The Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual included a section called “Overlooked ex-Padres.” I’d wanted to call attention to four players–Ollie Brown, Mike Ivie, Ruppert Jones, and Bip Roberts–that maybe didn’t get their due in San Diego. The idea was noble, but the execution could have been better.

Since I’ve spent much of the offseason writing player comments for Baseball Prospectus 2015 (#ShamelessPlug), I’m in the mind-set of condensing a man’s contributions to his team into a short paragraph with snappy phrases. In that vein, I thought it might be fun to revisit those players from DS2008 and write capsules for each of their seasons with the Padres.

First on the agenda: Ollie Brown.

BP1969

Selected as the first pick overall in last year’s expansion draft, Brown–the older brother of Braves prospect Oscar Brown–is expected to be the Padres’ everyday right fielder. Don’t be fooled by his .249/.303/.350 line in sporadic playing time with the Giants over the last four seasons. He led the California League in homers and SLG back in ’64 and is still only 25 years old. Despite being a right-handed hitter, he has struggled thus far against lefties at the highest level, but that could just be a sample size issue. Now freed from having to look over his shoulder at the younger and more exciting Bobby Bonds, Brown should thrive in his new home.

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One

He’s weighing those options now, working through some decisions.

He said he was 100 percent, he was fine.

Then just that freak incident on the steps.

He had the bat in his hand and he felt something in his forearm.

Two

We have to hope for the best in the future.

Three

He’s structurally intact.

He’s feeling better, and he’s doing fine.

It’s just been a slower recovery for him than most.

He just ran out of season.

Let’s get him as strong as possible.

Four

He was a soccer player and didn’t quite understand what he needed to do.

It was a great learning year for him in a lot of areas.

He wasn’t quite there yet.

Five

There were stretches of really good pitching.

Maybe he needed that bigger stage to totally focus.

Six

We wanted to err on the side of caution.

He came in and was quite honest.

Nip this in the bud instead of trying to push something.

Seven

His at-bats can be conducted a little bit better.

He’s got to be ready for the fastball, be ready in fastball counts.

Here, he’s let some good fastballs go without a swing.

We know he’s got the raw power.

Eight

He needs to gain experience, which takes time.

There is going to be a time where he’s no longer a secret.

He’ll have to make adjustments.

Nine

He showed determination through his time here.

It’s been great to witness him grow up.

Always could be counted on to do the right thing.

Let’s hope that it happens for him here.

Any excuse to ride the train is a good excuse. Last Saturday we took the Pacific Surfliner four hours north up the coast to check out the Museum of Ventura County‘s Béisbol: From the Barrios to the Big Leagues exhibit, which runs through November 30.

Admission to the museum is $5 for adults 18 years and older; $3 for seniors, students, and AAA members; and $1 for children aged 6-17. Kids 5 years old and younger get in free. Despite my best tantrum, I did not pass for 5 or younger.

The exhibit is small and can be viewed in 30-40 minutes, but if you love baseball history, it’s well worth the time and cost. There are two components to the exhibit. One celebrates the tradition of baseball in Ventura, as played by Mexican-American immigrants dating back to the early 20th century. The other takes a more global look at the Latin-American influence on the game as we know it today.

The local history part includes photos, old flannel uniforms, bats and gloves, and descriptions of the people who played the games and where they played them. All offer a glimpse into Ventura’s past and provide a welcome reminder that despite MLB’s having become a huge monolithic industry, baseball remains at its roots the people’s game.

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There isn’t much bad to say about Tyson Ross’ 2014 season. He didn’t control the running game. Sure, but neither did Greg Maddux, and that worked out okay. He pitched better at home than on the road. Fine, but he didn’t build Petco Park. He faded toward the end. Okay, but he’d never been asked to work nearly that many innings in his life.

Ross was a stud last year, with few weaknesses, most of which are easily explained. One area where he struggled, which isn’t so easily explained, was in high-leverage situations (you might want to read this lengthy discussion on leverage before proceeding). Here, courtesy of Baseball-Reference’s Play Index, are his splits for 2014:

Leverage PA BA OBP SLG HR
High 132 .308 .339 .564 7
Medium 343 .205 .287 .275 3
Low 336 .226 .315 .286 3

Ross allowed more than half of his home runs in the most critical situations, despite those accounting for just 16 percent of his plate appearances. Batters went from slugging like Paul Janish in medium- and low-leverage situations to Miguel Cabrera in high-leverage situations.

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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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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):

Player PA BA OBP SLG BB K
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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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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Geoff Miller is the author of Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game – In Baseball and in Life. He has worked with the Pirates and Nationals, and is currently the mental skills coach for the Atlanta Braves. A San Diego resident, Miller will be at Barnes & Noble in Grossmont Center on Sunday, October 12, at 2 p.m. to discuss his book. Find him online at WinningMind.com or on Twitter at @WinningMindGEM.

Recently I had the chance to ask Miller a few questions via the magic of email. Here they are, along with his informative responses:

Son of a Duck: When people see “mental skills coach,” they may think you’re a psychologist, but that’s not quite right. What exactly does your job entail?

Geoff Miller: Yes, there is a difference between being a psychologist and employing methods of sport psychology. I prefer the term “mental skills coach,” as it’s important for me to make a distinction between the two fields. I work exclusively with athletes on understanding how to perform under pressure and learning what it takes to use all of their physical talents on a consistent basis in their sports. I don’t do any work involving clinical issues like depression, drug or alcohol addiction, relationship issues, or general mental health counseling. My role is educational and strategic rather than medical in nature and, in fact, a good deal of the work we do at my company is executive coaching. Mental skills coaching could be seen as “executive coaching” for athletes. There’s a big misconception that my work is usually about helping athletes when they have “problems,” but even if that misconception is about helping athletes when they are slumping, much more of my work is helping athletes understand how to be their best and teaching them ways to get to the top or stay at the top of their professions.

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Seth Smith had a great season. Well, he had a great four months. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, a history lesson.

Fewer Hits Than Kajagoogoo

Formed in Leighton Buzzard in 1979… oh, wait, wrong history. You aren’t here to learn about the masterminds behind 1983′s “Too Shy.”

A Smiths reference would have worked better, but the world won’t listen.

Smith didn’t actually have fewer hits than Kajagoogoo, but he did have only 118, which tied him for 178th in franchise history for a single season. It also led the 2014 team. Here’s a partial list of Padres who had more in a season:

Player Year H OPS+
Ozzie Smith 1979 124 48
Enzo Hernández 1971 122 61
Enzo Hernández 1974 119 62
Dave Campbell 1970 127 65
Garry Templeton 1986 126 69

In the interest of hilarity, I’ve omitted several names and statistical categories. The point is, Smith led the team with fewer hits than some awful hitters.

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On Sunday, the Padres invited 40 or so fans who are active on social media to attend #SDSocialSummit, where we would get to chat with each other face to face and also ask questions of key decision makers. The team fed us and put us up in a suite in the Western Metal Building.

While the free food and seats are much appreciated, you should know that my price for loyalty is a lot higher than that. Yeah, I had to buy my own beer.

Anyway, I didn’t take notes and this isn’t exhaustive, but here are some highlights from the event.

BS Plaza

The Padres acknowledged their mistake in the way they communicated the creation of Bud Selig Plaza at Petco Park, but not the creation of BS Plaza itself. They later took us to the physical spot and showed us their plan for the space.

Not that I ever want to see Selig’s name on anything, but if they’d explained to the general public what they were actually doing, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal. As much as I wanted to be angry, after looking at the area, I was underwhelmed.

The idea of honoring former Padres players who are in the Hall of Fame representing other teams (Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Smith, etc.) is noble. I’m glad they’ll be moving the plaques from their current inaccessible location under the batter’s eye to somewhere fans can enjoy them.

I’m less thrilled about having Selig’s name attached to the area. Symbolically it sucks. Then again, we’re free to call it BS Plaza while remembering a bit of Padres history.

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