In 2014, the Padres won 48 games at home. That was better than every team in the NL West and all but 3 teams in the National League (Washington, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh, who all won 51).

On the road, it was a different story. The Padres won 29 games, the second lowest total in all of baseball (the lowest total: Colorado with 21).

The 19 game win differential between home and road was the second largest differential in baseball, second only to those same Rockies.

First, a bit on the importance of that 19 game difference. This year, both NL Wild Card teams, one of which played in the World Series this year, won 88 games. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that it was not too long ago the Padres won 90 games only to miss out on the playoffs (the obvious caveat being there was only 1 wild card back then). Which means a 41-40 record on the road would have equaled a playoff spot. That might seem easy on the surface, but keep in mind that would have been a better road record than Oakland, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis to name a few.

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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 11/14/02]

Back from Vegas. Almost bailed out on my excursion to Big Bear due to rain, but figured since it was pouring all over SoCal it didn’t really matter which way I went. So I took a drive through the mountains, and I’m glad I did. Saw one of the more spectacular rainbows I’ve seen outside of Hawaii, and generally had a blast enjoying the relative space that steering clear of the interstates affords. Listened to some great tunes, too. Couple guitarists worth investigating, if you’re into that sort of thing:

Brilliant players, both. Check ‘em out.

I’d forgotten about that route to Vegas. Stupid way to go, but different. The wind on the back side of that mountain is ridiculous. I stopped up there for some reason and could barely open my car door. Beautiful country, though, and that drive down into Lucerne Valley is kind of cool if you’re into desolate landscapes, as I am.

My current preferred route runs through Yucca Valley (mandatory lunch stop at Papa’s Smokehouse), Kelso, Nipton, and Searchlight. The trip takes forever but beats I-15 every day of the week.

Also, you should listen to Kaphan and Hedges.

As for me, I’m spending way too much time with my new 4-track (yeah, I bought one; it was nice knowing the wife, LOL). But I’m also starting to think about things baseball again, which is a good sign (I’m just not capable of taking that much time off). Caught a little of the rebroadcast of the April 3 Padres/Diamondbacks game the other night. Fun to watch Brian Lawrence serve up all those worm-beaters.

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On Sunday night, news broke out of the Domincan Republic that Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, along with his girlfriend Edilio Arvelo, had passed away in a car accident. I was hoping that it wasn’t true — probably like many of you — that it was one of those rumors somehow spread via social media that turns out to be a vicious hoax or some type of misunderstanding. As you certainly know by now, the story was confirmed and reported by Ken Rosenthal during the World Series, serving as a somber reminder that sometimes the escape that we call sports doesn’t always comply with our wishes. Taveras, a consensus top-three prospect over the last few years, was just 22 years old (his girlfriend 18) and had his whole career — and more so, his whole life — ahead of him. It’s a tragic, jarring loss, even though similar accidents and untimely deaths happen countless times each day. The fact that we’re part of a community — baseball fans in general and/or prospect hounds more specifically — in which Taveras played a prominent role makes his loss stand out, triggering all of those age old questions about life, and death, and things we don’t understand. Condolences to the family and friends of both Taveras and Arvelo, along with the entire Cardinals organization.   

Now, on a much lighter note, let’s discuss some news and notes in and around Padres land.

Joe Maddon speculation … commence!

Our continued focus on moves that might affect the Padres indirectly – like Andrew Friedman going to LA and the D’Backs front office shake-up – shifts to discussing Joe Maddon’s abrupt departure as Tampa Bay Rays manager. Maddon, who had amassed a .517 winning percentage and an America League pennant in nine years with the Rays, exercised an opt-out in his contract on Saturday that allowed him to walk away from his deal if Andrew Friedman left the Rays.

The immediate speculation was that Maddon, one of the game’s most respected managers, would take over as skipper for the Dodgers, reuniting with Friedman in LA and ousting Don Mattingly. Mattingly, despite two straight 90-win seasons, is firmly entrenched on the managerial wobbly chair with an early playoff exit in 2014 and an ongoing power struggle with right fielder Yasiel Puig. That narrative took a bit of a turn when Friedman issued this statement on Saturday:

As I said last week, Joe and I enjoyed a tremendous relationship working together in Tampa Bay, and I wish him nothing but the best, wherever his next stop will be. However, nothing has changed on our end. Don Mattingly will be our manager next season and hopefully for a long time to come.

With Maddon now essentially a free agent manager and the big spending Dodgers apparently out of the mix (at least for this year), you’ve got to ask yourself: why couldn’t Maddon’s next destination be San Diego?

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Oh, A.J. Preller…is there anything you won’t do to make San Diego fall in love with you? Although we have yet to see what the Padres general manager can do in the free agent or trade markets, one thing is becoming more and more apparent…the guy knows how to surround himself with good people. Last Thursday, Preller lured current director of player development Sam Geaney away from the Oakland Athletics. Today, the Padres website announced the hiring of former Los Angeles Dodgers scouting director Logan White. According to the LA Times, White is rumored to be named senior advisor to the general manager, as well as director of pro scouting.

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Vinnie Vincent Invasion was an ’80s hair band led by a former KISS guitarist named, as fate would have it, Vinnie Vincent. I’ve mentioned this before, but I once saw them open for Iron Maiden at Long Beach Arena. Pink amplifiers everywhere.

I’m still traumatized, thanks for asking.

Nick Vincent, on the other hand, is a reliever for the Padres. He traumatizes right-handed batters.

We’ll save the how and why for some other day. For now, let’s all revel in the glory that is Vincent. Here are pitchers with the lowest opponent OPS by right-handed hitters over 2013-2014, minimum 200 plate appearances (thanks, as always, to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index):

Craig Kimbrel 237 .125 .226 .188 24 87
Nick Vincent 231 .162 .199 .227 8 78
Greg Holland 217 .164 .218 .224 14 95
Jeurys Familia 203 .155 .251 .207 22 60
José Fernández 419 .163 .212 .258 22 135

First off, Fernández is a freak, or at least was before his injury. For baseball’s sake, here’s hoping he gets well soon.

Second, Vincent is sandwiched between two elite closers. It sort of makes you wonder if he might also be closer material. I mean, really, what’s the difference between Kimbrel, Vincent, and Holland?

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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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