Yes, I'm swiping at a straw man here. But this straw man has many lives. Put the 1996 Padres in this ballpark, they win 90-96 games for baffling reasons such as having far more talent, plus better know-how and other intangibles. This year's team is challenged by those three ingredients, not so much bricks and mortar.
* Chase Headley made an interesting point about Petco.
The third baseman, talking to Andy Masur of 1090 AM, was asked whether Padres hitters change their approach at home. No, Headley said. But hitters can't be selfish at Petco Park, he said.
I don't know exactly what Headley meant by selfish. I'll just offer four opinions: 1) Last year's team came to grips with Petco's realities the best of any Padres team since the ballpark opened in 2004. 2) With the loss of several veterans who understood Petco, it probably wasn't realistic to think the club's culture would be great early this season. 3) This isn't a knock on the current personnel, but David Eckstein and bench coach Ted Simmons were excellent at affirming Bud Black's messages about doing whatever it takes to win and not fretting statistics, and that didn't happen overnight. For this, former players have praised each man. Eckstein had two World Series rings to back him up. Simmons, who admittedly is one of my favorite lunatics, was fire to Pepe Negro's ice. 4) Regardless of venue, it's OK to be "selfish" if that means taking a shot at a home run in certain situations. But exceptions don't make rules.
* My popup awareness is on the rise.
Has nothing to do with internet ads. Justin Upton's game-winning, popup single two weeks ago for the Garden Snakes prompted me to write it had the hang time of a Ray Guy punt. Rockies right-fielder Seth Smith wasn't able to snag the ball, though it was in the air for 5.1 seconds. Seems like a long time, right? Not to the scouts, one of whom told me he gets excited only if it's six seconds or more. Why, you might ask, and I did ask, should scouts clock popups? "You can see (a hitter's) power in the hang time of a popup, especially with the new bats for the college guys," the scout said. "When I go to games, I might not get to see batting practice. You can see power in the hang time of a popup."
* Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson made a smart move on Tuesday when he appealed the tag-up by the Padres' Eric Patterson.
It wasn't a smart move because umpire Joe West ruled in favor of the Diamondbacks. It was a smart move because West is a maverick among umpires, willing to make a call that cuts against the grain, and Gibson had nothing to lose by appealing. It's important to know umpire tendencies. At any rate, I'd appeal every tag-up involving West or Bob Davidson, another maverick.