Thanksgiving, still my favorite holiday of the year.
Also, the time of year where everyone’s “[XX] Reasons For [insert team name] Fans To Be Thankful” pieces come out. And I do mean EVERYONE’S.
Two years ago I wrote about the things I was thankful for as it relates to the Padres. I thought it would be fun to go back and look at how those things worked out then give a new reason to be thankful.
Sometimes letters never reach their intended targets, instead becoming lost, abandoned, or otherwise discarded amongst the abundance of flyers and coupons in the mailperson’s sack. Sometimes those letters end up at the doorstep of the Padres Public headquarters, where we promptly publish them. Here are some of those letters.
Mr. Mike Dee
CEO, San Diego Padres Baseball Club.
April 20, 2016
Dear Mr. Dee—I just wanted to write to tell you how much I like the new Sycuan sign at Petco Park. What a beaut! It’s such a delight to be patrons of a team that cares so much about quality advertising, and that, my friend, is some quality advertising. I went to the game the other night with my boy and the first thing he asked me about was that glowing monstrosity looming over the batter’s eye, and we proceeded to have a wonderful conversation about my past tribulations with a game called blackjack . . . but I digress.
We marveled at the incandescent light shimmering off each letter, a gorgeously centered backdrop to the drubbing the home nine were taking on the field. It’s really a great location for such aesthetic mastery, boldly affixed atop the field of play. What a beaut!
Shoot, more I think about it, I can’t even remember what was there before. And now I’ve got an eight-year-old son who wants to hit the Vegas Strip. I just wanted to make sure you know how much we appreciate that sign, and for that matter, everything else you do—although I’m sure fans around the park are always telling you the same.
Sam in Escondido
P.S.—Can any other team in the majors boast a one-two advertising punch like the Padres, with the aforementioned Sycuan sign and the now slightly overshadowed—but impressive in its own right, darn it—National University sign in left-center? That’s a heckuva combo. Keep up the good work.
This Offense Might Stink
I try very hard not to get too swayed by early season results, and getting shutout by Clayton Kershaw, like what happened on Opening Day, is just a thing that’s supposed to happen in life. But the Padres have now been blanked four times in nine games, and they scored just once last night and five times over a three-game set with the projected cellar-dwelling Phillies—and two of those three games were started by Charlie Morton, who I proudly picked on my HACKING MASS team, and Jerad Eickhoff, who is quickly monopolizing the Google search term “Jerad.”
Of course, in between the shutouts the Padres exploded for 29 runs in two games against the Rockies, and you can’t completely discount that kind of hitting performance even though it happened in Colorado. It’s a sign, at least, that this team won’t get shutout at a 44.4 percent clip all season, which is what happened last year (I think). The bigger concern is that they haven’t scored more than four runs in any of the other seven games, and this isn’t an offense we were expecting a ton out of going into the season. Crap.
Obligatory Andy Green Complaints
It’s certainly possible that we all got a little carried away with Jabari Blash. Fun name, power potential, cool story, nice fella—it’s easy to get carried away with that kind of profile. But I really believe this dude might be something. He ranks second in the entire Padres organization in PECOTA-projected TAv, which I’m sure I’ve referenced in this space before.
The San Diego Padres ended their 2015 season by telling interim manager Pat Murphy he would not be returning as full-time manager in 2016. And they waited slightly more than an hour after the last out of the season to tell him.
There has been plenty of speculation already on who the Padres are going to hire for the manager’s job. Most of it is just that, speculation. There aren’t many details other than a few reports on people being granted permission to interview. Which is better than no news, I suppose.
Let’s take a look at the candidates, no matter how ridiculous their candidacy seems, shall we?
It’s time to play Whack-a-Manager!
Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:
- How baseball’s tech team built the future of television (The Verge) – Ben Popper pens a long but fascinating piece about the development of MLB.tv and the applications of its technology in non-baseball markets. MLBAM, the entity behind MLB.tv, is now partnered up with the NHL, HBO, and others to deliver content to their viewers. Popper touches on regional blackouts, but only from the technical standpoint. No solution is offered (yeah, I know) for folks such as myself who are legally prohibited from watching their hometown team via the Internet, although there is less-than-satisfying movement on that front. [h/t Sean Lahman]
- Preller, Padres should build on rebuild (MLB.com) – Barry Bloom discusses the future with A.J. Preller, who admits that “we’re not where we want to be as a group” and teases that Justin Upton’s tenure in San Diego might not end with the season. Bloom also notes that increased television revenue and attendance will help pay for things that the Padres haven’t been able to afford in the past, like a fleet of killer whale submarines. Meanwhile, Christina Kahrl suggests that Padres fans should temper expectations regarding potential waiver wire activity (saying farewell to Will Venable, the last player from the Padres teams I watched on television, might be it). [h/t reader Didi for the Kahrl item]
- Rea shows promise in big-league debut (U-T) – A possible part of the future is Colin Rea, who doesn’t overwhelm with stuff but who knows how to pitch. His catcher, Austin Hedges, has nice things to say: “Knowing Colin for four or five years now, I couldn’t tell a difference if he was pitching in a low-A game, a Double-A game or a big-league game.” John Sickels also has nice things to say.
- Kemp completes first cycle in Padres history (Padres.com) – Did you know that nobody had ever hit for the cycle while playing for the Padres? Wow, I did not know that. Now Matt Kemp has done it. I was hoping he would throw a no-hitter, but what are you gonna do. Maybe Rea will do that.
- Cooperstown Chances: Is Trevor Hoffman a Hall of Famer? (Sporting News) – Graham Womack discusses Hoffy’s candidacy, confirming my fears that he is more likely to be associated with the lesser Lee Smith than with the greater Mariano Rivera and putting his chances at 60 percent. He is Tim Raines to Rivera’s Rickey Henderson. And speaking of great left fielders who played for the Padres (Henderson, not Raines), you’ll want to read Michael Barr’s piece about a painting of Ted Williams.
Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:
- Padres Negotiate With All, Strike Deal With None (FanGraphs) – Craig Edwards offers what I would call a very conventional take on the Padres, assuming that A.J. Preller and company were (or should have been) eager to sell and rebuild, talking about “limited budgets” and such. But I believe this misinterprets their intention, which I’ve mentioned before is to rebrand the team as something other than cheap and not simply rebuild again ($). Whether they truly believe they can contend this season, that’s the story they’re selling. They built the team over the winter the way they wanted to build it. Right or wrong, this is the plan, and they’re not going to abandon it just because popular opinion assumes they will do so. Besides, Preller’s inactivity adds to his aura of unpredictability. Everyone expected him to zig, but he zagged instead. As a bonus, people are still talking about the Padres. As a further bonus, there’s no evidence that Preller is pursuing Pablo Sandoval, as some would have the Padres do. [h/t reader Didi]
- On the Genealogy of Trades, Part I (Hardball Times) – Speaking of trades, John Marsh has written (or at least started) a fascinating series. The first installment focuses on the 19th century, while Part II wonders which trades shaped the way baseball teams make trades, examining among others the infamous Curt Flood deal. Also at Hardball Times, Miles Wray reminds us that the Padres haven’t had an All-Star center fielder since 1989, when Tony Gwynn split time between that position and his more familiar right field. Wil Myers could have broken the streak this year if he’d stayed healthy. And, you know, been able to play center field.
- My experience on the Cubaball tour (SABR) – Donald Plavnick recounts his recent trip to Cuba to watch and learn more about the history of baseball in that country. Remember all that stuff about Fidel Castro being a great pitching prospect? Fun, but no. Or as Peter Bjarkman puts it, “historical facts rarely stand in the way of enticingly good baseball folklore.” But hey, at least we have visual evidence that Castro pitched in some capacity. Even better, you can watch real Cuban pitcher Luis Tiant do his thing in the 1975 World Series. The Cubaball tour sounds like a great time and includes a stop at the soon-to-be restored Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s fabled home near Havana.
- El Paso Notebook-2015 (MadFriars) – John Conniff didn’t travel quite as far but did return with tales of old El Paso. Well, okay, the Chihuahuas. Close enough for government work. Skipper Jamie Quirk likes his bullpen. On the offensive side, Conniff calls out Alex Dickerson, who is enjoying a fine Triple-A campaign despite hitting fewer home runs than one might expect from such a strapping young lad. The former Poway High star, who came to the Padres in a November 2013 trade that sent Jaff Decker to the Pirates, missed much of last season with a nasty heel injury that could have threatened his career. It’s good to see him back on track.
- After stint in Minors, Gyorko’s found his swing (Padres.com) – Speaking of El Paso and guys back on track, Jedd Gyorko says that he’s “starting to lay off some of the higher fastballs and the low sliders” since returning to San Diego. Meanwhile, Sac Bunt Chris has thoughts on the young second baseman’s batted ball velocity, among other things.
The power of hope is a curious thing. —Probably not Huey Lewis
You’re Bathing in It
It seems like a lifetime ago that Padres fans were bathing in hope after new GM A.J. Preller rebuilt the organization in his own image. The entire process captivated us in a way that the Padres seldom do.
Tired of the same old “be smart with limited resources” conservatism favored by previous regimes that yielded sporadic incremental improvement but failed to push the franchise into respectability or capture the public’s imagination, fans embraced this new, bold way of operating. People remembered how to be excited about the local baseball team again, or perhaps in some cases for the first time.
Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:
- The Commissioner Speaks: Imagining a Redefined Strike Zone (Hardball Times) – Jon Roegele takes a closer look at balls and strikes. This is a long read, with many fascinating tidbits, including the fact that the strike zone is now larger and lower than it was 5 years ago. In a bizarre coincidence, strikeouts are up and scoring is down. Another finding that will disappoint those who would embrace our robot ump overlords is that plate umpires have improved their accuracy over that same period. There’s lots more in here; it’s well worth your time.
- Jumpsteady (Wax Pack) – Brad Balukjian has started his road trip that will end with a book being written about the experience. The linked article focuses on San Marcos resident and recent Padres Hall of Fame inductee Garry Templeton. The Tempy experience continues here. Former Padres Gary Pettis and Randy Ready also make appearances. (Click the names, this is the Internet.)
- Cody Decker of the El Paso Chihuahuas is an all-star on and off the field (El Paso Times) – Chihuahuas’ General Manager Brad Taylor has high praise for the young man, who is arguably a better option than Matt Kemp at this point: “I’ve never seen, in my 21 years in Minor League Baseball, a player connect to the community and the community connect to the player — two-way street — like Cody has to El Paso and El Paso has to Cody.” [h/t Keith Olbermann, via Steve Kaplowitz]
- GM Preller expects better baseball ahead (Padres.com) – Bully for him. Failing that, he can try moving some guys, although maybe we’re not there yet. The difference between last year’s team and this year’s is that now the players are much more expensive. Good luck finding someone to take Kemp or the lousy Upton. This is why my vision of the future is bleak. And while it’s nice to hear that Ron Fowler and the Padres remain “committed to winning,” right now their level of commitment is less of a concern than their level of competence. Could the “spend money, hope something good happens” approach work? Sure, but that doesn’t make it the optimal strategy or even a smart idea.
- The Most Productive Low-Authority Hitters of All Time (FanGraphs) – Building on previous work, Tony Blengino identifies the ten hitters who were most productive despite not hitting the ball particularly hard. Former Padres players (and current staffers) Mark Kotsay and Mark Loretta crack the top five. Max Bishop, a personal favorite I wrote about in Best of Baseball Prospectus: 1996-2011, Vol. 1, appears farther down the list. Sorry kids, no Alexi Amarista.
The search is on for the next ex-Padres manager.
The Padres announced that Bud Black is no longer the manager this afternoon.
After eight and a half seasons, a 649-713 record, and no postseason appearances, the Padres are finally going in a different direction. If not this season then in 2016 for sure.
The closest a Black managed team came to making the postseason was in 2007, Black’s first season, when the Padres lost game 163 after a phantom slide into home plate by Matt Holliday.
In 2010, the first place Padres lost 10 straight games in late-August/early-September to let the San Francisco Giants get within striking distance. And strike they did, eventually overtaking the Padres to win the division, and ultimately winning the World Series.
So, A.J. Preller now gets to hire “his guy,” which is what we all expected to happen ever since he was hired as General Manager last year. Who will that be? I don’t know. It’s probably too early to say.
The third pitcher taken by the Padres in this year’s amateur draft was a junior college right hander named Jordan Guerrero, notable for — among other things, presumably — being 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds. In a normal team’s draft class, Guerrero would likely stand as one of the tallest pitchers selected, if not the tallest. In fact, had he been drafted by one of five other teams — the Orioles, Reds, Indians, A’s, or Blue Jays — Guerrero would have been the tallest (or tied for the tallest) pitcher of his draft class.
Instead, Guerrero was taken by the Padres, where he was just the seventh tallest pitcher drafted, behind Trevor Megill (seventh round, 6-foot-8), Jerry Keel (ninth round, 6-foot-6), Trey Wingenter (17th round, 6-foot-7), Chase Williams (25th round, 6-foot-6), Corey Hale (27th round, 6-foot-7), and Adam Hill (39th round, 6-foot-6).
The Padres like tall pitchers, apparently.
But what about the rest of the league? Were the Padres unique in their preference for height on the mound, or were they just part of a league-wide trend?