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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The San Diego Padres midseason firing of Josh Byrnes was the equivalent to pushing another reset button for an organization that changes general managers – and owners – like the Kansas City Royals change hitting coaches. It’s a frustrating cycle – bringing in a new chef and allowing him to rearrange the kitchen only to have to start over again in short order when things don’t pan out.

After dismissing Byrnes, the Padres went through a drawn out and very public search for his replacement. Whether the public nature of the GM search was due to the Padres process or the Age of Twitter we may never quite know, but either way it seemed like another misstep for a front office that hasn’t been able to stay out of its own way since trying to publically negotiate a contract extension with Chase Headley back in 2013. Since then – and you know the list – questionable firings (Masur/Anthony), BeerGate, the National University sign, anti-Bring Back the Brown sentiments, Johnny Manziel, and BS Plaza are just some of the head-scratching decisions that have, to varying degrees, enraged a large portion of the fan base*. (And that’s leaving off a number of other gripes.)

*At least the large portion of the fan base that hangs out on the internet.

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Sometimes things get a little fuzzy after a night at the pub.  Especially when some Rugby Knockoff League opens their season 30 min before first pitch.  Here’s a brief summary of what you may have missed, while you were drinking, trying to find the one TV in the room with the baseball game on.

The Padres (66-73) dropped the last of a four-game series to Arizona (59-81) 5-1 in front of 16,025 attentive fans.  Although they won the first two games of the series, San Diego managed one run over the last 18 innings and split with the Snakes.  With the win, Arizona clinched the season series.  That’s always fun, when you lose the season series to the team with the second-worst record in the NL.

Randall Delgado and Will Harris combined to throttle the Padres, allowing only 2 hits over the first seven innings.  Ian Kennedy allowed 3 consecutive hits to start the second inning, and all three runners scored.  Corey Spangenberg’s throwing error moved some runners along but based on how the inning played out, they would have scored anyway.  Kennedy worked into the sixth, allowing 4 runs total.

The Padres had a look at this game in the eighth, when they loaded the bases with nobody out against Matt Stites.  Sadly, former Padre Oliver Perez came on and struck out the side, although he did throw a wild pitch accounting for San Diego’s only run.

After the game the Diamondbacks fired gave Kevin Towers his unconditional release.  Perhaps, as Dave and Jeff stated this morning, being mindful of Kevin having a home in SD they just wanted to save him the airfare.  “Have an Intern pack his office and mail it to him“.

San Diego heads to Colorado for a weekend tussle with the Rockies.  Eric Stults seeks to avoid tying Kevin Correia for the ML lead in losses when he squares off against Tyler Matzek.

Recaps

Randall Delgado pitches well in return as starter to down Padres – Nick Piecoro (AZ Republic)

D-Backs beat Padres behind Delgado’s strong effort – Steve Gilbert (MLBAM)

Again, old friends harass Kennedy – Jeff Sanders (SDUT)

Kennedy, Padres sunk by Arizona’s early runs – Scott Miller (Special to MLBAM)

No Diamondback GM did more damage than Kevin Towers – Dan Bickley (AZ Republic)

 

Josh Byrnes was hired by Jeff Moorad to be the General Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks on October 29, 2005. He was fired by the Diamondbacks on July 2, 2010. On December 3, 2010, Byrnes was hired by Jeff Moorad’s San Diego Padres as Vice President of Baseball Operations. On October 26, 2011 he was promoted to General Manager after Moorad allowed Jed Hoyer to leave for Chicago. Yesterday, on June 22, 2014, Josh Byrnes was fired by the Padres.

The Jeff Moorad era is officially over in San Diego.

I’ve not been a fan of Josh Byrnes’ tenure with the club. Some of that has been guilt by association, as he was Jeff Moorad’s boy from the beginning, and Jeff Moorad fought Tom Werner for worst owner in franchise history, and Moorad was never even officially the team’s controlling partner.

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One of the long held Christmas traditions in my family while growing up involved the annual viewing of Frank Capra’s masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life. One of the many messages in Capra’s classic: The importance of a person to his family and friends even if it may not appear obvious at a particular moment in time.

Savings and Loan owner George Bailey, played masterfully by Jimmy Stewart, falls on hard times when his uncle accidentally misplaces a large deposit which eventually falls into the hands of Mr. Potter, the richest (and meanest) man in town. It’s Christmas eve in Bedford Falls when George Bailey contemplates suicide and “Wishes he had never been born.” Guided by his guardian angel Clarence, an alternate version of reality presents itself for George Bailey – a reality in which Bailey never existed.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Not specifically as it relates to me nor because it’s the silly season (yes – I actually started writing this about 6 weeks ago). I’ve been thinking about the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft and what life would look like for Padres fans had the Padres never signed catcher Austin Hedges.

With a strong commitment to UCLA and advisement coming from Scott Boras, it was never a slam dunk that Hedges, the 82nd pick in the 2011 June Amateur Draft would sign with the Padres. As you may recall the Padres had drafted another catcher, with the 54th pick during the same draft.

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Last Spring Training, Jedd Gyorko went to Peoria as the favorite to land the starting job at 2B for the Padres. Being that he was a rookie, the Padres had a few “insurance” pieces (in the form of Logan Forsythe, Alexi Amarista, and Yonder Alonso*) who could serve as stopgap solutions in the event Gyorko wasn’t ready to start the season with the big club. Now, imagine the Padres acquired insurance from outside of the organization. This player would be in the latter portion of their career, and just so happen to be the best defensive second baseman of their generation. Go back to 2004, switch the position to shortstop, Jedd Gyorko to Khalil Greene, and the Padres did exactly that**. This man was also an extremely inconsequential Padre.

yonder alonso plays second base

* – not really, I just wanted an excuse to post this GIF of Yonder at second base. (Courtesy of Grant Brisbee [@mcccoveychron])

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From 1997 to 2011, Ducksnorts covered the Padres in its own unique way. Every once in a while, we dig into the archives for grins. With Mark Kotsay’s career in free fall, it’s important to remember that he used to be good. The following originally ran on November 19, 2003, when Kotsay was traded to the A’s for Ramón Hernández and Terrence Long. It has been annotated to reflect what we know now in addition to what we knew then.

Hadn’t planned to be away from the blog for so long this time. I started to scratch something together the other day when the Giants went out and picked up A.J. Pierzynski, because I figured that move might impact the Padres. And it did.

When last we met, I mentioned that I expected Kevin Towers to grab one of Pierzynski or Ramón Hernández to be his catcher in 2004. When the Twins-Giants trade went down, I suspected it was only a matter of time before the rumored Hernández for Mark Kotsay deal would happen.

Records show that this trade occurred on November 26, a full week after my article ran. Questions about Kotsay’s health held up the deal.

Now that it (apparently) has happened, what do I think of the trade? That’s a complex question. I’ll start by saying that I think the Twins did a terrific job of getting value for Pierzynski and that I wouldn’t have wanted to see my team give up a package like the Giants did to acquire a good but not great catcher. Word is the Twins wanted Jake Peavy from the Padres. Viewed in that context, I love the deal with Oakland. Kotsay is a good player if healthy (a big if) but he’s not a guy, like Peavy, around whom you build a ballclub. Read More…

I know, we’re jumping the gun here…but let’s stick with the theme!

The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone for the 2013 season, and Ian Kennedy is now a member of the San Diego Padres. Acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Joe Thatcher, AA pitcher Matt Stites, and a Round B Competitive Balance Pick in the 2014 Rule 4 Draft, Kennedy’s acquisition addresses a major area of need. When you went to bed last night, did you expect a handful of national scribes to consider the San Diego Padres the big winners of deadline day?

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Every now and then, life forces us into situations where we have to take a step back, re-evaluate everything we know to be true, and revise our plan. If we’re to be at our best, we should frequently evaluate our situations and see what we can do to be more successful. When you’re comfortable with a mediocre status quo, you end up with Kevin Towers as your GM for a decade. When you’re overzealous and unwilling to establish ANY system, you turn into the Oakland Raiders. The Padres aren’t necessarily at that point, as I’m sure they already know what they would like to do…however, I am; is extending Headley really the best course of action?

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Luke Gregerson owns one of the best sliders in baseball, and when it’s working, he is tough to beat. The pitch that brought him to San Diego in March 2009 has made him an integral part of the Padres bullpen ever since.

Kevin Towers acquired Gregerson from the Cardinals as the player to be named later in the trade that sent Khalil Greene to St. Louis. Towers did so thanks in large part to former Padres outfielder John Vander Wal:

Then Vander Wal uttered the words Towers won’t soon forget, words that right then and there essentially sold the then-Padres general manager on relief pitcher Luke Gregerson and his devastating slider.

“He said it disappears,” Towers said.

Gregerson, a former 28th-round draft pick, promptly made the unexpected jump from Double-A and enjoyed a strong rookie campaign. He was even better as a sophomore, turning opposing batters into Don Drysdale or Liván Hernández–excellent hitting pitchers, but not consistent threats. Read More…