Change Is Good, and So Is Winning

We made it to our first game of 2010 on Saturday night. I was prepared to hate the new 5:35 start time, but it turns out I didn’t. We had to rearrange our eating schedule, although that worked out well, as it resulted in a Lolita’s carne asada burrito after the game.

Speaking of change, the Padres are doing a few new things at the ballpark. First, they’re making the game-day program available for free. Former North County Times reporter and current Padres publications manager Shaun O’Neill notes in his introduction to the inaugural issue of Padres Blueprint that “the size is smaller, by design,” explaining that “a playbill-style format should make it easier to read from a ballpark seat.” It comes with a scorecard and basically rocks.

GY, should I use a gel pen to keep score on the scorecard?

Not unless you want ink all over yourself, in which case you’re probably better off splurging on a classy tattoo.

Another change is that the Padres have added OPS to the scoreboard, which means I no longer have to calculate it in my head. Oh, and if you think OPS is totally mainstream now, consider this: In my section, several folks who probably have been watching baseball longer than I’ve been alive engaged in a lengthy debate regarding the acronym’s meaning. A teen-aged boy in their midst correctly identified it as on-base-plus-slugging-percentage but was ignored by the adults, who preferred “overall percentage scored” and settled on that. I should have told them the kid was right, but I am shy with strangers and besides, their “explanation” made me smile.

The giveaway on Saturday was a David Eckstein bobblehead. It looks exactly like the real thing, only slightly larger. The Sacrifice Bunt has offered to trade me his but I’ve already got one and it’s very nice.

As for the game, is it poor form to complain about a 5-0 victory? Yes, we are all agreed that it is poor form. Very well, let the complaining begin.

I know it’s early, but the Padres need to improve their approach at the plate with the bases loaded. After repeatedly letting Tim Hudson and Edwin Jackson off the hook in previous games, they did the same with Kris Benson (!) on Saturday.

  • First inning, no out: Chase Headley grounds into a 4-6-3 double play on the first pitch; Padres score one run
  • Second inning, two out: David Eckstein grounds an 0-1 pitch to shortstop; no runs
  • Fifth inning, two out: Scott Hairston pops a 2-0 pitch to shortstop; no runs

Finally, in the seventh, against the always-generous Arizona bullpen, Hairston walked, forcing home Adrian Gonzalez. The next batter, Nick Hundley, blooped a single just over second baseman Kelly Johnson’s head to drive home Headley and Kyle Blanks. (Hundley earlier homered to left off Benson, feasting on one of the fattest curve balls you’ll ever see.)

Okay, enough whining. To the good stuff:

  • Despite battling a cold, Kevin Correia pitched well. He could have been more efficient (105 pitches in 5.2 IP), but he struck out the side in the third and fourth innings, so we’ll cut him some slack.
  • The hitters drew seven walks. Granted, they received an assist from left-hander Jordan Norberto, who had zero command of his fastball, but it’s good to see the kids make Arizona’s pitchers work so hard.
  • The bullpen looked great again. Luke Gregerson’s slider was biting and Mike Adams rebounded from his Thursday meltdown, retiring the side in order in the eighth on a grounder to third and two called strikeouts.
  • Jerry Hairston Jr. has played well when given the opportunity. He made a few nice plays at second base in the Atlanta series and a few more on Saturday in his first start at shortstop with the Padres. He saved his best for last, bare-handing a ball that deflected off the glove of a diving Headley and throwing out a speedy Chris Young to seal the victory and the shutout.

Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time.

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5 Responses »

  1. “First inning, no out: Chase Headley grounds into a 4-6-3 double play on the first pitch; Padres score one run”

    But it was a productive out! Actually it was even better than a productive out because it was two productive outs in one play. Not many players have that level of talent and ability.

    “Second inning, two out: David Eckstein grounds an 0-1 pitch to shortstop; no runs”

    But it was a gritty out! And did you see the way he hustled down to first?

    “Fifth inning, two out: Scott Hairston pops a 2-0 pitch to shortstop; no runs”

    OK, serious analysis is required for this one. What was the pitch and where was its location? If it was a fastball middle to middle-in and mid-thigh to the letters, iow, a fat pitch he can handle, I don’t mind him going for it. Maybe it was a good pitch to hit in that hitter’s count and he just missed it, it happens. But if it was anything else in terms of pitch and location, then I’m unhappy because I think in that count you have to be looking for one pitch only and take anything else.

    Great to see Correia have a solid outing. I’d be so happy for him if he’s able to replicate last season!

  2. With regard to the ballpark – it does come across that the new ownership is trying a little bit harder, and that’s a good thing. As far as the hitting goes, Benson was extremely lucky to get out of the game with only two earned runs – it drove me nuts to see that.

    On the other hand, I liked seeing the aggressiveness on the basepaths – these guys are going to give opposing catchers agita all year.

    It was interesting to see so many fans cut out after the bottom of the seventh, which was due, in no small part, to a realization that there was no way in hell Arizona was going to score five runs against the Padres bullpen. Not at Petco on a cold night.

  3. @Pat: My recollection of Hairston’s at-bat, which may or may not be accurate, is that he swung at a fastball up and in… his type of pitch, but not necessarily one he wanted to be hacking at 2-0. I remember being upset at the time, and not just because of the result.

  4. The program isn’t smaller because it is easier for fans, it is smaller because the edict was to save money. Shaun O’Neill is being dishonest. Never trust a failed reporter working for a professional team. Hanging on to a job for another year is more important than telling the truth to the fans.

  5. @cirmeniggan: Whatever their motive, I like the new program better than the old one. It saves me money, too!

    [Edit: I also disagree with your assessment of O'Neill, whose coverage of the Padres at the NC Times I always enjoyed.]