Baseball Notes: Your Father's Padres
Throughout the season I have been checking out the Padres on mlb.tv because although they weren't expected to do well after their offseason haul last year flamed out, they have had touches of excitement from their team that has been personified by their little known outfielder Travis Jankowski stealing home twice in a month.
The second Major League Baseball game I ever went to was a Padres/Giants game at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. It was the summer before high school and I was there to go to a cousin's wedding, a cousin who I had not met before but instantly thought was pretty cool for living in a cool city. In the way to San Diego we had a layover in Pittsburgh where I bought my very first Pirates hat. WIth out me knowing it, that day Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined for the last no-hitter the Pirates have pitched.
The 1997 Padres game we went to was pretty fun, we sat in the left field seats, someone in our section bought popcorn for everyone, it was the last game of the season that Tony Gwynn finished a game over .400 in his season that he hit .372, Rickey Henderson had a milestone SB (either 1100 or 1200), and I want to say Barry Bonds committed an error in the field. It was a Padres season just like this year and just like almost all Padres seasons, sub .500.
Last year was supposed to be the year they turned it around. They went out and spent money and prospects to get C Derek Norris, IF Yangervis (pronounced "Yawn-hair-vis") Solarte, OF Justin Upton, OF Melvin or BJ Upton, OF Matt Kemp, 3B Will Middlebrooks, OF-1B Wil Myers, SP James Shields and CP Craig Kimbrel to go with a few other prominent pickups from recent years. They also had a couple of up-and-coming prospects with funny names 2B Cory Spangenberg (Span-JIN-burg) and IF Jedd Gyorko (JERK-oh, seriously). After the team got off to a slow start and finished worse than the year before and didn't impress much leading into the trade deadline this year, the only players left on their team from those additions and prospects are Middlebrooks, Myers, Norris, Yawn-hair-vis and Span-jin-burg and Middlebrooks and Spangenberg haven't contributed much.
This year the Padres have been using a few more guys with funny names, another infielder Ryan Schimpf (no pronunciation, really?), OF Travis Jankowski. and OF Jabari Blash (not hard to say, but damn is that a cool name for the rule 5 player from the US Virgin Islands). Alexei Ramirez came over as a free agent as a needed veteran SS, Wil Myers moved to 1B from the outfield and his bat caught fire, and Alex Dickerson, a former Pirates prospect moved from 1B to the outfield to round out a talented young lineup with a little more power.
Blash, Norris, Schimpf have not hit very well at all this year and the rotation is a six-man patchwork of castoffs: Edwin Jackson (this is his 11th team), Christian Friedrich (former Rockies player), Paul Clemens (off waivers from Miami), Jarred Cosart (trade from Miami), Clayton Richard (Cubs cast off, second stint with SD), and Luis Perdomo (purchased from the Rockies). They are also in rough shape in their bullpen because Brandon Maurer has the closer moniker for the Padres. He won't be worrying too much about save situations this year, however.
The Padres have gotten A LOT back from dumping Yonder Alonso, Gyorko, both Upton, Will Venable, Kemp, James Shields, Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Odrisamer Despaigne, Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, and Shawn Kelley (I promise they still have players on their team). Sure they actually traded quite a few prospects off to get some of those players but three of their top four prospects have come from trading away Kimbrel and Cashner. They have gotten a lot of pieces back, but all of their top pitching prospects, the area where they will need the most help in the next year, are still a number of years from coming up even after getting a top young Cuban pitcher (Adrian Morejon) and drafting a Stanford pitcher early (Cal Quantrill).
Jankowski is exciting, I can't wait to see what Dickerson can do, and Myers is breaking out as a top hitter even in a pitcher's park but they will be a losing team until youngsters are ready and oldsters are healthy.