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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When we were talking about the Padres offensive woes, I noted that the Padres hit more groundballs than any team in baseball. This seems weird to me.

Hitting coach Phil Plantier had an extreme uppercut swing that generated few grounders. Not that every hitter will emulate his coach, but it’s counterintuitive to expect this from Plantier’s charges.

Worse, it’s counterproductive. Here are results for different types of batted balls in 2013:

Split PA BA OBP SLG
LD 30,452 .674 .668 .978
FB 40,391 .182 .178 .523
GB 58,359 .240 .240 .259

Including plate appearances may seem gratuitous, but it’s important to see that this is a large sample. It’s also important to see that, with a few exceptions, you don’t want to be hitting a lot of grounders. This isn’t a one-year effect:

Year OPS
LD FB GB
2011 1691 788 493
2012 1693 831 496
2013 1646 701 499
2014* 1668 632 509

*Through games of June 11.

Line drives are awesome, fly balls are decent (some of them leave the yard), grounders stink. Which brings me to my next point: Through June 11, the Padres are the only MLB team to hit more grounders than fly balls (1.06 GB/FB); they are tied with the Kansas City Royals for lowest line-drive percentage (21%).

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In case you weren’t paying attention…

Always enjoy responsibly. Don’t read and drive.

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The Padres had a day off after playing 20 games in 20 days in 4 cities and 3 time zones. It was a stretch that ended with a 10-game road trip that the Friars managed to get 4 wins out of. Could have been better.

Padres off-days have an unexpected side effect, however. And yesterday was pretty bad. Or good, depending on how you look at it.

Some of the fans get a little crazy with no baseball to distract them.

Even high-profile Padres fans were not immune to the off-day insanity. Major Garrett, the CBS White House correspondent, went on a Twitter rant to end all Twitter rants about his hometown team.*

*On a personal note, I’d like to welcome one of my newest followers on Twitter, Major Garrett.

Some even called for people to lose their coaching jobs. Specifically, Padres’ hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell.

So let’s look at the Padres batting stats so far this season and see if a firing is deserved:

Tm R/G G R H HR RBI SO BA OPS TB LOB
SDP 2.66 29 77 206 15 70 238 .217 .596 310 178
LgAvg 4.02 28 113 239 26 108 232 .247 .699 374 198
4.02 423 1702 3580 387 1616 3475 .247 .699 5606 2969
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/2/2014.

Pretty bad, right? But that’s a really small sample size. Let’s see how the last couple of full seasons have gone for Phil and Alonzo.

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