Assessing the 2021 San Diego Padres at the All-Star Break

Last night was the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, so it’s the perfect time to indulge in some sports frivolity and check in with the San Diego Padres at the half-way point of the baseball season.

Well, the Friars are off to a “decent” start. Their 53-40 (.570) record puts them ahead of 22 of the other 29 teams in MLB, BUT with the surprising 57-32 San Francisco Giants and 56-35 World Champion L.A. Dodgers sharing the NL West, the Padres’ playoff hopes are definitely not secure.

The Padres’ infield of Eric Hosmer (1B), Jake Cronenworth (2B), Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS) and Manny Machado (3B) continues as arguably one of the overall best in the entire MLB. Victor Caratini (C) does a decent job behind the plate. The outfield of Tommy Pham (LF), Trent Grisham (CF), and Wil Meyers (RF) is better than average, but there’s not much depth. Subs Jurickson Profar’s and Ha-Seong Kim’s bats have been anemic. The Padres rank in the top 6 in the NL in AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS. Padres’ pitching is #3 in the NL with a team ERA of 3.41, trailing only behind, you guessed it, the Dodgers (3.14) and Giants (3.26). But the three-month team ERA stat is deceptive. Padres pitching has definitely gone soft the last 30 days (4.58 team ERA). Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove have anchored the starting rotation. Free agent pickup ace, Blake Snell, has been disappointing (4.99 ERA) and former team ace, Dinelson Lamet, continues to battle injuries. Once-promising Chris Paddack (5.38 ERA) can’t find his way out of his two-year funk. When the season started, there was a question on who the Padres’ closer would be, but Mark Melancon has answered the call and then some with an MLB-leading 27 saves at the break.

The Padres led all of MLB with a very impressive 34-19 (.642) record at the May 29th mark, but have been playing mediocre, 19-21 (.475) baseball since then. The Friars’ pitching staff will need to right the ship for the team to have any chance of overtaking the Giants and Dodgers.

Highlights:

  • The Padres were the only MLB franchise without a no-hitter in team history, until Joe Musgrove no-noed the Texas Rangers on April 9th.
  • The Padres are a big draw at Petco Park and on the road with baseball’s most exciting young star in Fernando Tatis Jr. At the break, “El Niño” is #1 in the NL home run derby with 28 dingers and #1 in stolen bases with 20.
  • The rapid development of 2nd baseman, Jake Cronenworth, is noteworthy.
  • Tatis, Cronenworth, and Machado (late addition) were selected as 2021 All-Stars along with pitching staff ace, Yu Darvish, and closer Mark Melancon. The last year the Padres had five All-Stars was 1992.

Play ball! The San Diego Padres open the 2021 season today

Snow and a high of only 36F are predicted for today here Western New York, but 2670 miles away, in San Diego, California, they’re expecting mostly sunny skies and a high of 84F. Great weather for a ballgame.

capture30

The San Diego Padres finished the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season with a remarkable 37-23 record. After defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Series, the Padres hit a brick wall when they faced the dastardly Dodger$ in the NLDS. The Padres’ pitching staff was already outmatched by the Blue Bums even before starters Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger went on the disabled list. The Padres’ #1 goal in the offseason was to pick up quality pitching and they did exactly that by signing not one, but two legitimate aces in Blake Snell and Yu Darvish.

The Padres open their 2021 season today at 1PM PT at Petco Park with the first game of a three-game homestand against NL Western Division rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Let’s take a look at the Padres’ projected starters:

Catcher: Austin Nola fractured a finger in Spring Training so newcomer Victor Caratini will get the nod on Opening Day. Promising young blue chipper, Luis Campusano, will also see action during the season.

Infield: The infield is set, to put it mildly, with Eric Hosmer (1B), Jake Cronenworth (2B), Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS), and Manny Machado (3B). Tatis and Machado are easily the best SS/3B tandem in MLB and Tatis is still developing. Cronenworth came close to earning NL Rookie of the Year last season and Hos is a solid vet. Jurickson Profar and newly-acquired Ha-Seong Kim from South Korea will battle for infield playing time and both could start for many ballclubs.

Outfield: Tommy Pham (LF), Trent Grisham (CF), and Wil Myers (RF) will start, but Profar will get significant time at the corners. It was great to see Myers relaunch his once-promising career in 2020 under new skipper, Jayce Tingler. Update: Grisham is on the IL so I expect Profar to man the CF spot in the interim.

Pitching: Aces Snell and Darvish are excellent additions. Dinelson Lamet pitched in one the Padres’ last Spring Training games after rehabilitating his elbow for six months, however, Mike Clevinger won’t be available in 2021 after having offseason Tommy John surgery. Newcomer Joe Musgrove is a very solid #4. As for the #5 spot, young Chris Paddack’s regression remains a mystery after being projected as the franchise’s future ace two years ago. The bullpen has some question marks especially with the vacancy left by closer Kirby Yates. Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagán, and Mark Melancon will all vie for the closer spot.

The Padres are VERY sold from top to bottom, although the closer position is a question mark. Most baseball prognosticators are taking the easy route and picking the Dodger$ to take the NL West again, however, they acknowledge that the Padres could easily upset.

Above photo, from left to right: Myers, Machado, Darvish, Snell, Tatis Jr., and Hosmer.

“Stay out of my way. Don’t get in my way.”

Winters here in Western New York are definitely challenging. Due to our unique position in relation to the Great Lakes, we can boast of having more snow and less sunshine than any other region in the continental United States. One of the hopeful signs of warmer temps ahead is the commencement of Major League Baseball’s Spring Training in Florida and Arizona. My favorite team, the San Diego Padres, had an excellent 2020 season and are poised for another good run in 2021.

I began following the Padres in 1970 when I was fourteen years old. Over the past fifty years, there’s been A LOT more “thin” than “thick,” but the Pads did make it all the way to the World Series in 1984 and 1998.

I was so thrilled when the Padres finally made it to the World Series in 1984. Sure, they ended up tanking against the Detroit Tigers, winning only one game, but that was anti-climactic after the Pads shocked the nation by improbably beating the heavily-favored Chicago Cubbies in the NLCS.

When the 1985 season rolled around, I was still pumped up and I resolved to see the Padres play in-person for the first time. In those days, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together after paying the bills and couldn’t afford vacations, but SOMEHOW I was able to scrape the funds together for my wife, our two sons (ages 10 and 7 at the time), and I to drive to Montreal (six hours away) to see my beloved Pads play the Expos.

That was all happening in the middle of the baseball card craze. A strange hysteria overtook baseball fans and even non-fans. People got it into their heads that baseball cards were a great investment and began buying them up. Card manufacturers quadrupled their production as baseball card shops, yes, baseball card shops, began popping up in cities along with baseball card shows at hotels and convention centers. Our sons and I got caught up in the frenzy and I began my collection of Topps-brand Padres team sets and Tony Gwynn cards. Tony was the Padres’ most popular player. He was called up to the Padres from the minors in 1982 and would go on to play 20 seasons, compiling an incredible 3141 hits and a jaw-dropping .338 lifetime batting average.

While in Montreal, I was determined to get Tony’s autograph. At the stadium, I overheard some savvy fans say that Tony liked to use a particular exit after contests with the Expos, the one leading to Pie-IX station of the Montreal Metro. So immediately after the end of the 9th inning, I frantically dragged my family through the crowd to the exit as if we were going to see Jesus Christ. About 30 other fans had the same plan, and when Tony finally appeared we all thronged around him. Tony’s public persona was that of a smiling and very friendly guy, but that wasn’t the case in this situation. He said very firmly and unsmilingly, “I will sign your items, but don’t get in my way.” So we all walked along with Tony as he reluctantly signed our cards, photos, and baseballs while repeating his warning again and again, “Stay out of my way. Don’t get in my way.” I was put-off by Gwynn’s very unfriendly attitude, but I also understood that it was the result of being constantly harassed by autograph hounds. My wife was a bit befuddled as to why her twenty-nine-year-old husband was jostling with a crowd of other adults for an autograph of a baseball player, like some sixteen-year-old bobby-soxer waiting outside of a New York City dinner club at a Frank Sinatra show in 1947. It’s embarrassing to think about now.

Thirty-six years later, I don’t know what happened to that Tony Gwynn autograph. I don’t desire any celebrity’s autograph at this point. What’s it for? What do you do with it? Tony Gwynn died in 2014 at the age of 54. He succumbed to complications from a 17-year struggle with mouth cancer caused by his regular use of dipping tobacco during his playing days. I don’t know if Tony was a Christian or not. He didn’t discuss his religious beliefs, if any, in public. The bottom dropped out of the baseball card frenzy a long time ago, but there are still a few stores here in the ROC area that cater to sports collectors. News sources report that card collecting is actually making a small comeback among nostalgic, middle-aged males with an excess of time on their hands during this pandemic.

“Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” – Isaiah 2:22

Frivolity: Checking in with my sports teams

I haven’t posted any information regarding my sports teams since the San Diego Padres were disappointingly swept by the evil Los Angeles Dodger$ in the NLDS this past October, so let’s do a quick status check:

Los Angeles Chargers (fan since 1969)

The Chargers finished their season this past Sunday, ending up with a disappointing 7-9 record. The highlight was the play of rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert (photo, first from left). After the 2019 season, the Chargers turned the page on aging, 16-year veteran QB, Philip Rivers, and drafted Herbert with the sixth pick in the first round. The former Oregon Duck got the nod in game #2 and never looked back, shattering multiple NFL all-time rookie QB records. The other most notable thing about the Chargers this season was the glaring ineptness of head coach, Anthony Lynn. There were many examples of bewildering play selection and clock mismanagement. Special teams play was once again beyond atrocious. As expected, Chargers owner Dean Spanos and GM Tom Telesco mercifully fired Lynn this past Monday morning. Being the head coach of an NFL team is an incredibly difficult job and few are cut out for it. Another notable thing about this season is that the Chargers moved into their new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, but because of the C-19 lockdown, they were spared the embarrassment of empty seats due to the lack of a fan base.

New York Knicks (fan since 1968)

After two decades of appalling mismanagement and roster missteps, the Knicks now have a some pep in their step and appear to be legit. The team hired no-nonsense head coach, Tom Thibodeau, and drafted talented Obi Toppin (PF) and Immanuel Quickley (PG, photo, second from left) in the first round. Julius Randle (PF) has stepped it up and accepted the leadership role as the young core – R.J. Barrett (SF), Mitch Robinson (C), Kevin Knox (SF), Toppin, and Quickley – continues to gel. The Knicks have started the season 4-3 and I really like what I see.

RIT Tigers (fan since 2009)

The Rochester Institute of Technology had initially called off its 2020-21 hockey season due to C-19, but then reconsidered. The pandemic continues to play havoc within the Atlantic Conference and schedules are constantly in flux, but Coach Wayne Wilson and the Tigers are currently 4-4-2.

San Diego Padres (fan since 1970)

I was happy that the Padres finished 37-23 and advanced past St. Louis in their NLWC series, but was disappointed after they were swept by the Dodger$ in the NLDS. General Manager, A.J. Preller, made some bold moves in the off-season by trading for pitching aces, Blake Snell, from Tampa and Yu Darvish from the Cubbies. Preller also signed Korean star infielder, Ha-Seong Kim. The upcoming 2021 season looks very bright for Fernando Tatis Jr. (photo, fourth from left) and the Padres.

Postscript: Following professional and/or college sports is a consuming passion for a vast number of Americans. Many Christian athletes use their platform to bring glory to God, and that’s a good thing. There are also excellent life lessons to be culled regarding teamwork, dedication, self-discipline, and perseverance. Apostle Paul used the analogy of athletes in his first epistle to the Corinthians. But the bottom line is that professional and college sports are dollar-driven, entertainment industries. Secular pastimes and interests are not necessarily evil in and of themselves, but they become so when we prioritize them above the Lord and His Kingdom.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Padres advance, face Dodger$

The San Diego Padres hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2006, so I was really pleased that they posted a remarkable 37-23 record in the C-19 shortened season and earned a spot against the St. Louis Cardinals in a NL Wildcard, best-of-three series. The Padres lost their two pitching aces, Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger, to injury immediately prior to the competition, a HUGE blow! But the Padres improbably won the series and advanced to the NL Division Series, to face the Los Angeles Dodger$ in a best-of-five series beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, October 6. Unfortunately, the game starts at 9:38 PM ET. Let’s briefly recap the games against the Cardinals and preview the matchup with the Dodger$

San Diego Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals, NL Wildcard Series @ Petco Park, San Diego

Game 1 – Wednesday, September 30

With pitching aces, Lamet and Clevinger on the bench, Chris Paddack got the nod for the Padres. The young pitcher had control problems all season long and his troubles continued into this game, giving up 6 runs in 2 1/3 innings. The Padres’ big bats never got going. The futility of the evening was exemplified by rookie Jake Cronenworth’s blockhead base-running mistake. Only 8 hits for the Pads.
Final score: Cardinals 7, Padres 4

Game 2 – Thursday, October 1

Pitcher Zach Davies started for the Padres, but was ineffectual and only lasted two innings. In the bottom of the 6th, with the Cards leading 6-2, Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a three-run dinger followed by a solo shot by Manny Machado. Tie score! The onslaught continued with Tatis hitting another HR and Wil Myers adding two more. Fifteen hits for the Pads!
Final score: Padres 11, Cardinals 9

Game 3 – Friday, October 2

The Cardinals saved their ace pitcher, Jack Flaherty, for the decisive rubber game. Meanwhile, the Padres started reliever, Craig Stammen, and would follow with 8 other relievers. Eric Hosmer finally got to Flaherty in the 5th with a double that scored Tatis. The Padres pieced together a couple of runs with clutch hitting, good base-running, and a walked-in run. Cronenworth then redeemed his bonehead base-running error in Game 1 with a solo HR. Eight hits for the Padres. A masterful shutout performance by the relief committee.
Final score: Padres 4, Cardinals 0

In the series, Tommy Pham (6 hits), Cronenworth (5), Tatis Jr. (5), Myers (4), and Jurikson Profar (4) all came to play. Hosmer (2 hits), Machado (2), Trent Grisham (0), and Austin Nola (0) disappointed.

San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodger$, NL Division Series, Game 1, Tuesday, October 6 @ Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas

We don’t know if either Lamet or Clevinger will be available for this series against arguably the best team in MLB. It’s next to impossible to expect Paddack, Davies, and the relief committee to compete with the Dodger$ exceptional staff (MLB-leading 3.02 team ERA). The Dodger$ also know how to score runs (MLB-leading 349), but the Padres aren’t far behind (325). For the Padres to have a chance, ALL the hitters need to bring their A game. Hosmer, Machado, Grisham, and Nola need to WAKE UP!

In the article below, baseball writer, Mark Feinsand, compares the two clubs by position and the Dodger$ definitely do have an advantage on paper.

Padres-Dodgers position-by-position analysis
https://www.mlb.com/dodgers/news/padres-dodgers-nlds-position-by-position-analysis

Go Padres! NL Wild Card Series begins tonight

Yup, the COVID-19 pandemic has played absolute havoc here in America and around the world. The nation began to hunker down in mid-March as the virus spread. Quarantine restrictions were imposed inconsistently as government officials in the various regions of the country weighed the public health risk versus economic health. Businesses have cut back or closed altogether and millions of people have been laid off or terminated. The death toll continues to rise despite those who imprudently call the pandemic a hoax: 206,000 deaths have been attributed to C-19 in the U.S.A. to date. If the pandemic wasn’t bad enough, we also had the BLM protests accompanied by looting and destruction in many cities.

Amidst those kinds of significant and challenging circumstances, professional sports were/are hardly a priority, but many hoped the pro leagues could put together some type of package, if only to bring a little “normalcy” back to the very chaotic situation.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association hammered out a plan for a shortened, 60-game season and play began back on July 24th in empty stadiums.

I was optimistic for my San Diego Padres. Free agent pickup, Manny Machado, definitely didn’t live up to his hype in 2019, but Padres fans were hopeful he would return to form as one of MLB’s premier players. Fernando Tatis Jr. was on his way to the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year, until an injury felled him in August. And I was once again hopeful that previous free agent pickups, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers, would finally get their heads on straight.

The abbreviated season and expanded playoff format meant just about every team had a shot if they could sustain a few hot streaks. Well my friends, the Padres put together quite a season and finished 37-23, the third-best record in MLB behind only the L.A. Dodger$ and the Tampa Bay Rays. Tatis SS was a shoe-in for NL MVP until he slowed down in August. However, Machado 3B stepped it up with a back-end NL MVP performance. Hosmer 1B played very well and many fans are thinking about Myers RF for Comeback Player of the Year for his excellent season. Rookie Jake Cronenworth 2B was a delightful surprise for the first 30 games, although he cooled off. After a slow start, Jurickson Profar LF settled in and finished the season as the hottest hitter on the roster. Young Trent Grisham did a nice job at CF. Big bat, Mitch Moreland 1B, was a late-season acquisition for the DH slot, but hasn’t lived up to expectations.

Starting pitchers, Dinelson Lamet and Zach Davies had excellent seasons, although Garrett Richards and especially projected-ace, Chris Paddack, disappointed. The Padres acquired Cleveland Indians ace, Mike Clevinger, in late August to shore up the rotation.

With their impressive 37-23 record and their 2nd-place finish behind the Dodger$ in the NL West, the Padres earned the 4th seed in the playoffs and will face the 5th seed St. Louis Cardinals in a best-of-three series beginning tonight, 5 p.m. ET.

The last time the Padres were in the playoffs was…hold onto your hats…2006. The biggest concern for the Padres going into the series will be the recent nagging injuries to Lamet (biceps) and Clevinger (elbow).

If Lamet and/or Clevinger can’t pitch, the Padres would need a huge break. Can the big bats (Machado, Tatis, Myers, Hosmer) and the relief staff rise to the occasion?

Be like Mike?

Outside of limited trips to the neighborhood grocery store, most of us have largely been stuck at home during the past eight weeks due to the pandemic lockdown. I’m a reader, so to keep myself occupied, I downloaded six ebooks and bought two hard-copy, used books from Amazon third-party sellers. Many people have whiled away the surplus hours by binge-watching movies and series on Netflix, Amazon, or other streaming services. In the midst of this high demand for home entertainment, somebody at ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) timed it perfectly with the release of “The Last Dance,” a ten-part documentary, which focuses on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls basketball team during their heyday in the 1990s. The first two episodes premiered on April 19th followed by the release of two additional episodes each of the next four Sunday nights.

Sports-starved American males (and undoubtedly some females) are captivated by this series. ESPN previously had good success with its “30 for 30” series about interesting sports stories, but “The Last Dance” documentary has to be shattering all kinds of audience records.

Michael Jordan played for the Bulls from 1984 to 1993 and 1995 to 1998, leading the team to six NBA championships in that span, and is arguably one of the top-three sports icons of modern times. That very short short-list also includes Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali. What made Jordan so good? Not only was he blessed with extraordinary athletic ability, he was also driven to be the very best.

In his push to win championships, Jordan took no prisoners. He even savagely bullied his own teammates. This series provides many unflinching and sometimes even painfully revealing insights into Jordan’s and the Bull’s rise to the top of the National Basketball Association.

A massive advertising campaign once encouraged all of us to “Be like Mike.” The man still enjoys worldwide fame and adulation to a degree that few others have known.

After having watched the latest episodes of “The Last Dance” this past Sunday night, I was doing my morning walk through the neighborhood and listening via earbuds to a sermon from John MacArthur regarding the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Argh! It struck me how VASTLY different the teachings and example of Jesus Christ are compared to the values of this world as exemplified by the adulation accorded to Michael Jordan. I’m not privy to Jordan’s spiritual beliefs. The man has kept his religious views, if any, so private despite thirty-six years of media scrutiny that they frustrate any and every google search. However, it doesn’t appear from the many interviews and behind-the-scenes segments in this series that Michael knows and loves the Lord.

I don’t want to be like Mike, I want to be like Jesus Christ.

Postscript: Featured in one of the episodes is a quip from Larry Bird in a press interview immediately after 23-year-old, Michael Jordan, scored 63 points in a playoff loss to Bird’s Boston Celtics on April 20, 1986. “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan,” said the exasperated Bird. Ach. That’s going WAY too far, Larry!

The “untimely” death of Kobe Bryant

I don’t usually publish two posts in one day, but yesterday’s news prompted me to put together some brief thoughts this morning.

As I’m sure most of you have heard, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California yesterday. Our non-believing oldest son called me yesterday afternoon to give me the breaking news.

41-year-old, Kobe Bryant was a living sports legend. He was such a gifted athlete that he was drafted into the National Basketball Association right out of high school. In his twenty-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, he led the team to five championships and accumulated multiple individual honors. Kobe is widely recognized as one of the NBA’s top-ten greatest players of all time. While he was blessed with extraordinary athletic talent, he was appreciated by teammates, opponents, and fans alike for his “take no prisoners,” razor-focused, “Black Mamba” persona, to be the best in the game.

The world worships its sports heroes and the sudden death of Bryant shocked people across the globe. The extensive television coverage of Kobe’s untimely death and the mournful adulation of his fans was a phenomenon by itself.

If Kobe had died when he was seventy-five or eighty-five, it would not have been such a HUGE deal, but his early, accidental death is a shocking reminder that we are all mortal. God’s Word, the Bible, says this is a fallen world and that we are all sinners. The wages of sin is death, both physical and spiritual. But God the Father loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross. Jesus didn’t stay dead, but rose from the grave, defeating sin and death, and now offers the free gift of eternal life to all those who repent (turn from sinful rebellion against God) and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone.

Kobe accomplished much in his short life, but he was also caught in some embarrassing indiscretions as most public figures are in this era of unyielding scrutiny. Did Kobe ever accept Jesus Christ as his Savior?

Some people achieve great fame because of talent and/or ambition. Most people in this world receive no notoriety. Rich and famous or poor and obscure, we must all stand before God someday. Will you be standing before God covered in the imputed, perfect righteousness of the Savior, Jesus Christ, or will you be standing before God covered in your sins and tainted self-righteousness? Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior now! Don’t wait! Early yesterday morning, Kobe probably didn’t have a care in the world, yet his life was over in seconds.

I will be mentioning Kobe’s untimely death in conversation with our unbelieving sons who love sports, but can’t be bothered with spiritual matters.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1

“For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” – 2 Corinthians 6:2

The San Diego Padres rack up yet another disappointing season

Back in March, fans of the San Diego Padres anticipated a decent season for a change. The Padres hadn’t had a winning record since 2010, but the acquisition of free agent slugger, Manny Machado, and the promotions of some very promising blue chippers from the farm system prompted team execs and fans to hope for at least a .500 season. The Padres actually were 45-45 at the All-Star break, but afterward descended into a familiar losing spiral, winning only 25 of their final 72 games and posting a season-ending 70-92 record. Only one other MLB team lost more games after the break. What happened? Let’s take a look at how the Padres performed in 2019, position by position. Within the parentheses are the player’s pre-ASG BA followed by their post-ASG BA.

1B – Eric Hosmer (.287/.237) was one of the team’s spark plugs prior to the break, but faded afterwards. His 90 strikeouts post-ASG was #6 in all of MLB. Padres fans are still waiting for Hosmer to justify his 2018 free agency acquisition.

2B – Veteran, Ian Kinsler (.217/.217), was brought aboard to anchor the young infield, but he was a total bust. Advertised blue-chipper, Luis Urias (.083/.241) was called up when Kinsler went down with a season-ending injury, but the rookie struggled with major league pitching until September.

SS – Fernando Tatis, Jr. (.327/.302) looked like the NL Rookie of the Year when he wasn’t injured, but he played only 84 games. “El Niño” needs to guard against pushing himself beyond his physical limits.

3B – Free agent slugger, Manny Machado (.266/.242), signed with the Padres for $30 million per year for ten years. He didn’t live up to the hype to put it mildly. Manny batted .221 in August and .193 in September.

LF – Wil Meyers (.217/.271) was atrocious before the break, but had a bit of a revival afterwards. The 2015 free agent acquisition has been a major disappointment overall.

CF – Manny Margot (.242/.225) plays decent defense, but can’t hit.

RF – Hunter Renfroe (.252/.161) looked like a future All-Star with 27 HRs before the break, but went into an offensive tailspin afterwards.

C – Austin Hedges (.185/.161) is strictly a defensive player. Francisco Mejia (.211/.305) was the Padres’ only bright spot in the second half of the season.

Outfielder, Franmil “franimal” Reyes (.253/.273), had an impressive 27 dingers before the break, but couldn’t catch a cold. The Padres traded him to the Reds on July 31st. Role players, Greg Garcia (.264/.226), Ty France (.235/.233), and Josh Naylor (.215/.269) underwhelmed.

The Padres’ team BA pre-ASG of .242 placed them at #24 in MLB. Not good. Their post-ASG team BA of .233 placed them at #28. Atrocious.

P – Chris Paddack (2.84/4.01 ERA) had a notable rookie season and Dinelson Lamet (5.40/3.97) was decent in the second half. Joey Lucchesi (3.94/4.52), Eric Lauer (4.04/5.09) and Cal Quantrill (4.83/5.37) disappointed. Closer Kirby Yates led the majors with 30 saves before the break, but the Padres didn’t give him many opportunities post-ASG and he ended up with 41 saves.

The loss of Tatis, Jr. mid-August was a big blow, but doesn’t explain how the Padres collectively went into a nosedive. GM, A.J. Preller, threw skipper Andy Green under the bus by firing him on September 21 with only 8 games left in the season, but I think Padres ownership needs to take a long, hard look at Preller after this disaster of a season.

The San Diego Padres’ First Half-Century

San Diego Padres: The First Half Century
Edited by Tom Larwin and Bill Nowlin
Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), 2019, 358 pp.

5 Stars

This year, the San Diego Padres are celebrating their 50th anniversary. I actually began following the Padres in 1970, their sophomore season. It’s been a bumpy ride, folks. San Diego is a smaller market compared to some of the higher-profile MLB cities, and the Padres just don’t have the money to regularly buy their way into the playoffs like the Dodger$ or Yankee$. But there’s several bright spots in the franchise’s history, like the trips to the World Series in 1984 and 1998.

Because residents of San Diego enjoy one of the finest climates in the U.S.A., they’re hard-pressed to sit in a stadium for three hours when there’s so many other things to do. The football Chargers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles in 2017 because the city wouldn’t help the team build a new stadium, but the fundamental issue was lack of fan support. Likewise, the Padres consistently draw below the MLB attendance average. Because of that lack of fan support, there just haven’t been many books written about the Padres over the years, so I’m grateful for this one, which commemorates the club’s fifty seasons.

There’s 66 chapters in this book collected under the following categories:

  • The Players – profiles of 25 former Padres
  • Managers, Executives, Media
  • Spring Training, Stadia, and The Chicken
  • Notable Padres Games
  • Facts, Figures, Trivia

I was happy to see the publication of this book, which celebrates the team’s first fifty years, and I thoroughly enjoyed some of the old memories. However, believe me when I tell you that ONLY an old Padres fan like myself would enjoy reading this fact-filled tome. One small criticism: Many of the player profiles include copious amounts of information about the players’ stints with other ball clubs, but most Padres’ fans would not be interested.

Postscript: At the All-Star break, the Padres had a promising 45-45 record. Since then, they’ve gone 5-11, losing five series in a row.