themselves, swept out to sea.
The Padres had Monday off. That is, they did not lose.
[Just a heads-up: There are some "naughty" words a bit further into the article; as a courtesy to those who might be offended, I'll let you know before we get there. I prefer to keep things clean around here, but in this case, there was no way around it.]
Caught precious little of Tuesday night’s game — and the wrong parts. The Padres were up, 2-0, by the time I started driving home from work. Missed Adrian Gonzalez’s first-inning homer.
Later watched a couple innings. Saw the Cubs score their first run, then got distracted by life. Flipped back to see the Pads down, 6-2.
Chase Headley grounded into another double play. He’s gotten good at that. More in his first 31 games this season than in 91 games all of 2008.
Watched highlights. Milton Bradley’s home run — needed safety goggles and headphones for that one. And the way he just drops the bat at the plate. Used to burn me, but then I saw him do it for us and I fell in love.
I miss Bradley. He easily makes my list of 20 favorite Padres (in alphabetical order):
- Andy Ashby — For the first four months of ’98, the perpetual wad of chaw in his cheek, and the serious drawl
- Josh Barfield — For playing at Elsinore and the homer off Brian Fuentes in ’06
- Milton Bradley — For the dramatic home runs and yelling “I am that good!” at fans in Philly
- Ken Caminiti — For the on-field heroics and the painful reminder that ballplayers are human
- Steve Finley — For the glove, the walkoff grand slam off Felix Rodriguez in ’98, and that Tom Brady thing that makes even straight men swoon a little
- Adrian Gonzalez — Because nobody outside of San Diego appreciates how good he is
- Khalil Greene — For playing at Elsinore, the acrobatic fielding, and the way he carried himself on the playing field
- Tony Gwynn — For everything; he is one of two men alive that could make me drive cross country for a Hall of Fame induction
- Rickey Henderson — For the infectious smile and generally “Being Rickey”
- Trevor Hoffman — He’s the other guy who will get me out to Cooperstown; I’ve already started planning the trip — no freeways this time
- Wally Joyner — For the bat, the glove, and the class
- Mark Kotsay — For reminding me of Finley and helping purge the memory of Ruben Rivera
- Greg Maddux — For the precision and the ability to bust bats with an 84-mph fastball
- Akinori Otsuka — For Yossha!, the Corky’s commercials, and the most ineffectual yet hilarious swing I’ve ever seen from a batter that wasn’t a cartoon character
- Eric Owens — For the eyeblack and the straight steal of home off Cincinnati’s Brett Tomko
- Jake Peavy — Another guy who passed through Elsinore on his way to the big leagues; heck, he got a key to the city
- Oliver Perez — More Elsinore
- Mike Piazza — For the power, the handling of pitchers, the handling of the media
- Dave Roberts — For being a pest at the plate, playing hard, and being better than I thought he was
- Gene Tenace — For the ridiculous OBP and hitting two homers in the first big-league game I ever attended
* * *
[Okay, we're almost to the "naughty" words. If you think you might be offended, maybe try something a little safer.]
I still don’t understand the calls for Bud Black’s head. What did you expect from this team? Did you even glance at the roster?
Then again, change for the sake of change is always good. Look at the difference A.J. Hinch is making in Arizona.
* * *
Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I like to write a terzanelle:
Terzanelle Up Shit’s Creek
The offense sputters, pitching reeks
and we watch helpless as they flail
without a paddle up shit’s creek
Would it help if they’d set sail
with bigger guns and better tools?
Still, we watch helpless as they flail.
Why are we, as fans, such fools
to keep on cheering as they fall
with bigger guns and better tools?
In truth, we can’t resist the call.
Because the game is in our blood,
we keep on cheering as they fall.
The season may well be a dud,
but that’s no reason to lose hope.
Because the game is in our blood,
we somehow find a way to cope
when offense sputters, pitching reeks.
There is no reason to lose hope
without a paddle up shit’s creek.
* * *
Well. There’s something you don’t see every day. Let us hope not, anyway.
* * *
Vacation. Supposed to be cavorting around the southwest, hanging out at minor-league ballparks, seeing the sights. Vegas, Tucson, El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Carlsbad Caverns, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Grand Canyon.
Smitty’s condition changed our plans, so we’ll try again next spring. Meanwhile, I’ve got two weeks off from the day job, which I’m putting to good use.
I’m having arthroscopic surgery on the knee that has been giving me fits for the past several years. It’s an outpatient procedure, so I should be able to slap together an article for next week. Depending on how “effective” the meds are, it may be less coherent than usual. Or as some might say, “an improvement.”
* * *
The Padres’ free fall continues. They lost, 6-4, on Wednesday. Saw a few at-bats after work. Chris Young served up for homers. That is one way to shut down the running game.
More of the same on Thursday. This one ended up 11-3. Chad Gaudin and friends walked 10 Cubs batters.
On the bright side, the game wasn’t televised.
* * *
The Padres have issued 10 or more walks in a nine-inning contest 45 times in their history. They have won five of those, lost 40. The last time the Pads won such a game? June 29, 2000. Matt Clement — backed by homers from Phil Nevin, Wiki Gonzalez, and Ruben Rivera — beat Darren Dreifort at Dodger Stadium.
* * *
Shameless bit o’ self-promotion. My latest stuff on the tubes:
- Plate discipline: It’s that thing you don’t have (THT). If the pitch is in the next zip code and you swing at it, you might be a hacker. Ex-Padres Ivan Murrell, Luis Salazar, Carlos Baerga, and Rickey Henderson make appearances, as does former coach Rob Picciolo.
- Hype Is Awesome!!! (Baseball Prospectus Unfiltered). People who have never seen Stephen Strasburg pitch assure me he’s not that great. Who am I to argue with them?
- Shouldn’t a closer, you know, close? (THT). Searching for the Tony Cloninger of relievers. Ex-Padre Mark Davis gets a passing nod.
- Five Homers, Ten Walks, and a Loss (BDD). The Washington Nationals did something amazing on April 27. In a game at Philadelphia, they hit five homers and drew 10 walks… and lost.
- …and a Bucket of Balls (BDD). The Detroit Tigers acquired outfielder Jason Tyner from Milwaukee… for nothing.
- Crazy scoring streak (THT). The Oakland A’s once scored four runs or more in 17 straight games and won them all.
As a reminder, my Tuesday dealio at BDD is now at Baseball Prospectus. Thanks to those who left comments over there; nice to see some familiar names.
Also, if you do the Twitter thing, so do I. Yay. Follow me at twitter.com/ducksnorts if you’d like.
* * *
Roster shuffling. Edwin Moreno and Duaner Sanchez are gone, replaced by Greg Burke and Joe Thatcher. Having two players with the surname “Burke” on the roster seems cool until you discover that Burke is among the 250 most common surnames in the United States. Then you find yourself wishing for guys named Arizmendi, Bilderback, or Clingerman.
Not that they’d necessarily help, but at least we could talk about their names. That would kill a good five seconds of awkwardness.
* * *
Mrs. Ducksnorts calls from Vegas while I’m at the car dealer geting tires installed. She’s headed to the sports book, picking up odds sheets for me. In the background, her brother dares me to bet on the Padres.
“$20 to win the World Series?” she asks.
It’s my usual bet.
“Naw, I’ll just set the money on fire this year.”
“Sounds like fun.”
The car is ready. I pay up, then drive to Mission Bay, where I sit on a bench and stare at the water, wondering what the heck there is to say about the Padres at this point. They stink. How much more detail do you need?
* * *
The Padres win Friday night. Adrian homers in his fifth straight. Nice that the opposition is still pitching to him, although I can’t imagine why. The home run came on a full count. He struck out on the 2-2 pitch but it was ruled no swing. Yeah, he swung.
Kevin Correia gave up three earned runs, although there should be an asterisk by two of those. Brian Giles lost a ball in the lights with two out in the fifth. Hit him right in the glove, ruled a double.
Dogging Correia is fun sport, but he pitched well on Friday… Also, it’s weird to see the closer in the eighth. Cool, but weird.
* * *
These guys are still walking way too many batters. The Padres are 28th out of 30 MLB teams in BB/9. For an organization whose philosophy is “pitch to contact,” that isn’t good. Actually, it isn’t good regardless of philosophy.
The last time the Padres averaged 4 BB/9 or higher in a season was 2000. That was a dreadful staff, and yet, I find myself hoping someone can talk Carlos Almanzar and Matt Whiteside out of retirement. Here’s how the Padres have done since then (this is a modified and updated version of the table found on page 19 of the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual):
Lower numbers are good. You want to be in the negative differential.
Last year was the first time since the Padres moved downtown that their BB/9 crept above MLB average. This year, they’re back to ’03 levels.
* * *
Pining for the future? Evan Brunnell sends this:
We’re running a MLB mock draft at MVN Outsider, and Daniel Gettinger (Friar Forecast) just picked Dustin Ackley on behalf of the San Diego Padres. Thought I’d send along the link if you wanted to share it with your readers.
Eh, Ackley underwhelms. I’m hoping for Lars Tate’s kid.
Meanwhile, among players actually in the system, Jaff Decker is raking. He hit a blast 450 feet last week that has people talking.
Small sample, but the early returns on Decker are outstanding. In 318 professional plate appearances, he’s hitting .336/.509/.545. He’s 19 years old. Yeah, he might be something.
* * *
Up too early. Getting coffee started. Listening to Coltrane after second straight Padres win. Nick Hundley ended it with a homer to left off Micah Owings with two out in the 16th. Guess Hundley got tired of squatting.
The bullpen did an admirable job, working 10 1/3 scoreless. I still hate the 12-man staff. Watching Kevin Correia and Luis Perdomo bat in extra innings is not my idea of fun. Correia was in there as a pinch-hitter, a sure sign of roster fail.
Thank goodness the game ended when it did. I don’t know how much longer Perdomo could have gone. The Padres were out of position players and pitchers when Hundley hit his blast.
Mark Grant noted that recently acquired shortstop Josh Wilson pitched in a game last week for Arizona. Okay, then what? Eckstein to short, Hariston to second, Perdomo to left?
Coltrane yields to Nick Drake. Coffee is ready.
Five hours and change earlier, Brian Giles led off the bottom of the first with his second homer of the year. He drew three walks in the game, my favorite coming in the second inning. Giles fell behind in the count, 0-2, before spitting on some tough pitches from Edinson Volquez and coaxing the walk.
Volquez loves his changeup. It’s a good pitch, but damn.
I wonder if Adrian is feeling pressure to produce. In the fifth, on a 3-0 count, he chased a 79-mph changeup down and away off the plate. Then he fouled a high fastball straight back before waving at an even higher fastball for the strikeout.
Strange line of the night goes to Jody Gerut: 0-for-7 with 2 RBI. He also robbed Laynce Nix of a two-run homer in the second and made a diving catch of a sinking liner later in the contest.
Reds pitchers struggled with the strike zone, issuing 12 walks. They didn’t get much help from plate umpire Jim Joyce, who refused to call pitches at the knees strikes. Joyce and veteran reliever David Weathers exchanged words as Weathers walked off the mound after issuing a free pass to pinch-hitter Drew Macias with the bases loaded to tie the game.
In Joyce’s defense — and it’s a poor defense — he squeezed pitchers on both sides. If Joyce rings up Ramon Hernandez in the second, then Gerut doesn’t have to make a game-saving catch on Nix’s drive.
Josh Geer looked sharp through four, then started leaving pitches up in the zone, which has disastrous consequences for someone who works with a mid-80s fastball. Geer reminds me so much of Justin Germano it’s not even funny. Like Germano, he must be perfect to have even a chance to succeed. As one scout puts it, “He’s a middle reliever.”
My only gripe is that the Padres should have won the game sooner. They left 17 men on base. Left ‘em loaded in the ninth, 10th, and 14th. Left runners on second and third in the 15th — Scott Hairston popped to short on the first pitch he saw from Owings to end the inning. Both runners had reached via walk. Gee, Scott; anxious much?
* * *
Sat in Section 228 for Sunday’s game. Good to see things from a different perspective.
Jake Peavy on the mound. Needed to save the bullpen, so he did. Went the distance. Gave up one run on four hits. I will miss him when he is gone.
Kevin Kouzmanoff is finding his stroke. A day after drawing two walks, he knocked three hits, including a leadoff homer to right in the eighth. When Kouz starts driving the ball the other way, good things happen. Kinda like Phil Nevin.
In the fourth, Reds starter Bronson Arroyo walked the bases loaded for Adrian, who smoked a ball right at second baseman Brandon Phillips to end the threat. Curious strategy.
The Padres are batting .121/.162/.152 with the bases loaded this year. It’s only 37 plate appearances, but yuck.
* * *
Funny week. Get swept at Wrigley. Come home, sweep the Reds. On average, it was average… Like the guy whose left side is freezing and whose right side is at 100 degrees. On average, he’s at room temperature; it just doesn’t feel that way.