FriarBall: August 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

There's something familiar about this spot

Great news Padres fans - in case you have completely hidden yourself from the outside overnight, you probably already know that SD has regained first place in the NL West with a 3rd straight win over Arizona last night.

And with the worst thing that can happen tonight being the Padres and Diamondbacks could end up tied atop the division standings, I would say this home stand has been successful so far. Chris Young takes the mound tonight and the only thing I hope for besides a sweep is that CY can get through the outing without any pain and without his next start date in doubt.

There is still a month left in the season and SD by no means has this thing in the bag but it is nice to know that despite some of the recent struggles - and all of the struggles throughout the year - this team is still tough to beat and hasn't imploded.

As a side note, if you haven't heard enough gushing about Milton Bradley, here is a tiny bit more - this guy is a stud and Kevin Towers would be foolish not to bring him back in 2008. For all of the naysayers who think this guy destroys clubhouses, all he has done is brought to life a pretty pathetic offense and given this team enough of a boost that it can now feel secure with more than just its pitching. Thanks Billy Beane for "unloading" your problem on us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

100 down, hopefully many more to go

It's amazing to think that I have hit the 100 post mark here at FriarBall, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

For those of you who missed Tuesday's game, Justin Germano may not have been the best pitcher out on the mound but he was good enough to give the Padres a 2nd straight victory over Arizona despite the fact he went against D-backs ace and Cy Young candidate Brandon Webb.

The offense seems to be coming around now that SD has cut AZ's division lead to 1 game and if these guys can play similarly to how they did at the beginning of the season then the Pads should be a feared opponent as the playoffs approach.

The series is what baseball and the run to the playoffs is all about - this series may not decide the NL West champs but it will go a VERY long way in determining the final outcome of the division.

It's good to hear that Chris Young (ours, not there's) will start Thursday to close out the series and Greg Maddux has been decent enough lately to give fans the hope of a sweep. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, we know what happens when we start thinking too positively.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

An official apology

So I just realized that I have been hard on the guys lately. I ragged on them when they blew a game against the Mets earlier this week and even when they beat them the next night I was still critical.

I don't want this to come across as an excuse (but it sounds like one anyway) but with all of the changes that have been going on in my life lately I feel like I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been to the bigger picture. I didn't realize the Pads took 2 of 3 from NY while increasing their lead in the Wild Card race.

Last night's drubbing added even more padding to securing a playoff spot and from the looks of it, it seems Milton Bradley's return to the lineup has helped out guys like Adrian Gonzalez.

I won't apologize for the comments I have made about the pitching because I still think we need more consistency all around at the moment but I will say I shouldn't be so hard on these guys are they have gotten things going in the right direction. Another drubbing of the Phillies would be great, but it hasn't been Clay Hensley's year so who knows what the outcome will be.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

30 runs and more struggles for the pen

I don't make it a point to often talk about non-Padres affiliated news but I had one thing to say about Texas beating Baltimore 30-3 Wednesday. I think the thing I am most surprised about is that Texas reliever Wes Littleton actually picked up a save in the process by entering it when the score was 14-3 and pitching the last three innings in which the Rangers scored 16 runs. Needless to say the game was already out of hand but I guess save rules are save rules. This type of outing only strengthens the argument for those who think saves are a worthless stat. As far as the Orioles are concerned, too bad there isn't a 10-run rule like in little league.

In Padres news, Trevor Hoffman has officially hit a slump after blowing another save and the pen seems to be in almost a full tailspin. Heath Bell eventually picked up the save after Adrian Gonzalez homered in the top of the 10th but these kinds of outings are not good. Granted we got to Billy Wagner before the Mets got to Hoffman and both closers have struggled in this series but it seems that if the Padres continue to ball like this heading into the playoffs they could have another first round exit.

Hopefully leaving the glitz and glamor of the Big Apple for Philly will turn things back to normal for pen. It will be a matchup of ancient ones as Greg Maddux takes on Jamie Moyer. Fire up the time machine.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tough start on the road

I realize I have been lax in updating the blog but between quitting my old job, starting my new job and my brother-in-law coming home for the first time in 2 years, the blog has been last on my to do list.

Things seem to have gotten worse since the last time I wrote. SD lost 2 of 3 to the Astros and then Trevor Hoffman blows the save in New York in the opening game of an East Coast road trip. Not a whole lot seems to have changed lately - the offense is still inconsistent as guys try to find their strokes, the pen seems to be wearing down and even the starting pitching looks like it's reaching its limits. At this rate SD could be out of the playoff hunt in a week.

Positives? Milton Bradley is back in the lineup and still seems to be swinging a steady bat and for all of the talk that circulates about needing to be hot entering the playoffs just remember St. Louis won the World Series last year after almost missing out on the playoffs on the last day of the season. By no means do I want the Pads to go in that way but I think just making the playoffs at this point is the main goal.

The rest of the season is going to be a roller coaster so it's at this point that we as fans just need to sit back and see what happens - and hope for the best even though the process could be extremely agonizing.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Big inning leads to series win

Two things stick out to me from Thursday night's game.

1. How about the offense scoring 9 in the 5th? Cavernous Petco looked more like Coors last night (yes, I realize a lot of people are writing the same thing) with an 11-9 outcome. But with the deep fences and long alleyways in Petco, should it really be a surprise to see teams take advantage of all that green in the outfield as they hit it to the gaps? Nice to see the comeback and then see the Padres hold on for the win.

2. Our team is definitely an enigma. There are some teams, no matter what year or what sport, that you can just predict how they will win and where the trouble spots will be. Not so with the Padres. Last night it was the offense that came through after SD fell behind but the lead was almost squandered by the pitching and defense when most people would say those are the Padres strengths. They have mainly been a pitching team throughout the year but it seems of late our starters are having trouble getting deep into games and the pen looks likes it wearing down. I realize Kevin Towers is doing everything he can to spare the pen (getting rid of David Wells and running an all-night shuttle between SD and Portland so as to bring up and rest a different batch of arms every night) but what really needs to happen is the Padres need to get 2-3 consecutive starts to last 7 innings or more.

In Denver, it looks like the writers are already saying this game could be the breaking point for the Rockies but if you ask me, wouldn't you need to see another game and see how the team bounces back from a loss like this before you start calling it the end of a playoff run. The best part is the fact where Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post says the manager has looked like a genius because his pen has held up so well lately but last night seems to erase all of that.

They're hitting the panic button in the Rockies, which should now make this a race between the Padres and the Diamondbacks but just in case Colorado isn't done after one bad game, let's hope the team can put it all together against Houston this weekend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Time to play catchup

With 45 games and 2 1/2 games out of first, SD has to start making its move now if it is going to secure a spot in the playoffs. The Padres still hold a slim lead in the wild card standings but that is not the way you want to enter the playoffs, especially if you had the league's best record earlier in the season.

This stretch begins with a home series against Colorado - one of the hottest teams in the NL right now - but the funny thing about this is that both Colorado and Arizona are the teams in the thick of it with SD instead of the Dodgers. I don't think anyone thought either the Rockies or Diamondbacks would be in position to compete this year but here they are.

The next step in the march to the postseason takes place now, and if the Padres are going to solidify their place they need to begin by winning the series against Colorado.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Welcome to 2002 Brian Giles

Apparently someone forgot to remind Brian Giles that he doesn't have 5 HR in 3 game power anymore and that he was a leadoff guy whose best asset is the fact that he gets on base. But apparently all of the Padres love Cincinnati after scoring 25 runs in 3 games.

After that offensive outburst it me thinking - would the Padres be better in a ballpark like Great American? Obviously the Reds aren't any good but it's not because of their hitting, so with a staff like the one SD has, would the Padres succeed in a park like that. A lot is made of Petco and the fact that the pitching staff benefits from the deep fences but does the ballpark really make that much of a difference?

In certain situations, it's obvious the environment and the ballpark have an impact (Coors Field anyone) but that doesn't mean the Padres wouldn't be just as successful in a smaller park. Now I am not trying to dredge up the argument going on as far as whether to move the fences in but the wheels started spinning after seeing all of the runs this weekend.

It's actually really nice when the offense makes an appearance, it would just be better if it was around more often.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tough night for closers

Obviously most of the focus on Friday night's win is on the fact that Trevor Hoffman blew his first save since April but he wasn't the only closer in the game - or in the league for that matter - that had trouble closing out a game last night. I didn't realize Friday the 10th was just as unlucky as Friday the 13th.

Of course in Cincinnati the lack what we have - stable relief pitching. And even though Hoffman gave up the save, it seemed obvious that the longer the game went the more likely a Reds reliever would blow the game. Who knew that reliever would be David Weathers, the only guy the Reds have been able to count on this year?

SD sends former Red Justin Germano to the mound to face Bobby Livingston, whose 4.46 ERA entering the game is lowest an opposing pitcher has had in a week. Hopefully some more runs are on the way.

Outsider's perspective: Cincinnati Reds

There is plenty of news coverage on various Padres blogs about what the local media outlets are saying about the Padres. But as a guy who lives on the other side of the country, I thought it might be interesting to see what the media outlets of our opponents are focusing on.

I wanted to get this up before Friday's game that began the series against Cincinnati, but I will have to settle with getting it up now.

Apparently at the Cincinnati Post they actually have a reporter blog each game live and it is actually kind of interesting to see what this guy thinks of the Padres. The best part is the comments section where it actually makes me feel that even though the Pads are struggling right now I can say that at least I am not a Reds fan.

I will attempt to get up Cincinnati's version of the events up in the morning and any other stories they have involving the Padres. Let's hope they can make it 2 straight wins on Saturday.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cardinals once again have Padres number

How come it seems that no matter how good or how bad a team is, there are just some clubs that just know how to beat others. In this case I am talking about how the Cardinals always seem to be the Padres in meaningful games, especially when it comes to the playoffs, but losing three out of four this week really hurt when SD is in the middle of a pennant race.

Amazingly San Diego won the 2005 and 2006 series, 4-3 and 4-2 respectively, but St. Louis holds an all-time series lead of 240-170 and won this year's matchup 4-3. SD has also lost 6 of its last 7 playoff games to St. Louis and also swept them in 1996. In fact, SD has never won a series against St. Louis in the playoffs.

This year the losses seem worse not only because St. Louis is going nowhere fast but also because the Padres lost to a bunch of mediocre pitchers (and that is giving those guys a lot of credit). Losing to guys like Kip Wells and Braden Looper just can't happen when you are in pursuit of a World Series title.

It's no secret where the Padres are struggling (offense and starting pitching not involving Jake Peavy and Chris Young) but this is the time of year where teams of destiny seem to win despite their shortcomings. If SD truly is on track for a World Series title this year, the time to get lucky is now.

Obviously it's still possible to win a World Series if you struggle to make the playoffs - St. Louis did it last year - but going that route will be a lot tougher than SD trying to win a playoff series against the Cardinals.

These last two-plus months of the season are crucial if this is to be SD's year, but only luck at the same time will ensure the Padres' run to the first championship in any sport for San Diego.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Barry Bonds, home run king

I don't make it a point to talk about non-Padres stuff often but I wanted to take a moment to talk about THE home run.

With the game on in the background and trying to get kids settled for bed, I came down with my three month old son right as Barry Bonds started his at bat in the fifth inning. No sooner did I sit down and start rocking my son when I heard the unmistakable crack of a home run.

You knew Bonds wanted to hit the home run at home so that he would actually be cheered and get to celebrate the achievement, but the one thing that may be overlooked here is the fact that this home run was actually a meaningful hit in a tie game.

Stopping play and knowing Bud Selig was not in attendance, it was obvious that Willie Mays was in attendance but the classiest part of the evening was the video message from Hank Aaron shown on the Jumbotron. Bonds then said a few words and actually showed some emotion and I think that if that was the guy portrayed in the media every day, he wouldn't be as hated by the baseball world as he currently is.

Baseball fans, and sports fans in general, like stars who are just as human as we are and when you hear the emotion coming from Bonds in short speech after the home run, he almost seemed like he could be a likable guy - if he wanted to be.

Regardless of whether he is guilty of cheating or not this was one of the moments that any fan watching the game will be able to recall (at least until A-Rod breaks the record) and one day I hope to tell my son about how we watched this moment of sports history together. Regardless of the man the moment is celebrating, it is definitely neat to be able to have a personal story to go with this bit of history.

And now baseball can get back to overhyping teams and players that matter, or will at least be a part of the pennant races.

With August here, still some tinkering left to do

The Padres are in the home stretch, in second place in the NL West and while we would like to think that SD has to be one of the favorites to win NL, there are still a couple of things that need to be corrected for a postseason run.

The David Wells horse has been beat to death and it seems there is a possibility he could be released. The only problem is, Greg Maddux has no stamina and can't get past the sixth, Justin Germano has been struggling after a hot start and Clay Hensley never got things together after suffering through some early season injuries. And with Chris Young still hurting, there is not much starting pitching to rely on at this point. It also appears that any future starters that are laboring in the minors are not quite ready to make the jump up to the majors (Tim Stauffer anyone).

I think one thing we thought the Padres had an abundance of this year was pitching but it seems like the starters have hit a wall, and with Bud Black still trying to find a consistent starting lineup it seems like the wheels could be coming off this thing in a hurry.

The Padres seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place right now with Wells struggling so much but if a couple of guys could get hot as the season winds down, they may be able to get things going in the right direction and have enough momentum entering the playoffs that a deep postseason run may still be possible, even if the offense still doesn't come around completely.

Hopefully a solution will present itself soon but if it doesn't, I fear the Padres will be at home watching the playoffs like the rest of us.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Bonds brings chase - and baggage - to town

I may be in the unpopular minority here, and especially because I'm a Padres fan, but as Barry Bonds brings his quest for home runs No. 755 and 756 to town I have to say that whatever prejudices we may personally have against the man as baseball fans we have to remember one thing - he has never been found guilty in any way that would jeopardize his status with Major League Baseball.

As much as I would like to see the legitimacy of his record chase challenged we have to remember one thing - it is Bud Selig's fault (and maybe even the fault of those commissioners before him) that there is a dark cloud surrounding the chase of one of baseball's most hallowed records. If drug testing had been implemented back when the NFL brought it into their league, one of two things would have happened, Bonds would have achieved the record cleanly or he (and others who set home run records) would have been caught and would not have the home run totals he has now.

So as Bonds brings his chase to town I have two things going through my head: One, I hope Padres pitching can keep him homerless while he is in town so his home run doesn't have the potential to cost SD a game and two, as much as I don't want to I think it's time to start rooting for Alex Rodriguez to go on a tear because the more home runs he hits now, the sooner he can break Bonds record and bring legitimacy back to the record.