If Familiarity Breeds Contempt, Then What Does Success Breed?

Have you ever noticed how the more you win, the more the little things irritate? Like watching the bullpen implode toward the end of Monday night’s victory against the Cubs. I should be happy with the win, right? I mean, before the season, if you’d told me the Padres would notch their 70th victory on August 16, I’d have been ecstatic.

Actually, I would have laughed; after all, I pegged this team to win 72-75 games, which looks about as silly right now as Dave Cameron’s pre-season ranking of the Seattle Mariners as the sixth best organization in MLB. Here, I must steal Dave’s words because they serve as an eloquent defense of my pessimism regarding the Padres (also, I happen to agree with him on this point):

I’m of the opinion that we should see everything in shades of probability. Since we don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t find a lot of value in predictions. They are, for all intents and purposes, just guesses, some more informed than others.

Exactly. Meanwhile, back in the “pulling our heads out of the clouds” realm of actual games, I find myself oddly unsettled after a 9-5 win. There I go again with my sense of entitlement.

I can forgive the relief corps for allowing five runs in three innings. Those guys have been brilliant all year, and nobody is perfect. That they faltered doesn’t bug me; what bugs me is the way it happened.

In the bottom of the seventh, with a runner on first and two out, Luke Gregerson jumped ahead of Tyler Colvin, 0-2, before walking him. Kosuke Fukudome came up next, prompting Bud Black to summon lefty Joe Thatcher from the bullpen. Thatcher got ahead of Fukudome, 1-2, and then served up a two-run double.

Ernesto Frieri retired the next batter on one pitch to end the inning. After getting two quick outs in the eighth, Frieri gave up three straight hits — a single, double, and homer — all coming with two strikes. What had been a laugher now became a less humorous 7-5 affair that required the use of Mike Adams and Heath Bell to clean up the mess.

Clean it up, they did. But wouldn’t it have been nice to send Edward Mujica out there and save the big guns for another day? Ah, if only it were as easy to get that third strike as I make it sound.

On a less whiny note, Miguel Tejada and Chris Denorfia had terrific nights. Sure, Tejada committed his first error as a member of the Padres, but he immediately followd it by starting a 6-4-3 double play. He also went 4-for-5 at the plate and drove in two runs. That reminds me:

              PA   BA  OBP  SLG OPS+
Miguel Tejada 72 .313 .361 .433 125
Ryan Ludwick  64 .273 .344 .491 135

Small sample? Yes. Nice? Yes.

Denorfia collected three hits of his own, including a fun two-RBI triple to right-center in the ninth. My favorite play of the game also involved Denorfia. With no out in the eighth, he broke from first as Tony Gwynn Jr. laced a double over the third baseman’s head and down the left-field line. I do enjoy watching a hit-and-run executed to perfection.

Props to Kevin Correia for battling through a tough first few innings to find his groove and keep the game close until the offense kicked into gear. Come to think of it, props to Correia for kicking it into gear with an RBI double in the fifth. Granted, he received considerable assistance from Cubs left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, but even if a guy flings you a cookie… you still have to hit it.

The only real downer, other than the bullpen’s repeated inability to deliver the knockout blow, came after the game. In something of an upset (well, I was upset), first-round pick Karsten Whitson did not sign and will attend the University of Florida instead. Quoth GM Jed Hoyer:

All conversations indicated this would be a quick sign… I don’t know what changed. There is a sense of frustration. I’ll be honest, we’re really surprised. But I feel great about the way we handled this.

The Padres get the 11th pick overall in the 2011 draft as compensation, and I’ve been advised that next year’s class is stronger than this year’s, but right now it feels like a consolation prize. Missing on Whitson is a disappointment, I’m sure to the organization as well as to fans. On the bright side, as I noted last night on Twitter (no inside scoop here; just relaying what Mark Neely reported during the post-game show), they were able to ink sixth-round pick John Barbato.

That’s something. So is having a four game lead over San Francisco in the National League West with 45 games remaining. Yeah, I think I’ll live.

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16 Responses »

  1. Freiri looked worn out and was overthrowing badly at the end of his night. He may need at least a two-game break.

    If Black is so scared of Mujica that he won’t use him with either of two 5 run leads or a 4 run cushion, why keep him around? Would be nice to get Jerry Hairston off his shins with a big lead, too.

  2. Good point about Frieri overthrowing. He really yanked that one pitch that went to the backstop.

  3. In the case of Tejada, I’m totally OK with the small sample. Can we sit him now before he turns into what he really is? ;-)

  4. and Pinto wrote about the Padres today:


    so, enjoy, and relax, GY. it’s a long season…yadda yadda yadda…

  5. I think Padres will have 12th pick … D-backs didn’t sign their pick either …

  6. Just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog, Geoff. Keep up the good work!

  7. Jed Hoyer spent 10 minutes today on XX1090 explaining why they didn’t sign Whitson. The interview is available on their website.

    While only one side (Padres) was presented, it appears that the young man verbally agreed to a figure commensurate with his draft position. The family then changed their demand to twice that amount days later. No agreement was ever close after that.

  8. Well, the starters looked a bit worn out, but the All Star break came just in time, and it looks like they’re back in business. The Padres are now seven games into a stretch of 13 straight without a day off, and the bullpen has been used heavily in those first seven. Does it look like Bud might leave a starter in for 7 or 8 to give the bullpen a break? Correia threw 88 pitches after six and I thought he’d go seven. I wonder if his last start disabused Bud of letting Correia stay too long. Anyway, Garland looks like a prime candidate for a long outing. That’s what they got the innings-eater for, isn’t it?

  9. The bullpen has done this twice now, and 2 things come to mind:

    1) Maybe they’re a little like closer, and need a “real” pressure situation to get it done

    and 2) The guys are going to occasionally have off nights, and it’s a lot better to do it with a 5 run lead then in a 1 run game

    I think the real take away from the game (and most his starts the 2nd half) is how Kevin Correia has seemed to morph into the Wade LeBlanc of the first half… always seems to have baserunners on, never seems to really give up a lot of runs. I think if there is one unifying theme for the starters, it’s that when they have runners on, they all seem to get tougher, a little more wily, and cajole their way out unscathed of a situation where they probably should have given up 2 or 3 runs. Maybe that’s the Bud Black difference, the mental toughness of the rotation to lock it in when it counts. Not surprisingly, the Padres lead the league with only 39% of runners on 2nd or 3rd with less than 2 outs scoring.

  10. Look at you guys, talking and stuff. I love a pennant race!

    @Pat: Heh, I’d be lying if I said that thought hadn’t crossed my mind. What has surprised me most about Tejada is how capable he looks at shortstop; I didn’t expect that at all… Then again, I didn’t expect Hairston Jr. and Torrealba to be so darned useful either.

    @Didi: Relax? What is that? Please explain.

    @LynchMob: Hmmm, reports I’ve seen say 11th. Can anyone else shed some light on this?

    @Josh: Thank you, sir!

    @BT: Thanks for the info. I plan to post more thoughts on the non-signing tomorrow, but the short version is it sounds like the Padres got the rug pulled out from under them here.

    @Larry: Dude, you’re psychic. Garland went seven tonight.

    @Adam: Great stat you threw in there at the end. Where did you happen to find that?

  11. Hoyer said it was the 11th pick on XX today. I think it was originally the 10th and then some other joker named Barrett Loux didn’t sign with AZ. AZ gets 10 we get 11.

  12. @Mike: Cool, thanks for the clarification.

  13. I looked it up on Baseball-reference.com, though its probably a little lower after the game tonight (league avg is 52%, btw)

  14. If Correia pitches like he did down the stretch last year, it will be extremely helpful.

    @Pat: I think this is what Tejada is. He made a comment in the U-T about feeling rested b/c he has spent most of the year at third base. The guy has a lot of energy (always has been known for that) and the more I see him, the more I think this was an excellent acquisition.

  15. To clarify the draft a little more, Loux didn’t sign because his physical revealed shoulder and elbow problems. It wasn’t a negotiating foul-up on his part. MLB has made him a free agent, which is fair. In the past he’d have been forced back into next year’s draft.

  16. Nick G, anything is possible. :-)