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.

Previous installments have focused on Ollie Brown, Mike Ivie, and Ruppert Jones. Now we finish with Bip Roberts.

BP1987

Roberts, who attended the same high school as Nothing in Common star Tom Hanks, was selected by the Padres in the Rule 5 draft. Unfairly compared to former San Diego speedster Alan Wiggins, the diminutive switch-hitter enjoyed moderate success from the left side of the plate but was useless from the right side. After swiping 90 bags over the previous two seasons in the minors, Roberts was not a threat at the big-league level. Although his 14 steals were second on the Padres, a 54 percent success rate made him a liability. Roberts, whose given name is Leon, hit .378 in September and played a respectable second base, both encouraging. If he hits grounders and refines his running game, he could be more than a guy with a cool nickname.

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The Padres have made an uncharacteristically loud splash this holiday season. As fans complained about inactivity at the Winter Meetings here in San Diego, the team tuned out the noise and dealt Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland, and Zach Eflin to the Dodgers for Matt Kemp, Tim Federowicz, and $31 million.

With a laughably incompetent offense and a disillusioned fan base, the Padres have decided to commit large amounts of money to name players. There’s a new GM, a new hitting coach, and a relatively new ownership group. They want to make a positive mark on the franchise and the city.

Before the trade, the Padres had been linked to many marquee hitters this offseason. They missed on Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomás. Other names included Jay Bruce, Adam Jones, and Justin Upton. Some still think Upton might yet happen.

Ron Fowler, Mike Dee, and A.J. Preller had a budget and were going to use it. When Sandoval and Tomás landed elsewhere, they turned to Kemp. But was it worth the cost?

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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.

We’ve already covered Ollie Brown and Mike Ivie. Next up: Ruppert Jones.

BP1982

Bill James summed it up best when he said that Jones “led the league in doubles while having an otherwise undistinguished year.” Longer version: Jones, acquired at the end of spring training with three others from the Yankees for Jerry Mumphrey and John Pacella, started slowly in his National League debut. The former All-Star didn’t knock his first home run until May 8 and was hitting .182/.271/.282 through his first 30 games. Then he raised his OPS by 120 points over the next month before the bright minds that run the sport decided to stop working for a while. After everyone made nice and started playing baseball again, Jones hit .286/.345/.468 for the next month before fading over the season’s final three weeks. He showed no power against southpaws (.298 SLG) and lost 70 points of batting average away from Jack Murphy Stadium. Jones is in his prime, so with a year of facing NL pitching under his belt, expect improvement.

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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.

Last time, we examined Ollie Brown. Now we turn to Mike Ivie.

BP1972

Taken first overall in the 1970 draft out of a Georgia high school, Ivie is a strapping kid with light-tower power and a shotgun arm. He made a mockery of the California League in his full-season debut, despite being one of the circuit’s youngest regulars, and reached the big leagues less than a month after his 19th birthday. Ivie’s defense needs refinement, as he currently allows an unseemly number of passed balls, but his offensive potential at a premium position suggests a star in the making.

BP1973

The good news is that, despite being one of the Texas League’s youngest regulars, Ivie pounded baseballs at Double-A Alexandria, finishing second in homers to San Antonio’s Gorman Thomas. The bad news is that, after a series of bizarre events that saw Ivie leave spring training for his Georgia home, he is no longer a catcher. Unfortunately, Nate Colbert presents more of a roadblock at first base than Fred Kendall did behind the dish. Although Ivie’s bat will play regardless of position, one can’t help but wonder if the Padres should’ve taken another prep backstop, Darrell Porter, with that first pick back in ’70.

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In 1998, Greg Vaughn became the only Padres player to hit 50 home runs in a season. Six years earlier, Fred McGriff became the only one to lead the National League in homers, with 35.

The last Padres player to lead a league in home runs before McGriff? That would be Deron Johnson, who knocked 33 dingers in 1963 to pace the PCL. It was a great season for the Poway native and graduate of San Diego High School, which later produced Graig Nettles and Jacque Jones.

It was also Johnson’s only season playing for his hometown team. The next year, he hit 21 homers for the Cincinnati Reds. A year later, he led the NL with 130 RBI. He won a World Championship with the A’s in 1973 and finished his career with 245 homers. Johnson, who remained in baseball as a coach after his playing days were over, died far too soon, succumbing to lung cancer in 1992 at age 53.

Before Johnson, you have to go back to 1949, when PCL Hall of Famer Max West launched 48 bombs. West also led the PCL in 1947. And when he graduated to the NL’s Pittsburgh Pirates a year later, fellow lefty slugger Jack Graham filled the void, leading the PCL with 48 in ’48 and being named the circuit’s MVP. He would’ve hit even more if not for a horrific beaning (they didn’t wear helmets) that cost him 46 games.

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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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