Earlier today, MLB Trade Rumors disseminated a report emanating from Yahoo! Sports’s Japanese outlet (link in Japanese) linking Orix Buffaloes pitcher Chihiro Kaneko to the San Diego Padres. Okay, we’re getting ahead of ourselves; the report was that he was visiting the US to watch the World Series and get a first-hand look at MLB atmosphere, where three teams were mentioned to have recently scouted the 30-year-old starting pitcher. Along with the Phillies and Red Sox, the Padres reportedly sent people to scout Kaneko last month.

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The youth movement is in full effect at Petco Park. Today, the San Diego Padres announced the hiring of Sam Geaney, 29, as Director of Player Development, overseeing the team’s minor league operations. He will replace Randy Smith, who was reassigned by the Padres to the role of senior advisor to baseball operations. Geaney has been with the Oakland Athletics organization for the past nine years and spent the past three seasons as Coordinator of International Scouting. What were you doing when you were 26 years old? Probably not grading Dominican athletes for a Major League ballclub.

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Stickers are a thing you don’t see very often anymore. Back in the day there would always be some sort of bumper sticker giveaway, with some sort of promotion on the back and the catch phrase for that year.

It’s fun to look back at these and laugh at the taglines. What does “let yourself go” even mean? “Catch us if you can”? How cute, for a team who had finished above .500 once in their history at that point, to say something like that. Perhaps the team became tired of peeling off the stickers placed on the nether regions of the stadium by unruly fans and decided to quit giving them away? Regardless of the reason, RIP Bumper Stickers, you were taken from us far too soon.

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*Back in 1988, Padres fan and local San Diegan Joe Furtado, started writing a book based on Padres history up to that point. 21 Chapters later he finished it and after a few failed attempts at getting it published, put it back on his shelf never to see the light of day…..that is until now. To read the other entries, click here.

By Joe Furtado:

There was reason for optimism as the 1971 baseball season approached. Attendance had increased more than 130,000 fans from 1969, and the Padres put the National League on notice that offensively, they were a force to be reckoned with. They had played good ball in September and the current mound corps, although still very young, had a full season of ex-perience under their belts. The future looked bright.

In the winter free agent draft held in January, the Padres had the first pick. With it they chose a 20 year old third base prospect from Pearland,Texas, by the name of Dave Hilton. They also drafted a left handed hitting outfielder named John Grubb. The radio trio of Jerry Gross, Duke Snider, and Frank Sims was pared down to two when Sims was named the Director of Radio and Television Operations. It was also announced that KCST, Channel 39 would televise 22 road games in 1971, including all the games in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Duke Snider and Channel 39 sports director Bob Chandler would do the TV commentary.

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Since we last discussed the San Diego Padres catcher situation, a lot has happened:

  • Yasmani Grandal turned in an up-and-down campaign in 2014 after rushing a return from ACL surgery, showing signs of offensive brilliance while also failing to build on his sensational 2012 debut. On the defensive side of the ball, he had some trouble with blocking pitches and only threw out 13 percent of would-be base thieves, but he remained one of the game’s best pitch framers.
  • Rene Rivera somehow emerged as an offensive force, hitting .252/.319/.432 in 329 plate appearances, finishing third on the team in home runs (11) despite the limited playing time. Rivera also excelled behind the dish, seemingly becoming everyone’s favorite guy to throw to along with posting gaudy defensive stats.
  • Rivera’s emergence as Defense-First Catcher, Now With Capable Bat left Nick Hundley as the odd-man out. Despite much improved framing numbers after apparently devoting more time to the craft, another slow start with the bat made it easy for the Padres to deal Hundley to Baltimore in May for Troy Patton.
  • And Austin Hedges, rated as high as the 18th best prospect in the game by Baseball Prospectus last offseason, completely flopped offensively in his first full-season attempt at Double-A. Hedges hit .225/.268/.321 in 457 PAs in San Antonio, with 23 walks compared to 89 strikeouts. The defense — even though some say it took a slight step back in 2014 — is still all-world, but the bat becomes more of a pressing question heading forward. The 22-year-old Hedges has plenty of time to turn it around in the minor leagues, but another trip through Double-A is likely. With Grandal and Rivera in the majors, there’s no rush.

With Hundley out of the picture and Hedges on hold, we’re left with Grandal and Rivera as the current catching combo on the big league roster. When you have an embarrassment of riches at one position and glaring holes at others, there tends to be some discussion about moving players around. First base is one of those holes, as Yonder Alonso has failed to live up to the line-drive, high on-base percentage hype that accompanied him when the Padres acquired him back in late-2011 and Tommy Medica, despite occasional flashes, has yet to show that he possesses enough consistency for an everyday role. Alonso’s batting average hasn’t approached .300 in San Diego and his OBP dipped to .285 last year which is, even before you consider his powerless approach, unacceptable at first base. Medica blasted nine home runs in just 259 major league PAs last year, but he also walked just 14 times while striking out 75.

So, maybe the simple solution is to move Grandal to first base full-time and then let Rivera take over as the everyday catcher. It’s a move that makes so much sense that the Padres tried it plenty of times last year, giving Grandal 33 starts at first base throughout the season, with 18 of them coming in September. There are a few reasons why, in this humble author’s opinion anyway, Grandal shouldn’t trade in the catcher’s mitt for a first basemen’s glove just yet:

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The San Diego Padres mid-season firing of general manager Josh Byrnes seems to have triggered front office upheaval in the rest of the National League West.* Since then, the Arizona Diamondbacks fired Kevin Towers and hired Dave Stewart/ De Jon Watson (which we discussed last month), the Colorado Rockies promoted from within with Jeff Bridich replacing the departing Dan O’Dowd, and now the Los Angeles Dodgers have shifted longtime GM Ned Colletti to a senior advisor role and plucked Andrew Friedman from the Tampa Bay Rays to be their president of baseball operations.

*The Giants, who just punched their biennial ticket to the World Series, likely won’t be making any major front office changes anytime soon. 

The reaction to that last bit of news — the part about the Dodgers hiring Friedman — was a resounding “Oh, shit!” to NL West fans that don’t root for LA. If you haven’t followed Friedman closely, the biggest thing to know is, well, that he helped transform the Rays from a perennial laughing stock to a perennial contender, and he did it all on a shoe-string budget. Tampa Bay’s short existence as a franchise allows us to neatly separate its history into two periods:

Pre-Andrew Friedman Era (1998-2005) Andrew Friedman Era (2006-2014)
65-97 average record 84-78 average record

Friedman led the Rays to their first division title, their first playoff appearance, and their first American League pennant all in 2008. The Rays have reeled off five 90-plus win seasons, two division titles, and four playoff appearances since Friedman took the reins as general manager, and they’ve done it in the ultra competitive American League East with the high-rolling Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

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Sometimes it’s fun to revisit places we’ve been. It’s good to see how the world has changed, how we have changed. Every so often here at Son of a Duck, we’ll grab an old Ducksnorts article out of the vault and mark it up with red pen. Enjoy!

[Original article posted 7/11/99]

Last month the all stars from two Class-A leagues clashed at the Lake Elsinore Diamond to display their talents and bring victory to their league. My wife and I left work early and drove the hour or so up I-15 to the check out the game.

We parked in a dirt lot (overflow parking for the big crowd) adjacent to the stadium, and as we made our way into the state-of-the-art facility, the home run hitting contest was just getting underway. After the obligatory stop at the gift shop to pick up a Lake Elsinore Storm cap, we stood in the concourse and watched Chin-Feng Chen, of the San Bernardino Stampede (Dodgers), knock a ball out of the park. Visalia Oaks (Athletics) first baseman Todd Mensik ended up winning the contest.

The lot has since been paved, and there are now houses behind it. I’ve had so many Storm caps over the years, I can’t remember which one this was. I’m thinking red and black, the one my late pug Toby ate. This was the year I saw the Angels’ Ramon Ortiz make a rehab start for the Storm, pitching against Padres prospect Mike Bynum.

And I’m still baffled at Chen. Dude was a big-time prospect (Baseball America had him ranked no. 17 before the 2000 season) who never made it, never even got a chance, logging a total of 25 plate appearances over four cups of coffee with the Dodgers before returning to his native Taiwan. He played in the 2007 World Baseball Classic and the 2008 Olympics, and now plays for the Chinese Professional Baseball League’s Lamigo Monkeys. (I can’t find stats, but here’s video of Chen drawing a walk against his former Dodgers teammate Hong-Chih Kuo in September. Also, that crowd is seriously into the ballgame.)

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The Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBBA) was founded in 2009 with the purpose of encouraging collaboration and communication among bloggers from across baseball.  The Alliance also votes on various awards at different times in the year, including end of season awards.  

A pitcher hasn’t won the National League MVP award since 1968 when Bob Gibson won it during the “Year of the Pitcher.” Bob Gibson’s numbers that year are so eye-popping they are almost hard to believe.

ERA: 1.12 (Live Ball Era Record)

IP: 304.2

BA Against: .184

SO: 268

HRs: 11 (11!)

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I call it a “Partially Gelatinated Non-Dairy Gum-Based Beverage”

It’s been a while since I wrote anything that wasn’t a While You Were Drinking or a news item.  And let’s be honest.  There’s only so many ways someone can say “this team sucks” and not come off as a total prick.  But make no mistake, this Padres team definitely sucked this year.

Yeah, sure, they finished with more wins than any of the previous three seasons.  By one.  One win.  I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and tell you how the Padres have exceeded expectations after their horrific offensive start.  Sorry if you think I will.

Despite what some people may think they know about my opinions of other Padres’ fans, I believe the majority of fans are smarter than given credit for.  And that you all deserve straight talk, not bulls**t.

I’ve been writing bits and pieces of this over the course of the last couple weeks.  It’s very stream of consciousness, so it’s all over the place.  I don’t even know if it’s readable for anyone who’s not me.  But, there you go.  You’ve been warned.

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The Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBBA) was founded in 2009 with the purpose of encouraging collaboration and communication among bloggers from across baseball.  The Alliance also votes on various awards at different times in the year, including end of season awards.

Award season.  That time-honored tradition of someone deciding who or what should get something for their performance.  Movies have the Academy Awards.  TV has the Emmy’s.  Baseball has the ESPY’s Baseball Writers Association of America‘s end of season awards.

None of the folks in the BBBA are likely members of the BBWAA.  At least I don’t think so.  I do know that no one in the San Diego chapter is.  So we get to make up our own awards.  Which is nice.

Last week, Padres Trail gave you the first category, Manager of the Year.  Today, I get the chance to show you who we selected for Reliever of the Year and Pitcher of the Year.

There are no Padres pitchers on our collective ballots for the Reliever of the Year or Pitcher of the Year, despite Padres Trail’s blatant attempts at homerism by putting Tyson Ross on his ballot.  Sorry.  That’s life.

This is my first year in the BBBA, which means that these are the first awards I’ve ever voted on.  And no, I don’t count the McRib Awards from last year.  No one should count those.  Ever.

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