It’s been a great season to date, the first week of MLB 2009. Lots of surprises, uplifting moments, tragedy and pathos as well as new stadia.
With the exception of Fox’s odious Saturday blackouts, every game is available for live viewing between MLB Extra Innings and MLB.com.
I’ve watched every inning of every game. Your reporters and anal assyss hired by MLB.com haven’t. Neither have your MLB TV studio analysts, baseball executives, sports observers, practically everybody else in America.
For what it’s worth, since everybody else gets the recognition and perks — MLB.com doesn’t believe I know anything about baseball or have any insights, ability etc., and denies me access to the press room, thanks Dinn Mann, Bill Hill, Jim Banks — here are some of my insights into the new season.
For starters, looks like I was right on about the Royals. I believe this team will be in the playoffs for the first time in decades. Too bad the Orioles are deficient in pitching since they have a hitting juggernaut. Rangers pitching appears improved. They throw bat after bat at you with a legion of MLB-ready players in the high minors along with several MVP candidates including my fellow Hebrew Ian Kinsler and the Mickey Mantle clone that is Josh Hamilton. The Angels have been hit hard by injury, death, everything, so we got a race here.
We got a race everywhere in fact. It looks surprisingly — given the disparity in team payrolls — like parity on the field. I firmly believe in parity. That makes it great for the majority of fans. Dynasties are for elitist losers.
The teams succeeding this year — year two of the steroid-as-free-as-monitor-able era — have certain similar characteristics. These teams comprise a slew of interchangeable, moving parts; extreme flexibility as far as position players and pitching assignments. The Cardinals look to be a prime example of this post-steroid phenomenon along with the aforementioned Royals and restocked for prime time Marlins.
The new stadiums have been great. Despite pre-opening pitcher park rhetoric, the Mets new Citibank ripped me off and now gets a government bailout and gets to name their stadium a la” Enron Field remember that kiddies, ballpark, looks to be good hitting. So does the new Yankee Stadium, which looks like the ultimate culmination of the new age of cookie cutter cool experience stadiums, but in a good way. The games there have been wild and the ball goes Babe Ruth into the Right Field day.
The most amazing series of on-field happenings have surrounded my pride and “joy?” Padres. While I predicted 105 losses, the first week has given me pause. They still may lose a ton of games but as in the 2000 stolen presidential election — and thanks for screwing up the world, Bush — the results may take a while to come in and surprise in the end.
A number of factors have aided the Padres, which is why I’m saying the season is too close to call as yet. For one thing, they beat up on the Dodgers at Petco — an annual tradition, regardless of disparate team strength — then beat up on the Giants. the Jints, however, appear weak and listless, any progress they seemed to make last year probably was a mirage.
The Padres ushered in new Enron Field. Initially, I looked at this like Texas scheduling Rice for homecoming, a sure win for a new era. On further review, one might conclude the Padres caught a break as the Mets may have been tentative and nervous with the new field. As well, the Mets were no more familiar with the field than the Padres, losing part of the traditional home field advantage.
Yet, the Padres clearly played with unusual fervor, a newfound sense of purpose and true grit. I was unprepared for this based on last year’s listless litany of loss. Part of this, it turns out, may be due to adding Ted Simmons and Jim Lefebvre to the senior coaching staff. These guys — and Bud Black is the first to acknowledge — have added a lot of knowledge and pizzazz to the team mix.
Even more-so, the addition of David Eckstein, maturing of Chase Headley and Kevin Kouzmanoff, solid pitching, especially from castoff relievers added in the last few weeks of spring training, as well as a tough, underdog, devil-may-care attitude — maybe a new Gashouse Gang in these troubled economic times — has paid dividends.
Here is the yin and yang of this. Some of the success of the new wave of Padres pitchers may be due to the league’s unfamiliarity with them. Maybe the second time around the league won’t be so fruitful. Same goes for Padres hitters, most of whom are young and untested. On the other hand…
A team that learns it can win, often does win. The Padres have come from significant deficits in difficult games to win several times. Given their lack the high-priced talent, they also lack the high-priced egos. Many Padre players already have noted the team chemistry and spirit of self-sacrifice, although winning generally pins a happy spin on such perceptions, Despite the individual nature of much of the baseball experience, it remains a team game with sacrifice and execution a large part of team success.
Several come from behind victories on the road — including Saturday’s shocking stopping of Brad Lidge’s 47-save straight streak — have planted a seed in the Padre brainwaves and sometimes that seed grows to be a mighty redwood. It has happened before.
With that said, I continue to believe the Padres will sink fast into oblivion, but
my slam dunk feeling has tempered greatly given what has transpired this first week. I’m willing to let it slide a few weeks because stranger turnabouts have happened.
I also want to make it perfectly clear that being the frontrunner I am when it comes to hometown baseball, I am quite willing to jump on the Padres bandwagon should it continue to roll downhill.
But that’s for another day, a further column. In the meantime, continue to play ball!
And a shout out to MLB.com for employing everybody but me, so I get to stand in the soup line and starve, while everybody else gets to get paid for covering baseball somewhat less well than me. At least, I was able to pay in advance for MLB.com before I went completely broke this week.
The arty party line as spring training ends is this team is going to surprise people.
Lose 105 to 110 games. Surprise!
The Padres somehow while we were sleeping or something became the worst team in baseball. Surprise!
While plenty of blame can go around, the continual spin is quite disingenuous. Saying this team is better than it looks is such a misrepresentation that trying to fool people will work only so long, say the first 10 or 15 games of the season.
Let’s see what the Padres bring to the table. Adrian Gonzales, Jake Peavy, if he doesn’t get hurt; Kouzmanoff, Headley somewhat, maybe even a bit of an occasional spark from Gerut.
That’s not even enough for team mediocrity considering the rest of the story. An incredibly overpaid Brian Giles, adequate in right, Eckstein adequate at second even though other teams couldn’t wait fast enough to get rid of him in the last few years.
Ahh, hmmm, pitching, Besides Peavy who would be gone asap if the Padres were at all reasonable in trade demands, Chris Young, who does not appear right and can’t win on the road even when he is right; no other starting pitching, really none. Bullpen in disarray, Bell might be good, but consider Meredith as his primary set-up man followed by five pitchers acquired in the last two weeks, each of whom was about the be cut and by teams such as the Nationals.
This team is a disgrace. John Moores is to blame of course. So is Sandy Alderson whose tenure as baseball president was a disaster. I wouldn’t blame Bud Black since his hire was a Good Old Boy network type of thing apparently. His in-game moves are pitiful, but he seems like a stand-up guy. First manager to be fired this year? Possibly. It’s hard to see how he could last the season unless management feels the season is so lost it doesn’t matter. Otherwise, he’s gone.
Not helping the viewing fan is Cox Channel 4 monopoly on coverage yielding the insipid Mark Grant — probably the worst MLB announcer in the nation, a sad combination of zero actual baseball knowledge with disgusting self-promotion of the nothing brand that is his awfulness — and a new guy who spent 20 years at Tulsa and is boring, over-his-head, etc.
Thanks goodness for MLB.com, Direct TV baseball package, etc. so at least we’ll be able to watch baseball, and not be limited to Padres games circa 1970s baseball world.
It’s going to be one of the worst seasons ever by an MLB team.
Thanks for nothing Moores-Alderson ad nauseum liars all. Enjoy your MLB bailout and non-performance bonuses.
Note: I am re-printing this article from March 31 just so everybody knows who knows it first…
The Padres are about to embark on one of the worst seasons in baseball history. Plenty of blame to go around although much of it at this point must be centered on John and Becky Moores and Sandy Alderson.
While it’s all good and well to go around saying how much one loves the Padres etc., the fact is Moores and family milked this sucker for all it was worth and a lot more. They turned — or rather, circumstances, the economy and MLB popularity turned — an $84 million investment into $500 million. Good for them, but don’t pretend your love for the Padres, their fans and San Diego is paramount when it isn’t. Just witness the dismantling of the team over a few dollars in an environment when teams are expanding rosters and payrolls.
What’s more, the Moores’ choice of Alderson was disastrous. The drafts were terrible, maybe the worst in baseball. Not only was Matt Bush recently called the second worst draft pick in MLB history, but the lack of drafted players in the majors is amazing. Other than that, Alderson’s stupidity drove away all decent baseball guys and left yes-men and sycophants or a few smart guys whose advice was ignored.
The Padres will lose around 105 games easy. Thanks for nothing!
As an added blog bonus today only, this is the e-mail I sent the Padres TV pigs about their coverage, too (Thanks goodness for MLB Network, MLB Extra Innings and MLB. com for real coverage)…
You don’t even have a proper way to e-mail you with comments, how user unfriendly with this form.
The fact is the only reason anybody would watch your Padres coverage is you have a monopoly, but that will end, too. This year, don’t complain when your ratings are zero, or say it’s because the team is bad or the economy sucks.
The reason nobody will be watching is evidenced today by your Padres=Brewers coverage. The announcers are the worst in baseball. Do yo have any doubt if a Vince Scully or even a Matt Vasgersian were broadcasting you would have a few viewers, just because it was interesting despite a terrible team. But now, you have a Mark Grant who is so odious, obnoxious and disgusting with his self-promotions and BS fake knowledge and your new guy is so boring and nondescript that it is a chore to listen and watch, actually like a job (bad) or even an affliction.
I’m a big baseball fan, but I’m afraid I will watch alternative baseball coverage rather than yours because yours is so sub-standard, even annoying and worse, stupid and maddening.
Don’t bother with your form reply, we blah blah and other people blah blah blah… You’re fooling only yourselves. The fact is you’ve dug your own ratings grave whether you believe it or not and I HATE YOU FOR REMOVING THIS PLEASURABLE EXPERIENCE of enjoying Padres baseball on TV, even if the team is bad,, although I’m sure watching the Rockies, Giants, Dodgers, D-Backs, anybody but the Padres will remain my baseball solace.
Thanks for nothing!
The Padres finally made their big off-season free agent player acquisition. David Eckstein. Ouch.
Hitting coach of the San Diego Padres apparently. The fourth hitting coach in four years, Wally Joiner, bit the bullet today, his agent citing his “frustration level with realizing…his philosophy.”
HUH # 1
Catch the drift from the title?