Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day. The Los Angeles Times has a tribute to California service members who died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. West Coast Bias visited with Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman, who was a military pilot in both World War II and the Korean War.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Opinions...

* The National League West is a weaker place than it was a week ago.

First, the Rockies lose their best pitcher, Jorge De La Rosa, to a ligament tear in his elbow; then the Giants lose their best player, catcher Buster Posey, to a broken leg. Worse for the Rockies, they'll have to pay De La Rosa $10 million next year while he's on the disabled list per the two-year, $21.5 million contract they gave him last winter. He was 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA this year. The Giants, meantime, weren't scoring much (3.54 per game) even before losing Posey, who was heating up. Does this division look imposing to you? Didn't think so.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Top 10 Ballparks

You're likely no more interested in reading about the Padres today than I am in writing about them. Instead, let's go out to the top 10 ballparks with West Coast Bias.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hummel on Cardinals

Last time the Padres saw them, the Cardinals were happy to salvage the third game of the season-opening set between the clubs. In the series' other two games, the Cardinals blundered often and the Padres played mostly clean baseball. The Padres also exploited Cardinals pitcher Jake Westbrook, whose accuracy and stuff were both below average in the second game.

Sales job

Off the field, good things are happening for the Padres. The team's next TV contract reportedly will be far more lucrative than the current deal. Attendance is up, in part because of the bright go-getters among Padres sales agents who recently were ranked first in major league baseball. Someone bang a gong.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Excess complaining?

The Padres met as a team after the Mariners swept them today. Asked if the talk will help, Heath Bell had this to say: "We'll see. Are we going to whine and complain or are we going to do something about it? I've heard more complaining this year than all of last year." Source: North County Times.

Newsstand

Another fun read from Padres prospect Cody Decker, who is enjoying his blogging gig. I'm thinking Cody may have confused DeNiro with Pacino in his Cape Fear reference. Then again, Cody was four years old when the movie was released. In the same cyber neighborhood, Kirk Gibson and the Gunslinger tell West Coast Bias they've changed the Diamondbacks' culture.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tidbits

* Mat Latos was so-so, at best, en route to defeat Friday against the Mariners. Just looking at the body language, one wouldn't think this is the same guy who dominated hitters last year.
* Center fielder Cameron Maybin's jump, route and catch attempt were all subpar on a ball that was generously ruled a leadoff single. Unable to pick up Maybin, Latos gave up two runs in the inning.
* In terms of defense and baserunning, the Padres' game performance was below major league standards.
* Orlando Hudson was 4.3 seconds to first base on his doubleplay groundout. That's average or slightly worse, and may indicate Hudson still isn't all the way back from the hamstring injury that put him on the disabled list.
* Chase Headley was out of the lineup against another lefty. As with the platooning of Will Venable, this leads me to wonder if the Padres aren't sold on Headley as a long-term answer. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Adrian, Mariners

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe passes along an Adrian Gonzalez update. Below that are a few notes from Larry Stone of the Seattle Times about the Mariners, who will be in San Diego for the next three games.

Adrian Gonzalez is the real deal, folks. After going 3 for 5 with three RBIs Tuesday providing the game-winning walkoff two-run double in an 8-7 win over the O's, Gonzalez was hitting .327 with nine home runs and has driven in 37 runs, the most in baseball. "This is a lot of fun right now," he said. "I love playing the game every night. But these nights are special."

Gonzalez has been special. He's hitting the ball to all fields -- upper deck in right at Yankee Stadium, off the Monster in Fenway. "I don't tailor my swing for any ballpark," claimed Gonzalez. "I don't tailor my swing for any ballpark. I hit it where it's pitched. That's the way I've always done it."

Mariners

The long irritable bowl nightmater is over. Franklin Gutierrez was activated Wednesday and immediately placed at the No. 5 spot and in center field. Manager Eric Wedge said he thought about a lot of different ways to re-introduce Gutierrez into the lineup, ultimately deciding to just throw him right in there in hopes of sparking a stagnant Mariner offense. "I thought about it a little bit,'' he said, then using the question to make an overall statement about the team's health at the moment. "We need something. I told you before, I sure as hell am not going to continue watching this. We are going to get better and we are going to do everything that we possibly can to get better and everybody here wants that. Certain things have to happen -- we've got to be tougher, we've got to be smarter. Work has never been an issue with these guys -- these guys show up and do the work. But we've got to be tougher and smarter and those are the type of at-bats that we have to have.''

There was all kinds of buzz over the airwaves and on Twitter Tuesday about a possible Dustin Ackley promotion to the Mariners, possibly as soon as Wednesday. But (Mariners beat writer Geoff) Baker reported that it's not going to happen. Here's what he wrote in his blog about the No. 2 pick (behind StephenStrasburg) in the 2009 draft, and the No. 1 Mariners prospect Ackley is hitting .359 with three home runs and 13 RBI in the month of May and has his average up to .280). Wedge was asked about Ackley in this afternoon's pre-game media scrum. Wedge was asked whether it's tough to avoid the temptation of wanting to see Ackley up here as soon as possible, given his recent torrid stretch of hitting for Tacoma. "I just don't react like that,'' Wedge said. "You start reacting like that in this game, you chase your tail. You've got to do things for the right reasons at the right time for the organization, for the big-league team, for the players. And not necessarily in that order, so we've got a day-to-day thought process here and we've got a big picture in mind right on top of it."

Ichiro is a 10-time Gold Glove winner, but according to the popular UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) measurement, he's the worst defensive performer on the team with a minus-6.6 rating. I don't know how accurate that is, but he sure does let a lot of balls drop nowadays.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Opinions...

* Petco Park isn't to blame for the Padres' crummy home record.

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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rizzo update

Padres beat writer Dan Hayes talked with Anthony Rizzo, whose maturity and sense of  humor apparently are on par with his powerful bat.

A few other tidbits:

Joe West's questionable ruling Tuesday that Eric Patterson tagged up too early called to mind similar calls by Bob Davidson, both for and against the Padres long ago. Even after one of those calls benefited them, the Padres still grumbled that Davidson was bent on calling attention to himself. (Not one of those players is still with the club.)

The last time the Brewers were in San Diego, they played four games without manufacturing a run, scoring only on two solo homers. The Padres pitched well, Petco did what Petco does and the Brewers hit below their talent level.

Congratulations to Sean Burroughs for his promotion to Arizona.

NBA for Moores?

Forbes reports that Padres owner John Moores has made an offer to buy the Atlanta Hawks. Only two winters ago, amid a complicated divorce from his wife, Moores put up the Padres in a distress sale. With Bud Selig's sanction, the deal was approved in the spring of 2009. A few baseball execs and agents later told me the distress sale, reportedly worth more than $500 million, looked from afar like a sweetheart of a deal for Moores. The NBA may be headed toward a lockout, which could change the economic terms for owners in 2012. Moores bought low on the Padres, putting up $80 million for them in 1994 while a labor stoppage gripped the industry. In the previous season, the Padres were last in attendance and win-loss record.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Opinions...

* Petco Park being what it is, big plays the Padres make for talent should be for position players and only the super-exciting pitchers. No use paying much for most pitchers, either amateur or pro. Let other teams plow greater resources into future and present No. 4 or No. 5 starters. A Petco embrace awaits draftees and foreign signees who rise through San Diego's farm system. Big league vets will sign discounted deals to call Petco home.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Forsythe

Is Bud Black overly partial to veterans? One of my followers on Twitter suggests that he is, and after asking that question, raised another one. "Why isn't Logan Forsythe playing?" said the exasperated Tweep, Steve Adler, who recently became a talk radio host at 1360 AM Sports.

My answers: 1) No, but I'll give it more thought. 2) I haven't asked Black, but he seemingly thinks either of his other fill-in second basemen, Eric Patterson or Alberto Gonzalez, gives the Padres a better chance of winning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Latos

His current struggles could make Mat Latos better in the long run, especially if the 23-year-old regains the consistently hot fastball that brought him a $1.25-million signing bonus and rushed him to the big leagues after only 31 starts in the minors.

What doesn't kill us is supposed to make us stronger, right? Or so the cliche goes. Latos is winless in his last 11 games dating to 2010, a pretty stiff development given that the Tattoed One was 14-5 with a 2.21 ERA when this detour began last September.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Opportunity

The Brewers neither pitch nor defend particularly well. The ballparks in Denver and Phoenix are a hitter's delight. See where I'm going with this? On paper, the next three series represent a fair chance for the Padres to plump up their National League-worst rates of scoring (3.09 runs per game) and slugging (.321).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Defense

Cameron Maybin's sliding catch on the warning track helped bring home today's series-clinching victory over the Garden Snakes. Maybin's catch, which steeled Mike Adams in the eighth inning, both pained and impressed the Gunslinger, who gave it an 8 on a 10 scale. Inasmuch as the Padres hadn't won a home set this year, Padres fans might give it a 10.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Turnstiles

Dan Hayes of the North County Times explains why paid attendance is up at Padres home games despite the team's slow start.

Happy Mother's Day

This Mother's Day is our first without my mother-in-law, a mother of nine and an exceptionally good and sentient person. I wrote here two years ago about her love for baseball, and how baseball, in time, loved her back. As her health declined in recent years, the St. Louis Cardinals games became a focal part of her days and nights. She was able to see Albert Pujols through the radio broadcasts, even when she could scarcely see, or move, at all. She loved being at a ballpark -- usually, Busch Stadium. As a girl, she went to Lane Field, the downtown home of the Padres when they were in the Pacific Coast League.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rivalry?

I doubt the players perceive a Padres-Diamondbacks rivalry. Do the higher-ups with each club? You betcha. West Coast Bias bills this series as Gunslinger vs. Strategic Thinkers although I get the sense that Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick, for whom I do not have a nickname, is more gung-ho about it than anybody.  I also recall Jeff Moorad saying, upon taking over the Padres, that he wants the Padres to "beat the butts" of the Diamondbacks. The way the Padres have played at home so far, I'm thinking a victory over the University of Phoenix would be welcomed on 19 Tony Gwynn Drive.

Elsewhere, furthering the San Diego-Phoenix sports connection, San Diego State's former football coach, Brady Hoke, who I'm told took a job somewhere in the Midwest, watched Thursday's Snakes-Rockies game from the Gunslinger's box.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Opinions...

Everyone has them. Here are several from me:

* I see the Padres trading Heath Bell before August.

Relievers are a renewable trade currency for the Padres, who can find them at the 99 Cents Only Store, plug them into Petco Park and eventually get big returns from them. Bell, to be sure, would be more difficult to replace than Ryan WebbEdward Mujica and other relievers traded last offseason, not only because he's really good, but also because his likely replacement, Mike Adams, also would need to be replaced and hasn't been as durable as Bell. All the same, if a healthy Bell is a Padre in August, I'd be surprised.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

No. 41

Guess who congratulated Heath Bell in the clubhouse tonight after the 6-5 victory?

Trevor Hoffman, who'd just seen Bell match his Padres record of  41 consecutive saves. After the save king slapped his hand, Bell had praise for his former mentor. "Trevor is No. 1," Bell said. "He'll always be No. 1. I'm happy with being No. 2 here in San Diego."

A week ago, Hoffman encouraged slump-ridden pitcher Mat Latos, who tonight hit a home run and left the game with the Padres ahead. Game honors went to catcher  Rob Johnson, who had a tie-breaking home run in the eighth inning and a throwout at third base in the ninth.

"My stuff was dirty," Bell said, "but if it wasn't for Rob, there's no chance I would have had a save tonight."

Correia's return

Many baseball people scoffed at the two-year, $8 million contract that the Pirates gave Kevin Correia last winter. "I didn't know that," Correia told me today.

So far, the Pirates are getting good value.

Correia, a Padre in 2009-2010, is 4-2 with a 2.90 ERA going into his start here tomorrow. He leads his team in innings pitched (40.1) and owns a complete game.

"It might not be enough money at the end of the year," Correia said, smiling. "Who's to say? I'm getting paid for this season. Coming off of last season, you get what you're worth. If people don't think I'm worth that amount of money, hopefully I can prove them wrong."

He's been somewhat lucky, some stats imply. And as Correia noted, we're in early May.

"Who's to say I'm not going to have a worse season than I did last year?" said the 30-year-old, who is 40-45 in his career with a 4.45 ERA. "We've just started May right now. So I'm not going to get in front of myself and say I'm going to have a great year. But I'm definitely confident right now."

Aside from "minor tweaks," Correia said he's the same pitcher who was 10-10 with a 5.40 ERA for the Padres last year.

He has said his grief over the stunning death of his brother last season had an adverse effect on him that only became apparent later -- a subject I had no interest in raising today.

Correia hired a new agent, Damon Lapa, after last season. Other agents attributed magical powers to Lapa after learning of the $8 million contract.

 The pitcher said he didn't notice the industry buzz.

"But I wasn't really concerned," he said. "It's not some large amount of money, where these guys are making $24 million a year...If some guy wins 20 games and he's making $20 million a year -- I already have four (wins) and I'm making $4 (million). So everything after this is a bonus, then.

"It's the business side. You get what you can get because you can't play your whole life. I'm always trying to do my best. I'm not really concerned with what people think I should be making or not."