Sweeping the Marlins, Honoring Hoffman

What’s up with the Padres offense? When they hit the road earlier this month and averaged 7 runs a game on their 10-game swing through Pittsburgh, New York, and Cincinnati, that made a certain amount of sense. But to return home and average 5.4 at Petco Park? Granted, the Mets and Marlins aren’t great teams; then again, neither are the Padres.

Nick Hundley (1.097), Jesus Guzman (.566), Will Venable (.549), and Kyle Blanks (.511) all have SLG above .500 since the All-Star break. Hundley can’t stop hitting triples. He has five on the season, including four in his last 20 plate appearances.

The Padres four-game sweep of the Marlins pushed San Diego into fourth place in the NL West, half a game ahead of the reeling Dodgers. The Padres had occupied last place since July 22, or for about a month.

Speaking of the Marlins, in their seven contests against the Padres this year, they were outscored, 20-1, in the first inning. Former Padres GM and current Florida skipper Jack McKeon was not amused, asking his players, “How bad do you want to be a major league player?” after his team’s loss on Sunday afternoon.

San Diego jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the series finale, on Trevor Hoffman Day, but kept letting the Marlins back into the game. Closer Heath Bell surrendered a game-tying solo homer to former Padres center fielder Mike Cameron with two out in the ninth to deny starter Cory Luebke his sixth win of the season.

Of course, pitcher wins don’t mean a lot in their current state. Guess which of these guys picked up the victory on Sunday:

Player  IP H R ER HR BB K   WPA
Luebke 6.0 3 1  1  1  0 8  .202
Bell   1.1 3 1  1  1  1 1 -.178

Hint: It’s the one whose last name rhymes with “didn’t pitch well.”

But as Hoffman himself reminded us during his ceremony, how the team did is what matters. And the Padres won, so I can’t complain… even though I just did.

* * *

The Hoffman retirement ceremony was great. We would expect no less.

I won’t recap the entire event (Tom Singer does a fine job of that over at Padres.com, and there is video of Hoffman’s press conference afterward), offering instead a few items that grabbed my attention in Section 303:

  • When Hoffman strode in from the bullpen to “Hells Bells” along with his wife and three sons, that set the tone. Family would play an important role in the ceremony, as it has in Hoffman’s career and life.
  • Both of Hoffman’s brothers, Greg and Padres third base coach Glenn, were there. So was their mother.
  • Hoffman’s high school basketball coach came out to offer congratulations, as did his baseball coaches at Cypress College and the University of Arizona.
  • A slew of former teammates, including many former catchers of his (among them, fellow Arizona alum and current Padres starter Hundley) and several players from the great teams of the mid- to late-’90s (Andy Ashby, Mark Sweeney, etc.), offered congrats as well. Steve Finley got the loudest cheer, but the ones who got me were the widows of Ken Caminiti, Mike Darr, and Rod Beck.
  • Current Marlins Cameron and Clay Hensley, who played in San Diego when Hoffman was here, likewise were part of the proceedings.
  • Hall-of-Famers Rickey Henderson and Rollie Fingers made appearances. Seeing either of them is a rare treat. Seeing them together is unreal.
  • Former Padres bullpen catcher Mark Merila, whose battle against brain cancer has inspired many (including Hoffman), was there.
  • AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson offered his congratulations via the video scoreboard, which was a nice touch.
  • MLB commissioner Bud Selig did the same, and people booed, which was also a nice touch.
  • The Padres presented Hoffman with a 1958 black convertible Cadillac with license plate “SD 51.”
  • And returning to the family theme, the Padres rebroadcast Hoffman’s father, Ed, singing the national anthem at Fenway Park (Glenn played for the Red Sox) for Opening Day of the 1981 season. Trevor lost it, and I think so did the rest of us.

All in all, it was a great day for Hoffman, for the Padres, and for the city of San Diego.

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17 Responses »

  1. Seeing past Padres or hearing the names of past Padres always gets me. No matter how tainted Caminiti’s legacy may be, I always appreciate how hard those 1996-1998 Padres played. You never doubted their passion (like I did sometimes with those Kelsko / Nevin years).

    Its amazing how having Hoffman for all those years meant that 95% of the time there would be no 9th inning heroics for your opponents, no getting back into the game. It meant the Padres had you defeated, and your batters would swing wildly over a sinking change-up, or weakly pop-up to shallow right field.

  2. It’s amazing how Hoffman and his HOF contemporary Rivera did so much with seemingly so little. Rivera basically has one pitch that fools hitters 99% of the time and Hoffman had a weak fastball and change-up I early on figured would be figured out by hitters (but never was).

  3. The Padres do a great job with this kind of ceremony so it’s too bad the next one is a long, long way off!

    The weirdest part of the day was when Luke Gregorson was making his way to the mound as Hell’s Bells was accompanying a Trevor tribute video on the scoreboard.

  4. What an awesome day. I’m glad the Padres didn’t wait to recognize Trevor Hoffman’s accomplishments.

  5. Sunday was one of those days I really wished I still lived in San Diego. I’m glad the Padres really pulled out the stops for a true San Diego and Padres icon.

  6. What a great ceremony. I teared up quite a bit as Trevor made his entrance to Hells Bells because I knew it would be the last time we ever saw that.

    As for the current team, I’m really loving what they’re doing of late. They’ve gone 19-18 since the ASG, but are 12-7 since the trade deadline. I absolutely love the Blanks/Maybin/Venable OF and if that’s not our starting OF in 2012, I’ll be pretty upset. Blanks and Venable, in particular, have really figured it out lately.

    In fact, I would gladly take yesterday’s line-up (with the inclusion of Headley and the exclusion of Hudson) as our starting 8 next season:

    Venable, RF
    Bartlett, SS
    Maybin, CF
    Guzman, 1B
    Headley, 3B
    Blanks, LF
    Hundley, C
    Forsythe, 2B

  7. @Phantom – Barring trade, Hudson will be back next year at 2B.

    I hope the Padres keep Forsythe and Guzman as utility next year. I think the Padres could be seriously dangerous next year if the go out and get a power hitting RF and a stud young catcher. Kubel comes to mind for RF and he has experience hitting in a pitchers park. How about the Padres sending some of that extra AA pitching to the Yankees or Reds for Montero or Mesoroco? I think both moves are reasonable. Kubel will likely command $7-8m/year and that Padres have money coming off the books and are expected to add to the payroll. The Reds, especially, need pitching and we could offer a package centerted around Erlin or Kelly— same for the Yankees with Montero. Next, just round out the bench and we have the following type of lineup:

    Bartlett- SS
    Maybin – CF
    Headley – 3B
    Blanks – LF
    Guzman/Rizzo – 1B
    Kubel – RF
    Hundley/Montero or Mesoroco – C
    Hudson – 2B

    Make Venable and 1 of Deno/Cunningham/Tekotte your 4th and 5th OF

  8. @PadresFuture

    I think Hudson has worn out his welcome with the FO and Forsythe’s play of late has got to be giving them a reason to consider a buyout or trade. There’s no reason not to play Forsythe next year in place of Hudson.

    As for acquiring a power-hitting RF bat, I really don’t see a reason for this. Why not see what these guys can do together next year? They’re playing pretty well right now and I’d rather give the kids a shot instead of paying through the nose for a FA. This team is built on speed and Venable meets that need far better than Kubel. And while it’s only 100 PA, Venable has an sOPS+ of 153 (!!!) in the second-half of this season. In my mind, this is more than enough reason to keep him as the everyday RF in 2012.

  9. @Phantom

    I don’t think Kubel is a good fit in the NL. He’s more of a DH and Maybin would be asked to do too much with Blanks and Kubel flanking him in Petco’s expansive outfield.

    I like what Venable has done, but I think he’s fool’s gold. He’ll never be more than a .260 hitter over the course of a season. He’s arbitration eligible isn’t he? If he is, I don’t think the Padres will be willing to pay his raise when they can get similar or better production from a FA acquisition (for a little more money) or younger players (Tekotte, Darnell etc).

  10. @Phantom: Really? You want to take a LH hitter who’s about to turn 30 and who’s never put up 600 PA’s in a season and put him out in Petco’s RF full time? I guess that’s thinking outside the box, but I’m not convinced. And why overpay for a catcher, a position which is notoriously injury prone? Get someone who’s adequate behind the plate and can hit a little, like Nick Hundley, and fill in for him when he inevitably hits the DL. I think the Twins have clearly shown why it’s not worth investing significantly in a stud catcher.

  11. Pat, I don’t think I ever advocated over paying for a catcher. That was Padres Future.

    As for Venable, why not? You’ve got to find out what you’ve got in him and he’s never going to get a chance to hit left-handed pitching if he’s constantly platooned. He’s got a career OPS+ greater than 100, which is better than a lot of players we’ve run out there in the past few years.

    I don’t understand the Venable skepticism. He’s consistently beat expectations at every level and he seems to be putting it together this year.

  12. I apologize. I addressed it to you, Phantom, and I meant to address it to PadresFuture. Again, I am sorry for the error. Of course I was talking about Kubel in that post, too, since it was addressed at PF. I’m down with Venable, but definitely not so much with Kubel. :-)

  13. No worries :-) I’m really pretty happy with what this team has done of late and I truly hope they give Guzman the chance to win the starting 1b role next year in ST. I understand the presssure to show the return for Adrian but I think putting the best player out there should be more important.

  14. @Pat – Kubel has had 3 straight years of over 500 plate appearances and over those 3 years averaged 498 at bats. Maybin is the only outfielder this year on pace for 500 AB’s. The Padres had no outfielders with 498 AB’s in 2010, 1(Headley) in 2009, 1(Brian Giles) in 2008, and 1(Mike Cameron) in 2007. I don’t understand your AB argument.

    Age 30, 31, and 32 are often prime years for MLB players, granted they are late prime, but prime non-the-less.

    How can you compare the Twins catching situation with aquiring a young stud catcher that will be under club control for 6 years? That’s 400k for 3 years. Not a big investment. What else are the Padres going to do with 7 starters in AA and several young starters at the MLB level blocking them?

    I like Venable…. as a 4th outfielder. I say keep him as the 4th outfielder.

  15. we’ve got plenty of OFs, the Padres don’t need to sign aging Kubel who’s not that well regarded in the twin cities either.

    Venable can platoon RF with Cunningham, with Tekotte backing up OF. With Blanks and Maybin, that’s 5 OF, not to mention Jesus Guzman’s bat gotta play somewhere sometime (platoon with Rizzo at some point to start).

  16. PF: PA’s for a guy who’s a full time player are in the range of 600 to 650; he’s only had two seasons where the team thought enough of him to even let him get close to 600. IOW, he’s never been a full time player. The Twins don’t think enough of him to have ever made him a full time player and he’s going to be 30 next year. That is not a ringing endorsement to me. That is not a player I want playing full time for my team either. This is what I am trying to communicate when I point out the dearth of his PA’s.

    Granted 30 to 32 are part of a prime, but they are also the tail end, not the beginning. And if we look at what he’s done during the beginning, it is less than impressive. He’s at an age where it’s unlikely he’ll improve and he’s not very good now. So I ask, what’s the point of sticking his aging, LH bat in a RF which is extremely difficult to defend?

    Because there simply aren’t enough young stud catchers around to make it worth the cost. There are two in all of baseball right now, and Mauer may turn that into one if he can’t stay healthy. When a commodity is that scarce, the price is very high. Why pay dearly for it when it’s highly unlikely to bring much in return anyway? Clearly the odds of acquiring one are very slim, and even if you’re lucky enough to do so, it’s likely you’ll lose significant playing time to injuries. To pick up even a prospect who’s highly regarded at the position would be too expensive, imo. Cost-Benefit doesn’t pencil out for me. ymmv.

  17. Kubel also got a lot of those at-bats as a DH. If we’re going to play Blanks or Guzman in LF, Maybin will need a good defender in right.

    Phantom, how can you not see the reason for skepticism? Venable has been good since being called up, but he was terrible at the start of the year. It’s like being skeptical of Denorfia as a full-time player. You watch either of them for the “right” two weeks, and you see a starter on a first-division club. Watch them at the wrong time and you wonder why they’re drawing a major league salary. Venable’s had other good streaks like this before. Nothing wrong with using him in a platoon. He’s had nagging injuries and it would keep his arbitration salary down, too.

    I don’t know that our minor league starters are valuable enough to get a young catcher, but the Reds will lose Ramon Hernandez to free agency this winter. He’s hit well in a part-time role the last two seasons.