One hazard of writing for a living is that people sometimes compliment (or criticize) articles you’d forgotten you ever wrote. Once you file something, it’s onto the next project. Always looking forward, never back.
This came up at Don and Charlie’s on the first night of the SABR Arizona Fall League conference, but it also applies to baseball. The second day brought with it two games, one back at HoHoKam and another at Salt River.
Teams rested their best players in preparation for the following evening’s All-Star Game, recently rebranded as the Fall Stars Game. That’s not what I would call it (seems better to catch a rising star than a falling star), but nobody asked me. The games were uneventful, allowing me to reconnect with industry friends that I see once or twice a year if I’m lucky.
I also ran into Wayne from Padres360 and his family. Wayne wore a Tucson Padres Burch Smith jersey, and one of his kids donned a Houston Colt .45s shirt. I’m no fashionista, but the Colt .45s shirt nearly brought a tear to my eye. I don’t believe I’d ever seen one of those in the wild.
Okay, sometimes it is good to look back. History is important.
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The afternoon game featured the Padres’ Tommy Medica at DH. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and did not have competitive at-bats.
Starting for the home team was former USD southpaw Sammy Solis, currently in the Nationals system. Working his way back from Tommy John surgery, he threw 71 pitches in four innings and allowed a couple of unearned runs.
Before the evening game at Salt River we had a Q&A with former Padres southpaw Mark Davis. Nuggets of interest to San Diego fans: He loved to face Terry Kennedy and had tremendous respect for Tony Gwynn, saying of the latter:
Tony never took the day off. He played the game the way everyone wants their guys to play. It was a treat to play with Tony.
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The conference’s final day began with a meeting of the SABR Flame Delhi Chapter. Veteran writers Barry Bloom and Bernie Pleskoff of MLB.com spoke. If you do the Twitter, you should follow them because they are well connected and give good information. Bloom, e.g., noted that the Yankees were targeting Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran as free agents well over a month before they signed.
Bloom talked about the Diamondbacks for a while before moving onto the recent trend of former pitchers becoming big-league managers. He noted that Padres skipper Bud Black is good at deferring to his coaches, letting them worry about things like hitting mechanics that lie beyond his expertise.
Bloom also praised Padres GM Josh Byrnes, whom he said “has grown” in that role with San Diego since his time as Arizona’s GM. He mentioned then-Padres staffer Brad Ausmus as a candidate for the Cubs managerial vacancy.
Other topics included Bud Selig’s successor as MLB commissioner (“it’s gonna be mad chaos in baseball” when Selig leaves), the ongoing saga of the A’s potential move to San Jose that the Giants keep blocking, and more.
Bloom mentioned Justin Upton’s lack of defensive progress as one factor behind Arizona’s trading him. He contrasted Upton with Hall of Famer Gwynn, who spent hours each day to improve and become a Gold Glove right fielder under Jack McKeon.
Finally, Bloom noted that the Diamondbacks moved Ian Kennedy because they couldn’t get him to pitch inside. In San Diego, Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley tweaked his mechanics and got him back on track. Bloom had high praise for Black and Balsley.
As he did the previous year, Pleskoff previewed the “Fall Stars” (seriously, fix that name) we would see that evening. He called Twins uberprospect Byron Buxton a very good player but not someone who will turn a franchise around, hung a 60 on him.
Pleskoff liked former USD third baseman Kris Bryant’s power but thought he was too big for the hot corner and wondered if he could hit breaking balls. I asked about Austin Hedges, and Pleskoff called him a 50, i.e., an average big-leaguer.
After Bloom and Pleskoff spoke, we heard presentations from SABR members on the original 1969 Seattle Pilots and the 1961 Phillies’ historic 23-game losing streak. Selig bought the Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee after only one year, reminding us that his propensity for yanking a team from its roots well predates his ascension from used car salesman (the linked article is parody, but he really does sell used cars) to MLB team owner to commissioner.
The stories were interesting on their own. The fact that both made me feel much better about the Padres was just an added bonus. Whether it was the oncoming lunch, that evening’s Fall Stars Game, or the following spring’s renewal of baseball, I had things to look forward to again.
After all, what are we without hope?