Is Life Ever Good Enough?

I use baseball to mark the passage of time. The memory of specific events helps keep me grounded in a world that often makes less sense than I’d like it to make (forgive the fact that I grew up rooting for the Dodgers):

  • 1981 — Fernandomania; Rick Monday’s homer off Steve Rogers in Montreal
  • 1988 — Kirk Gibson and Dennis Eckersley (actually, I remember taking a girl named Cindy to dinner in Old Town instead of watching the game)
  • 1996 — Steve Finley and Felix Rodriguez; Ken Caminiti’s “Snickers game” in Monterrey; sweep of the Dodgers in LA to win the NL West
  • 1998 — Steve Finley and Felix Rodriguez [so much for memory; thanks to reader Jake for the catch]; Kevin Brown and Greg Vaughn in the regular season; Sterling Hitchcock and Jim Leyritz in the playoffs
  • 2007 — Trevor Hoffman, Tony Gwynn Jr., and Matt Holiday; late-season heroics of Milton Bradley and Scott Hairston; drive to Cooperstown for Tony Gwynn Sr.’s induction into the Hall of Fame

I could continue, but the point is that these represent stops along the way to wherever I’m headed. I record them in my mind and on paper to the best of my ability so I can recall them again later and share memories with others. Like sending postcards to my future self and anyone else who might care to receive them.

This season is different. I’m enjoying the games — well, sort of — because that is what I do. But if you ask me 10 years from now what I remember about 2009, I will tell you this:

  • My knee failed
  • My dog died
  • My team sucked

It all becomes one jumbled mess that roughly translates as, “Isn’t there anything better than this?” And of course, there is; it’s just difficult to appreciate or even recognize it at the time. The flip side is that without such experiences, maybe life is never good enough.

* * *

I returned to the day job and started physical therapy on Tuesday, the combination of which kicked my ass from here to Lake Elsinore. Stopped for Chinese on the way home from therapy. Ate dinner and tried to watch the game. Made it through the first three innings — right to when Kevin Correia served up a meatball to Franklin Gutierrez, who launched it into a ridiculous spot well beyond the fence in left-center.

Went to bed after that. Yeah, around 8 p.m. — what can I say, I’m a party animal. Woke up briefly to see the Mariners score three in the ninth, then fell asleep again.

* * *

The U-T’s Chris Jenkins loves Gwynn’s presence on the team. There’s a cute little chart showing how putrid (.248/.300/.298) Gwynn was before he came to the Padres and how great (.333/.432/.464) he has been in his first 21 games in San Diego.

It’s cool to see a hometown kid jump-start his career with the local nine. Reminds me of when Marcus Giles came here in 2007 and hit .322/.365/.471 in his first 21 games. That was awesome.

* * *

Chris Young has joined Jake Peavy on the disabled list. Inflamed right shoulder. I’d wondered during his last start whether something might not be right with Young.

On the one hand, I never like to see a guy get hurt. On the other, if this explains his ineffectiveness, then maybe time to recover is what he needs.

As I age and put more wear and tear on the body, I find myself becoming increasingly sympathetic to professional athletes. They endure tremendous physical (and mental) stress for the sake of earning an admittedly handsome paycheck. Even if I had the talent and desire, I’m not sure that’s a tradeoff I could bring myself to make.

When I hear people refer to a particular procedure as “routine,” I wonder if they maintain that opinion when confronted with surgery on their own body (or that of a loved one). Surgery is difficult. Rehab is difficult. Anyone who claims otherwise is full of crap.

Gee, Geoff, bitter much?

Okay, fine. Here’s my fortune cookie:

Remember to share good fortune as well as bad with your friends.

Good advice. The kung pao shrimp was delicious.

* * *

Luke Gregerson to the disabled list. Strained right shoulder. I suspected that the Padres might be working him too hard but never studied the issue. Maybe they were, maybe not. Pitchers get hurt.

* * *

The Padres signed Brian Lawrence to a minor-league contract. When I think of Lawrence, I remember being laughed at by strangers at an Arizona Fall League game when Mrs. Ducksnorts phoned with the news and I repeated incredulously to anyone within earshot that he had been traded to the Washington Nationals straight up for Vinny Castilla (or as we now like to say, “Nothing from nothing leaves nothing“).

I hope Lawrence pitches for the big club. Then we can take a break from the current crappy season and reminisce about past crappy seasons, like 2001, when Lawrence led the Padres with 12 wins. Find Brett Tomko, Brian Tollberg, and at least one Bobby Jones, and we could totally put the band back together.

* * *

I’m wearing shoes for the first time in a month. Relearning how to walk. One foot in front of the other. It’s harder than it looks.

* * *

The Padres lost again on Wednesday. The good Chad Gaudin showed up for three innings — threw hard, with movement; missed bats — before imploding in the fourth.

The bullpen kept the game close, but offensive help never arrived. The best opportunity came in the eighth, when Kouzmanoff grounded to third with the bases loaded to end the threat without a score.

In the fourth, Chase Headley crushed a Garrett Olson pitch into the upper deck of the Western Metal building. First home run of the year batting right handed. I’d forgotten he could do that.

Headley and Kouz have eerily similar numbers so far in 2009:

Headley and Kouz, 2009
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are through games of June 21, 2009.
Headley 239 .228 .305 .358 84
Kouzmanoff 269 .238 .283 .393 86

Their career lines aren’t very different either:

Headley and Kouz, Career
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are through games of June 21, 2009.
Headley .252 .325 .393 97
Kouzmanoff .259 .306 .433 99

The Padres would do well to trade one of them, preferably the one that is two years older and arbitration eligible after the season. I love Kouz, but I’m convinced that the only way Headley realizes his potential is by returning to his natural position. Then he can focus more on hitting and less on trying not to hurt anyone in the outfield.

* * *

Listened to the Beavers and Tacoma Rainiers on radio. Lawrence pitched a gem — 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 3 S0 — in his Beavers debut. Tacoma announcer Mike Curto noted that Lawrence’s fastball ran mid-80s with movement. Curto also sang the praises of the rehabbing Everth Cabrera, calling him (I’m going from memory here) “far and away the best defensive shortstop we’ve seen in the PCL this year.”

* * *

The Padres finally won a game. Took 10 innings and the Mariners pitching to Adrian. Fittingly, the game wasn’t televised.

Josh Geer surrendered two solo homers in six innings. He’s allowed 16 in 64 2/3 innings this year. Daniel at Friar Forecast declares that Geer “is not good,” to which I add that the sun rises in the east and the pope is Catholic.

Adrian went 4-for-4 with a homer and a walk. Scored the winning run. Kudos to Seattle for pitching to him, even though it was a stupid thing to do.

* * *

The buzz surrounding Kyle Blanks’ recall from Portland isn’t as deafening as was Headley’s around the same time last year, but it has attracted attention. I love watching people see him play for the first time. It’s always a two-step process:

  1. Holy crap, that dude is huge; no way he can play the outfield
  2. Hey, he moves around pretty good; maybe he can

You can’t get to that second step without passing through the first. I don’t know why; it’s just one of those mysteries of life, like how some people think Dane Cook is funny.

* * *

Wade LeBlanc struggled with command in his 2009 debut. Left with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth. His replacement, Josh Banks, tossed three scoreless innings.

After Mike Adams preserved the Padres’ 5-3 lead through the seventh, Edward Mujica endured a rare bad outing. Got the first two outs in the eighth and then coughed up three runs. The A’s added another against Joe Thatcher in the ninth to make the score 7-5.

Second base umpire Brian Knight had a tough night. In the top of the sixth, with Orlando Cabrera at the plate, Matt Holliday was caught stealing to end the inning. Knight didn’t see it that way and Holliday, who has a knack for being ruled safe against the Padres when he isn’t, was awarded second base. Holliday was stranded when Cabrera flied to center on the 15th pitch of his 10-minute at-bat. Cabrera later drove home the game-winning run and credited the marathon battle against Banks with helping him to find his comfort zone at the plate. So, thanks for that, Brian Knight.

In the bottom of the sixth, Everth Cabrera and Gwynn reached base to start the frame. Then David Eckstein tapped a weak grounder toward second. Adam Kennedy made a diving back-handed stop and flipped wildly to Orlando Cabrera covering second. Gwynn jumped to avoid Kennedy, who was sprawled out across the basepath. Gwynn’s leap caused him to land a few feet beyond the bag. Cabrera retrieved the ball, then swiped at a retreating Gwynn. It looked like Cabrera caught only air, but Knight called Gwynn out.

Instead of bases loaded and nobody out with Adrian due up, the Padres had runners at the corners and one out. With a base open, the A’s did the sensible thing and intentionally walked Adrian. The next batter, Kouzmanoff, singled to left, driving home two and giving the Padres the lead. Those runs were nice, but one wonders how many more might have scored had Gwynn been ruled safe.

On the bright side, Everth Cabrera had some nice plate appearances and looked terrific at shortstop. Made two fine plays in the seventh, including one deep in the hole to rob Nomar Garciaparra for the final out. Cabrera had no business getting to that ball, let alone making a throw strong enough and accurate enough to nail Nomar.

Now that I’ve seen Cabrera a little, I get the comparisons to Rafael Furcal. I’m not sure it’s the best idea to place that burden of expectation on a kid who played in Low-A ball last year, but I get why people do it. Cabrera has skills.

* * *

With Cabrera back on the active roster and apparently taking over as starting shortstop, Bud Black has channeled his inner Tony LaRussa and started batting the pitcher eighth. John Beamer, my colleague at Hardball Times, seems to think there is merit in this strategy. Good enough for me — at least until some presents compelling evidence to the contrary.

* * *

I have other bones to pick from Friday night’s contest, the most obvious being why Eckstein didn’t bunt with Gwynn on first and nobody out in the eighth inning of a one-run game. Eckstein leads the team with seven sacrifice hits (three of which have come in the first inning, which — don’t get me started), so it’s not like he can’t do it. And with the Padres down, 6-5, late in the game and Adrian on deck, it seems an obvious call.

Instead he swings his way to an 0-2 count before rolling into a double play. Now Adrian bats with two outs and nobody on. Sure, the A’s would have walked Adrian with Gwynn on second and one out, but they do that anyway. At least in the other scenario, there’s a runner in scoring position for Kouzmanoff. As it stands, Kouz’s single moves Adrian to second, where he is left when Headley grounds out to end the inning.

Would Kouzmanoff have driven home the tying run had there been two on and two out? I don’t know, but it might have been nice to find out.

Eh, I’ve already whined too much about this. What does one game matter? That’s the difference between, what, picking fifth in next year’s draft and picking sixth?

I care a lot.

* * *

Matthew Whipps at BDD notes that teams aren’t pitching to Albert Pujols. First off, duh. Second, they aren’t pitching to Adrian either, at least not when he can hurt them:

Don’t Go There
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are through games of June 21, 2009.
With RISP 78 29 10 .372
Bases empty 155 20 0 .129

Adrian is being walked in 37.2% of his plate appearances when runners are in scoring position. As a reference point, that number was 15.4% last year and 11.5% in 2007. So yeah, teams have changed their approach a little.

* * *

The Padres are becoming unwatchable again. Gwynn keeps getting on base, and it’s cool that Blanks notched his first big-league hit (a blooper to left-center on a 1-2 pitch down and away from Michael Wuertz) in the sixth inning of Saturday night’s contest, but yuck.

Everth Cabrera showed youthful exhuberance on a triple to right-center in the fifth and youthful inexperience on two sloppy errors. He also looked helpless against Wuertz’s slider, although to be fair, so did everyone else. Wuertz struck out four of the seven batters he faced.

New catcher Eliezer Alfonzo has been with the club for less than a week and already I’ve seen enough. He hacks at everything and has trouble catching baseballs, being charged with two passed balls on Saturday. He’s Wiki Gonzalez without the cool name. Well, I guess Eliezer is kind of a cool name. Still, I don’t want to see him or Gonzalez behind the dish.

The third inning was fun if you’re a fan of lousy execution. Having scored twice, the Padres loaded the bases with nobody out and failed to tack on any additional runs. Adrian fanned on three pitches and Headley rolled over on an 0-1 pitch for an easy 5-3 double play. He’s mastered that; time to try something else, preferably something that helps the Padres.

Blanks looked comfortable in left field. Made one nice catch running to his left and fielded a couple more balls without incident.

* * *

I almost didn’t include this because I’m not sure what to do with it, but maybe you have some ideas:

Scoring Few or Many Runs
  0-4 Runs 5+ Runs  
  W L Pct W L Pct Diff
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are through games of June 21, 2009.
Dodgers 15 19 .441 31 5 .861 +.420
Giants 14 27 .341 23 4 .852 +.511
Rockies 9 25 .265 27 8 .771 +.506
Padres 15 27 .357 15 11 .577 +.220
Diamondbacks 9 33 .214 20 8 .714 +.500
MLB 301 813 .270 730 218 .770 +.500

The Padres are better than MLB average when scoring four runs or fewer. They are terrible when scoring five or more. I was hoping to learn something about the pitching staff, but I’m not there yet. Right now I just have intriguing data, which is fine.

I should also note that the Padres started the season 7-0 in games in which they score five runs or more. Since April 19, they are 8-11 in such contests.

* * *

Been in a Mingus state of mind. Chaos has its place. Sometimes you notice things you might otherwise miss.

Accomplishments from the past week that I never thought I’d have cause to celebrate: Took a standing shower, bent my leg 75 degrees, put on my own shoes, sat in a restaurant without pain and enjoyed a good meal with friends.

I try not to take things for granted, but that doesn’t always keep me from doing it. The Padres are playing infuriatingly erratic baseball and they frustrate the heck out of me, but this was a good week.

When things aren’t going well, people joke that “at least you have your health.” Let me assure you that your health is not a bad thing to have. A baseball team that doesn’t suck is nice, too, but you can live comfortably without that. I’m just sayin’.

* * *

I took Sunday off, which seemed to help the Padres and me. Correia pitched well again. Henry Blanco and Kouz homered.

I will keep taking a day or two off each week. It is how I will survive the season with whatever passes for sanity intact. Going forward, though, I’ll watch Correia’s starts. I’ll skip Geer’s or Gaudin’s. I’m leaning toward Gaudin because of his tendency to miss the strike zone.

I don’t relish the thought of watching Geer, but at least with him, I might get to see Home Run Derby. There is entertainment value in that.

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17 Responses »

  1. Keep ripping on T. Gwynn Geoff. . .he’s at 92 AB’s right now and he’s hitting .348 with an OBP of .439. Sure, he’ll come back down to earth. But he could hit .200 over his next 100 AB’s and still have an average of around .270. He’s shown a good eye at the plate. The only legitimate complaint so far has been his base running. He’s been a great addition.

  2. After the trip up to Anaheim last Sunday I had to take a much needed Padre Break so the only thing I can really add to the discussion would be:

    1. Dane Cook’s appeal is odd. I’ve only laughed hard a couple of times.
    2. That Mingus album is solid.
    3. Good to see Blanks up….although he K’d in the only 2 ABs I saw.

  3. I too mark the passing of time with baseball. Music plays a similar role. Not the top 10 hits of a particular year, but what I was listening to at the time. It seems to be occurring less now, but my youth and young adult days are definitely marked this way.

    I am sorry to hear about your dog.

    I am not too high on Kouz, I would much prefer that Headley remain with the club.

    Big Worm;
    I am going to have to read this post again because I don’t recall any of it “ripping T Gwynn.” Perhaps I missed it.

  4. #1@BigWorm, #3@parlo: I do discuss Gwynn, but the dig is at Chris Jenkins for neglecting to mention sample size and forgetting recent history (i.e., Marcus Giles’ hot start in 2007). I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Gwynn’s contributions at the plate so far. If he continues to hit, and improves his baserunning and defense, he could become a lesser Dave Roberts and keep center field warm until Cedric Hunter/Blake Tekotte/Donavan Tate is ready.

    Whether these things happen, I don’t know. Gwynn still strikes me as more of a spare part, but right now he’s playing well. Hopefully the rest of his Padres career will turn out better than M. Giles’.