FriarBall: The pack has finally caught up

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The pack has finally caught up

Wow, it's time to get off this runaway train before it hits a burning building.

What seemed like an almost sure thing in July and even August has become a possibility as the Pads are no longer solely on top in the NL wild card race. What happened to this team that was at one point a trendy pick by writers to be in the World Series? Is there one moment this season that set the stage for the collapse that has taken place since?

Despite the late struggles of the rotation, the Pads are still the best in the NL in terms of pitching. They are the only team with a collective ERA under 4.00 (3.63) and have compiled 20 shut outs this season. Offensively SD is towards the bottom of the league but runs have been coming a lot easier lately - and so are the losses.

The talent on this team now, I feel, is a lot better than what we started the season off with but it doesn't seem to have made a huge impact. Did Chris Young's injury really affect the race that much? I don't want to say our season has come down to one player's oblique but things haven't been the same, with Young or the team, since that injury occurred.

Kevin Towers released David Wells because he was too taxing on the pen but look at what's happened since then. Not only have the Pads been able to find a successful No. 5 starter but Justin Germano has been ineffective too. It makes me feel like if Boomer was still here at least we wouldn't be worried about two starters making it to the second. We could be comfortable until the fourth.

But the struggles are related to more than just the pitching staff. I would say Milton Bradley's constant health battles have also kept the team inconsistent. I still think this was a great pickup (yes, even after he blew up and Bud Black had to put on a WWE clinic to restrain him, injuring him in the process) but if he could have stayed on the field the Pads may still have a small cushion in the wild card. But again, one injury does not a team's struggles make.

SD seemed to make it through two month's of Adrian Gonzalez struggling but what about the fact that Josh Bard, Marcus Giles, Michael Barrett and a third outfielder have not been every day players like we need. I'm not bagging on Bard, he has played far better than I think we've expected, but Barrett was brought in so we wouldn't have to use Bard every day and Giles can't keep Geoff Blum off the field.

Looking at this club, it seems that injuries and season-long slumps - along with stellar play by a young Arizona club that wasn't supposed to contend this year - have finally caught up to the Padres and unless some real playoff magic happens, they could be at home in October for the first time since 2004.

I'm not one to loose faith in my team but right now it's hard to fight the urge to say 2007 was fun while it lasted, let's hope 2008 is finally the year. So instead let's start praying for a playoff miracle.

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