It is hard to argue that, through the month of May (and a bit of June) the Padres season has been disappointing. We can argue over the severity of that disappointment (put me in the mild category so far). But below .500 at this stage isn’t what many people had in mind. Despite the mediocre play of the team, however, the Padres remain 3 back of the wild card and 4.5 back in the West. One need only look as far back as one year ago to see a team below .500 at this same stage of the season that went on to make the playoffs. The Kansas City Royals, them of 90 ft from tying Game 7 fame, were 4 games below .500 on June 1 (26-30) and didn’t get back to .500 until June 10th thanks to a 10-game winning streak during that time frame. Even after that the Royals still dipped below .500 on July 20th before saying good-bye to mediocrity forever en route to a World Series appearance.
Are the Padres the Kansas City Royals? No. They are not.
Can the Padres put together a 19-10 month like the 2014 Royals did in August? Yes. Yes they can.
It’s been 22 years, and counting, since the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was last played in San Diego (1992). When San Diego hosted its first All-Star Game, it had only been 14 years prior to that, in 1978.
It’s time Major League Baseball gave San Diego another shot.
Gaslamp Ball reported at FanFest in February that ownership had identified 2019 as their target for getting an All-Star Game in Petco Park. But not much has been said about that since. In fact, I didn’t even remember that they had mentioned that at FanFest until Rick of RJ’s Fro reminded me.
Yes, Ron Fowler and Mike Dee have mentioned that they were talking to the powers-that-be about this. But no news yet.
And, considering this team doesn’t look like it’s going to be playing in a World Series anytime soon, the next best thing is to host the All-Star Game.
In 2010 the Padres utilized a second round pick on a shortstop out of West Virginia by the name of Jedd Gyorko. He was viewed by most throughout MLB prior to that draft to be a bit of a defensive liability at shortstop and the thought was that he’d move positions (his arm being strong enough to play anywhere on the diamond). Gyorko in 2010? He didn’t care.
Where I play [on defense] isn’t a big concern for me. I’m just ready for this chance to live a dream and it will all work out.
As is well known to most (if not all) who are reading this right now, Gyorko shot through the minor league system, ending the 2012 season as Baseball America’s best third baseman in AAA. In 2013, in part due to injuries and necessity, Gyorko made the San Diego Padres out of Spring Training as a second baseman. It’s a position he’s yet to relinquish and was in fact rewarded with a 5 year extension early this year. If (when?) the Padres jettison Chase Headley, Gyorko will be the lone position player who can legitimately be called a homegrown (until the next homegrown player arrives). And he’s here to stay.
And he is struggling. Mightily.
It’s difficult being the band that follows Led Zeppelin.
In San Diego we were the beneficiaries of multiple All-Star caliber seasons from Adrian Gonzalez. And then, one day, he was gone, leaving a black hole at first base. Of course, it was supposed to only be vacant for a short period of time as Anthony Rizzo, part of the haul the Padres received for Adrian, was due to take over. Then the front office went through a complete change and suddenly the GM who brought Rizzo here was in Chicago and Josh Byrnes was here, eager to put his stamp on the team’s lineup. He did almost immediately in dealing Mat Latos for, among other players, a first baseman who was blocked in Cincinnati by Joey Votto.
In San Diego he was likely blocked by Anthony Rizzo as well. A simple enough fix as Jed Hoyer traded for Rizzo for the second time in his life. This left Yonder Alonso, standing alone at first.
It was reported on September 15th that Cory Luebke was shut down for the season after his fourth bullpen session due to soreness in his throwing elbow. It is the third time Luebke’s throwing sessions have been halted and comes only two weeks after reports of a 70 pitch bullpen session that “went well” according to the Padres. Per Rotoworld, Luebke is now scheduled to be examined again by Dr. Tim Kremchek in Cincinnati.
Dr. Kremchek studied under Dr. James Andrews and has been an orthopedic surgeon for more than 18 years. He is also the Cincinnati Reds medical examiner. Needless to say, there are few doctors in this country, if any, that are better suited to deal with Luebke’s injury. So once again, we are in a wait-and-see period with Luebke. Rumblings of potential second surgeries have begun and the worry and fear amongst those inside the Padres is becoming too great to conceal.
Not to get all “30 for 30” on you but, what if I told you that Chase Headley and Will Venable have had similar careers with vastly different perceptions by the public?
True? False? Let’s spend your Friday morning figuring that out.
First, a few caveats. Venable is nearly two years older than Headley. Obviously, they play different positions so it’s a bit difficult to make a straight one-to-one comparison defensively. Headley also has 1000 more at-bats. Finally, we will be looking at seasons in which they had at or near 300 ABs. This means ’09-’13 for Venable and ’08-’13 for Headley.
Ok, got that out of the way.
Will Venable has turned a breakout season into an extension and into the Padres future conversations. Chase Headley took his breakout season, double downed, and so far is busting in 2013. Busting being a strong word perhaps, because he is still an above average player. And I’d still sign him to an extension. However, that’s a chat for another time. But he’s probably not David Wright, even though he played like him in 2012.
Still, the perception has always been that Chase Headley is the far superior player to Venable. Venable, for his part, has been the guy who had all the potential in the world and appeared to have all of the tools but simply couldn’t put them all together. Sure, he’d put them all together for two weeks or so. But then he’d come crashing back down to Earth. Until 2013.
That’s been the perception of two players that are quickly becoming the elder statesmen in the Padres increasingly younger clubhouse. But, is it the reality?
A year ago at about this time the debate began to heat up amongst baseball fans, writers and really anyone who cared about baseball. The Washington Nationals were well on their way to winning the NL East and had, by all accounts, the best team in the National League at that time. A big part of their success was SDSU product Stephen Strasburg. Unfortunately for Nationals fans, Strasburg was coming off Tommy John surgery and the Nationals brass were very clear that he would be shut down prior to the playoffs. It’s one thing to say that in April if you don’t think you are going to make the playoffs. It’s quite another to be staring a #1 seed in the playoffs in the face and shutting down your best pitcher. But they did it. The Nationals didn’t make it out of the NLDS. In their defense, Strasburg remains very healthy (and just pitched his first complete game).
Now, Andrew Cashner is not Strasburg. And the Padres, barring some kind of miracle run (and frankly, it’d be nice to be on the other end of such a miracle comeback once in awhile), won’t be in the playoffs. Nevertheless, Cashner’s future role in the Padres rotation is likely to be a big one. One could argue that Cashner has been the best pitcher the Padres have had this season (an argument could be made for Stults as well and we don’t really know what we have out of Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross yet though things appear promising). In a rotation that likely will not contain Volquez, Marquis, or Richard, Cashner could very well find himself atop the rotation in 2014.
As of Wednesday’s game in Colorado, Cashner has 130.1 IP. His previous career high? 111.1 (which, it’s worth noting combines 57 IP in the Minors). As of August 14, he has already gone 19 innings beyond his career high. It’s worth noting that this comes a bit more than a year from the 3rd inning in Phoenix in which Cashner airmailed his warm up pitch and was removed due to a strained right lat muscle. He missed the rest of July, all of August and was shelled on September 3rd before being shut down for the year. In the end it was determined that Cashner needed rest, which he received during the winter (and then some thanks to an errant hunting knife).
It wasn’t that long ago that Padres fans were staring at their televisions and wondering “what on Earth has happened to Chase Headley?”
Because, as you’ll recall, the 2nd half of 2012 Chase Headley was a man on fire. He stormed to win the the RBI title. He increased his power numbers by a factor of 3 (8 HRs in the first half of 2012; 23 in the 2nd half). Fans were ready to offer David Wright level contracts. He appeared to be well on his way to becoming either the face of the Padres franchise or the next superstar that San Diego allowed to walk out of the door.
In 2013 we expected more of the same. Then an injury during Spring Training put Chase Headley on the DL to start the season. He missed the first 14 games of the season. The Padres went 4-10 during that span.
When Chase Headley came back he was not up to his 2012 peaks but he was good enough that no one really batted an eye. He hit .261 in April, OBP of .364 and had 2 HRs. Spectacular? Hardly. But in line with his career numbers. Again, nothing to bat an eye at.
The Padres will finish up their series with the Giants this weekend and then, mercifully, head into the All-Star Break. With any luck they will enter that All-Star Break with a decent taste in their mouth assuming the series against the free-falling Giants goes well. But in either event the Padres could use a break after recently losing 10-games in a row.
However, I’m not here today to dwell on the recent struggles. Today we look back, with the All-Star Game as our guide, and attempt to assemble the Padres All-Time, All-Stars, All-Star Team. Wow, that was a mouthful.
The basic premise is this. Throughout the Padres history they have had at least one player from every position make the All-Star Game. Based on a variety of requirements, some of which are objective some subjective, I’ve assembled what I think is that team.
Ok, the requirements. On the objective side I’m looking at the players overall season that they made the All-Star team. I’m using the entire season though obviously half of those numbers happened after the All-Star Game. In the event of ties (or close calls) I’ll use how that player may have done in the All-Star Game that year. And in one case, I simply picked a player I like more than another, objectivity be damned. So, without further ado, let’s assemble an All-Star team!
9 innings. 3 outs each inning. 27 outs in total.
That’s the sum total of a baseball game. Sometimes more are required but if you are going to win you need to get the opposing team out 27 times.
Not all outs are created equally of course. There’s your mundane 4-3 putout in the 2nd, your slick looking double plays with the bases loaded to end an inning, and this.
But the hardest 3 outs to get are the last 3. Well, maybe that’s phrased poorly. The most important 3 outs are the last 3 and recently, for the Padres, they’ve become the hardest 3 to get.
The Padres fell victim to the Los Angeles Dodgers this afternoon after Huston Street gave up back-to-back HRs in the Top of the 9th. Getting those 3 outs would not have guaranteed a Padres win. But they would have, at worst, guaranteed a 10th inning. Unfortunately, watching the Padres squander late inning leads or give up ties in the late innings is becoming an all too common experience. Twice in San Francisco this week the Padres blew late inning leads. Last week they did it in Colorado surrendering 3 runs in the Bottom of the 9th. And of course we all remember the Evan Longoria walk-off in Tampa.
The fact is that the Padres, who once dominated the late innings and have a soon-to-be Hall of Fame closer enshrined in fans memories forever suddenly are hanging on for dear life in the 9th. And too often aren’t managing to do so.