I Am Sure I Am Not Sure (I Think)

He knows changes aren’t permanent,
but change is.

–Rush, “Tom Sawyer”

The world is in a constant state of flux. All that we know with any degree of certainty is that what holds true today may or may not hold true tomorrow.

The Padres have been awful this year. I have witnessed it personally and had others confirm the fact for me as well.

That’s why I feel guilty enjoying this team. I want to hate, but I can’t do it. As reader Lance points out in a thoughtful piece at Seamheads, watching games here in San Diego hardly constitutes “suffering” according to any reasonable definition of the term.

But some people prefer to wallow in self-pity, and that’s cool. If you find that supporting the Padres is causing problems, here are three ways to remedy the situation. There may be others, but these should get you started:

  1. Cheer for a different team, preferably one that is playing well so you can feel like a winner. I suggested the Red Sox back in November, but maybe you could try the Dodgers. They play just up the road from here and are doing great; I’m sure they’ll make room for you on their bandwagon. Pretend to love them for a while. It may help assuage that feeling of utter despair you fear — at least until something else comes along to remind you that winning isn’t all that matters in life. Hey, it’s not like anyone will think the less of you for abandoning your team. Nobody will mock you publicly for being weak of spirit.
  2. Give up baseball and find a new hobby. Focus your energies on something less unpredictable. Try gardening or needlepoint. Go for long walks on the beach. Nothing clears my head like a long walk on the beach. You may find it similarly invigorating and cleansing. Or you may just get sand in your shoes.
  3. Stop whining and watch the games. Really, they’re not that bad… if you like baseball.

* * *

Reader Tom Waits posed a good question over at Padres Rundown the other day. In discussing the current crop of prospects versus that from 2003 or so, he asked:

What reason, other than faith, do we have to believe that the current system will fare any better at providing the bulk of our roster in four years?

The answer is, there is no other reason. Faith is it — Faith that the player development folks know what they’re doing and that the Padres get a little lucky.

The vast majority of prospects don’t develop the way we hope they will. That’s the nature of the beast.

Flux. Uncertainty. The kids from a few years ago (George Kottaras, Tagg Bozied, Jake Gautreau, etc.) put up nice numbers in the minors — as good as or better than those of current prospects — but most have not gone on to have significant big-league careers. What does this tell us about the kids we’re seeing now?

Hard to say. Past performance is no guarantee of future success. Neither is it a guarantee of future failure. All we have are indicators and probabilities. How things play out remains to be ssen. Life has its own ideas about fairness, caring little about our theories and constructs.

Is this comforting? Probably not, but that’s not why I’m here. If you want comfort — again, try the Dodgers or needlepoint…

* * *

The Padres have fired hitting coach Jim Lefebvre, replacing him with Randy Ready. It’s become a summer ritual in San Diego: Go to the beach, grill up some steaks, ax the hitting coach.

Will Ready be an improvement over Lefebvre? No clue, but I like the fact that Ready worked with many of these kids when they were in the minors. Reminds me of when the Padres promoted pitching coach Darren Balsley from Double-A to work with Jake Peavy, Oliver Perez, etc. I can’t speak to Ready’s qualifications, but I imagine that some familiarity may help guys like Kyle Blanks and Willdebeast Venable make the transition from prospect to productive big-league player.

* * *

One of my favorite “suggestions” is that the Padres should spend more money on players. I couldn’t agree more. You get cracking on that and let me know how it goes.

* * *

Speaking of money, the Padres traded Peavy to the White Sox for four pitchers. Myron at Another Padres Blog provides analysis and links. Here are my gut reactions:

  • I’m thrilled for Jake that he gets to pitch for a contender.
  • I’m bummed that he won’t pass Eric Show to become the Padres’ all-time wins leader.
  • I’m glad that the Padres free up money going forward and I hope Tom Krasovic is right that this helps them sign Donavan Tate and Everett Williams.
  • I’m okay with gutting a team that stinks.
  • I’ll miss watching Jake pitch; he did fantastic work here, and I have a soft spot for guys that I saw play at Elsinore — Oliver Perez, Peavy, Xavier Nady, Khalil Greene, Jake.

This was a salary dump, plain and simple. The Padres were hurtling toward 100 losses with Peavy on the roster, and he was eating up a huge percentage of the total payroll. If you’re going to stink anyway, why not do it for a fraction of the cost?

My overall feeling is one of relief and gratitude. Specifically I’m grateful that:

  • I had the pleasure of watching Peavy pitch in San Diego these past several years.
  • He agreed to waive his no-trade clause.
  • The Padres got four arms in return.
  • The White Sox are taking on all of Peavy’s salary.
  • We no longer have to wonder whether a trade will happen.

The Padres have committed to a course of action and have given themselves payroll flexibility. The arms are a bonus. I’m not super excited about any of them, but maybe one or two will turn into something. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Chris Ello isn’t happy with the deal. He raises some good points but makes a mistake here:

It’s what bad baseball organizations do. Good organizations have younger players coming up to keep the team rolling. Younger players they can trade to get other star players — not the other way around.

Right. Like Gary Sheffield for Trevor Hoffman?

Snark aside, the larger point is that the trading of established stars for unproven youngsters is not the hallmark of a bad baseball organization. What does identify a bad organization is the refusal to acknowledge shortcomings and a failure to take corrective action.

The Padres pitching depth at the highest levels was non-existent. In moving Peavy and Scott Hairston, they picked up seven pitchers, three or four of whom could be ready to contribute next year. None of these pitchers is likely to be anything special, but maybe one or two will be useful in an Andy Ashby/Sterling Hitchcock kind of way. Grab a bunch of ‘em, improve your odds of success. At the very least, we won’t be subjected to the likes of Josh Geer or Walter Silva.

I went to Clayton Richard’s Padres debut Saturday night. He looked okay (Mike at Friar Forecast has the PITCHf/x goodness). Threw a little harder than I’d expected: 88-92 mph, touching 94. I see him as a #4 starter at best, a long reliever at worst. He’s John Halama with a fastball. That’s good enough to survive in the big leagues, at least for a while.

* * *

It’s-a not so bad,
It’s-a nice-a place,
Ah, shaddap-a you face!

– Joe Dolce, “Shaddap You Face”

Everyone is down on the Padres right now, and understandably so. It’s an easy position to take. It doesn’t require much thought or effort to slag the organization when things aren’t going well.

Empires rise and fall. Stuff happens. You say goodbye to some players, hello to others, and hope for the best. We’ve been through this before and survived:

1993: 61-101
1996: 91-71

2003: 64-98
2006: 88-74

Unless you’re the Pittsburgh Pirates, there’s a decent chance that things will turn around before too long. I like what I’m seeing from the kids so far, and I’m glad the club has decided to run aggressively in one direction. Off a cliff? Maybe. I hope not, although you never know with young talent.

The Padres have possibilities, which is more than they had at the start of the season. Everth Cabrera (who reminds me — and it bugs me that I didn’t notice this earlier — of Quilvio Veras), Headley, and Venable look like they can play at this level. Same with Nick Hundley when he’s healthy.

On the pitching side, Luke Gregerson and Edward Mujica should contribute, which nobody could have anticipated a few months ago. Ditto Richard. These guys aren’t exciting, but they could be useful, which is an improvement.

Beyond the cogs, Kyle Blanks and Mat Latos look like potential impact players around whom to build. Will they reach their potential? We don’t know yet, but they might and now they’re getting a chance to show what they can do… you know, kind of like Peavy had that chance back in 2002.

* * *

But I will rise
And I will return
The Phoenix from the flame

–Sinead O’Connor, “Troy”

Where is my outrage? That is an excellent question. The truth is, I have embarrassed my outrage too many times and now it won’t come when I call. Here are some places I wasted my outrage:

At some point you get tired of being wrong all the time. Had I been paying closer attention back then, I’m sure I would have been outraged by the ’93 Fire Sale as well. But then Ashby and Hoffman became key parts of the ’96 and ’98 teams; Derek Bell was part of the payment for Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley; and Brad Ausmus brought John Flaherty and Chris Gomez.

I’ll hold my hysteria for now. There are things in this world that are worthy of outrage; Peavy being traded to the White Sox is not one of them.

* * *

I need to be clear on one point. None of this should be taken to mean that criticism of the organization isn’t warranted. The Padres have fallen into a state of disrepair. Some of this (e.g., questionable draft strategies) is their own doing, some of it (’07 meltdown) is just dumb luck.

At the same time, the people in the front office know more about baseball than some folks may think. I tell you this because I used to be a smart guy, too, rattling off reasons why a particular move was idiotic.

Knee-jerk reactions sell advertising, but ultimately what is of value are well-considered points of view. As one who once made a habit of launching such brash proclamations, let me assure you that it is wise to consider multiple angles before doing so. Otherwise you run the very real risk of having your outrage desert you.

Modified Box Scores

Here are your boxes (explanation) for the week.

Positives: Kyle Blanks and Everth Cabrera are playing often and playing well.
Negatives: Drew Macias was optioned to Portland… again.

Mon, Jul 27 at Cin
  PA OB TB Tot
Cabrera 1 1 1 3
Blanks 1 1 0 2
Venable 1 0 0 1
Totals 3 2 1 6

Cabrera hits first big-league homer.

Tue, Jul 28 at Cin
  PA OB TB Tot
Headley 1 0 0 1
Blanks 1 1 0 2
Cabrera 1 1 1 3
Totals 3 2 1 6

Cabrera doubles twice, steals two bases; all 13 of his steals this year have come since June 23, and 5 have been of third base.

Wed, Jul 29 at Cin
  PA OB TB Tot
Headley 1 1 0 2
Blanks 1 0 1 2
Cabrera 1 1 0 2
Totals 3 2 1 6
  End Eff Pwr Tot
Latos 1 1 0 2

Blanks hits 451-foot homer to left; Latos allows 1 hit over 7 innings.

Thu, Jul 30 at Cin
  PA OB TB Tot
Cabrera 1 0 0 1
Headley 1 1 0 2
Blanks 1 1 0 2
Venable 1 1 1 3
Totals 4 3 1 8

Headley reaches base four times; Venable collects four hits, including a homer.

Fri, Jul 31 vs Mil
  PA OB TB Tot
Blanks 1 1 1 3
Headley 1 1 0 2
Venable 1 0 1 2
Cabrera 1 0 0 1
Totals 4 2 2 8

Blanks and Venable go yard.

Sat, Aug 1 vs Mil
  PA OB TB Tot
Blanks 1 0 0 1
Venable 1 1 1 3
Cabrera 1 0 0 1
Totals 3 1 1 5

Venable homers in third straight game; Headley doesn’t show up here, but he knocked a pinch-hit double to right-center in the eighth that missed leaving the park by inches.

Sun, Aug 2 vs Mil
  PA OB TB Tot
Cabrera 1 1 0 2
Headley 1 0 0 1
Totals 2 1 0 3

Oh well, at least we got to see Trevor pitch.

Individual Totals
  7/27-8/2 Since ASB
  PA OB TB Tot B% PA OB TB Tot B%
Blanks 6 4 2 12 .500 12 7 5 24 .500
Cabrera 7 4 3 14 .500 18 8 3 29 .379
Venable 4 2 3 9 .556 10 3 3 16 .375
Headley 5 3 0 8 .375 13 6 1 20 .350
Macias 0 0 0 0 - 2 0 0 2 .000
Totals 22 13 7 42 .476 55 24 12 91 .396
  End Eff Pwr Tot   End Eff Pwr Tot
Latos 1 1 0 2   2 1 1 4  


Weekly Totals
  Week Since ASB
  G PA OB TB End Eff Pwr Tot T/G G Tot T/G
7/16-7/19 4 12 3 1 0 1 0 17 4.25 4 17 4.25
7/20-7/26 7 21 8 4 1 0 0 34 4.86 11 51 4.64
7/27-8/2 7 22 13 7 1 1 0 44 6.29 18 95 5.28

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19 Responses »

  1. Geoff,

    What ’07 meltdown? They played well down the stretch, even after Bradley and Cameron went down. You know, three outs away.

  2. #1@Josh: One strike away, as I recall.

    That was a tremendous team. If they’d reached the playoffs, there’s a good chance they would have made it to the World Series. If that had happened, people might still be going to ballgames.

  3. Hell, if that 1st base ump doesn’t have a grudge against Bradley. . .well, you know the rest. Of course, we would have been excited about the playoffs until Peavy’s usual game 1 meltdown.

  4. That 2007 team was magical. They always got the timely hit to win the ballgame. They even got them (more than one of them) in game 163, they just didn’t get the pitching to nail it down.

    I will always believe that if that team made the playoffs, the road to the World Series was wide open for them.

  5. “I’m okay with gutting a team that stinks.”

    Thank you. I am continually surprised by the number of people who are upset with the prospect of breaking up a bad team. My question is: When does the building up start? When do they start adding solid major league ball players, to this extremely young team? Regardless of when, I will be there to see it.

  6. On Sunday, I was waiting with bated breath for T. Gwynn to come up against Hoffy in the 9th, with an opportunity to repeat history with a very weird twist. Of course, they would have had to go deeper to actually have a chance to tie/win, but it must have given them both pause as they realized the potential scenario. Ultimately, it showed Hoffman’s mettle that he stayed focused on Blanks.

    Happy Monday to you guys.

  7. PS Geoff, nice comments on outrage. Been there, done that.

  8. Seeing the Mod-Box, I’m curious to see the number of SB that Cabrera finishes with. As frustrating as it can be from time to time there are players worth watching and reason to tune in.

    @ BigWorm
    If Bradley barely misses stepping on and breaking Cameron’s wrist earlier in the game, the umpire incident probably never happens (butterfly effect and all). Then Pads are completely healthy going into the playoffs and the WS was ours!!!

    I loved the complexion of that team with MB in the line-up. What coulda been…

  9. Yeah, that was the first thing I thought of when I heard Peavy got traded… there goes his chance to dethrone Eric Show, which I thought would have happened.

    4: Yeah, no pitching. I’m glad you brought that up. For all the grief that the offense gets over the years, that year saw a lot of terrible starts from Boomer Wells after May. Win one of those games he started and there wouldn’t have been a 163rd game and who knows where that team would have gone. Lack of pitching especially at #4, #5 is still the cause of recent Padres’ team losing records.

    I hope the trades lately bring some decent arms for those spots. Look at this year’s Giants, their pitching is magnificent and overcomes their less than superb run scoring ability. They’ve only scored 20 more runs than the Padres with similar OPS at .689 (below the NL average at .737) up to this point of the season.

  10. I think Pirates GM Neal Huntington quote also applies to the Padres:

    It’s not like we are breaking up the 1927 Yankees.

    On Paul DePodesta’s blog there was a comment that said that Fuson isn’t confident of signing both Williams and Sampson: http://tinyurl.com/m3d6je Is this accurate? This would be a real bad sign because one of the main reasons (if not the main) the Padres have been terrible since September 29, 2007 is their horrible drafting.

  11. Baseball is like drugs and religion combined – what a nightmare.

    I would never fall for a televangelist, yet I fell for MLB. Religion was taken over by professional sports in the 20th century (Sunday NFL anyone?) Fortunately baseball fans generally don’t encourage crusades against others teams, unlike English football. We support them because we want something to believe in, to be part of something.

    The clubs do it because they want our money. No difference then the televangelist.

    Eventually you figure out you’re being scammed (or the drugs don’t give you the same high) and get angry. The Padres can no longer deliver the miracles of 2005-2007 and now their fans have woken from their stupor (shelling out money for tickets, watching games on TV [to support advertising], etc.).

    The whining, b1+<hing and criticism in some ways is a good sign. If people were really going to leave the Padres, they wouldn’t even both saying anything. But they’re addicted, and, like any high, coming down sucks. But you just.. can’t…. stop…

    Geoff came to terms with this long before most of us. And having found out what’s important in life, he’s tired of hearing everyone else complain about something that, in the grand scheme of life, really doesn’t even register on the importance scale.

    I like baseball – I always have and I always will. But much like organised religion, the older I get, the less organised baseball I need. I don’t need a church to live a moral life. I don’t need a major league baseball team to enjoy the game. I can go watch 12 year-olds play for the fun of it. Coached by guys that do it for the fun of it. Umpired by guys that do it for the love of the game.

    I’ll still go to games when ever I visit the US in the summer, but I’ll do my best to limit my contribution to their business.

    And I’ll slowly wean myself of my addiction to professional baseball and learn how to use baseball “recreationally”. Just like Lady.

    I managed to survive the day the IGD died. I can survive this.

    And, no, I won’t tell you what drugs I was on when I typed up this ramble.

  12. All this talk about 2007 piqued my interest. I went back and looked up the numbers.
    The Padres were 15-14 in Sept/Oct of 2007 (including the playoff game*). They were 4-7 in their final 11 games.

    Sepember/October records of some more famous “collapses”:
    1951 Dodgers; 15-15*
    1964 Phillies; 12-19
    1969 Cubs; 9-18
    1978 Red Sox; 15-16*
    2007 Mets; 14-14
    The Phillies and Mets really collapsed in the final week.

  13. #11@Sean Callahan: What scares me is that I know exactly what you mean.

  14. Mea culpa. I have evidently romanticized 2007 in my head. 2008-09 I will repress.

  15. The Padres record at 44-63 with 55 games left in the season indicates that the Padres are pretty much certain to end below .500 mark. Can the Padres go 37-18 (.673) the rest of the season to reach the .500 mark? Very much doubtful… downright improbable.

    Easier mark would be to avoid the 100 losses mark. The Padres only need 19 more wins to get to 63 wins for the season, which means going 19-36 the rest of the way.

    Come on, the Padres are better than that now. I’m hoping for 28-27 (about .500) the rest of the way, which would end the season with 72-90 mark. Not bad, all things considered. Let’s go Padres. GY, we need a countdown clock for this thing.

  16. #10@Schlom: http://tinyurl.com/lkvzyz

    There’s the report. Here’s the money quote:

    “If the Padres successfully negotiate a contract with agent Scott Boras for first-round pick Donavan Tate, there’s a good chance that the Padres won’t sign both their second and fourth-round picks.”

    First off, I hope the Padres don’t play Williams and Sampson off one another in order to induce them to sign. That’s not right. Second, now that the Padres have saved 4M or so by dealing Peavy, I would hope that some of that money would be used to sign these kids even if the draft budget is said to be finite. I would hate to see the 4M go straight to Moores’ divorce fund. I know that I am not the only one that views Aug 17 as an important day in terms of gauging the new regime’s commitment toward building a winning organization.

  17. #16@Bruce: I don’t mind if the Padres play Sampson and Williams against each other, as long as the end result is both of them signing. Good negotiations are often based on disguising what you’re willing to pay, something I learned lamentably late in regard to buying cars.

    It will be a crying shame if the Padres don’t reinvest a fraction of the money saved through the Peavy trade in these kids.

  18. Well said, Geoff.

    Wasn’t everlasting perspective supposedly bequeathed after 9/11? Shouldn’t we already know that police officers, firefighters and teachers do the most important work?

    Shouldn’t we already know that baseball isn’t important? Shouldn’t we already know that athletes aren’t role models? That the real role models are quality people — be they spouses, parents or friends?

  19. re: 2007

    Unfortunately, I won’t be using rationale or logic in this comment.

    I know there are tangible reasons why the Padres lost the division in 2007 and haven’t recovered since — an injury to Milton Bradley, another to Mike Cameron and a couple blown saves by Trevor all added up to an average September.

    But like the Tuck Rule Game for the Raiders, I think the Padres have had a hard time mentally recovering from Holliday not touching the plate. I think it may have had a lasting effect on this team.

    There are other better reasons why the last two seasons have stunk, but I think intangibles exist. They are just impossible to prove or evaluate.