Monday, April 30, 2007

Vin Scully: Simply the Best

Vin Scully is simply the best.

No other Major League Baseball television announcer can compare to the play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Listening to Scully is like taking a walk along the beach, listening to the waves. It's calm, relaxing and just a joyful sound to hear.

One of the things that makes Scully so great is his knowledge of the opposing team. This past weekend against the San Diego Padres, for instance, Scully came up with some gems that went well beyond the Padre media guide. Did you know ...

Shortstop Khalil Greene's father served as a Marine in Vietnam.

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez comes from a family that owns an air conditioning firm with five locations in San Diego County.

Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff played on a high school team in Evergreen, Colo., which never had a home game his senior season because of too much snow at 7,000 feet.

Then there are those famed Scully quotes.

After the Dodgers failed on a couple bunt attempts: "The art of bunting. You think it would be so easy."

When San Diego's Marcus Giles swung and missed a pitch from Takashi Saito: Marcus looked back at him as if to say, 'Where did that come from?' Well, it came from Japan."

On Padres hefty pitcher David Wells: "He grew up a surfer. Obviously, he needed a big board. Now, he's 'Hanging 10' on the mound at Petco Park."

Upon Derek Lowe being pulled from a game: "For Derek Lowe, he was cut off at the appropriate number of pitches -- 86."

The Scully quips and quotes are unending. Nobody does it better.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Double Headers are nowhere to be found

What ever happened to the double header in Major League Baseball?

If you have a game snowed out in Cleveland or rained out in Pittsburgh, you’re likely to see a double header scheduled.

Otherwise, you’re going to notice the double header has gone the way of the dinosaur.

Why? The answer is simple: money.

Now that the average player makes well over $2 million annually, owners can’t afford to offer two games for the price of one. The best you’ll get, if you’re lucky, are two-for-one hot dogs once or twice a season.

In fact, instead of the double header, you’ll get what are called "premium" games. For the San Diego Padres, these games include opening night, weekends with the Los Angeles Dodgers or weekends with the Boston Red Sox.

Simply put, a premium game in San Diego means you will pay $7 more than normal for most tickets.

That being the case, why not have a "non-premium" game? Those could occur when teams such as the Washington Nationals (who come in next Monday-Wednesday) are in town.

If the price goes up for the Dodgers, it should go down for the Nationals. The anticipated crowds of 15,000 or so for the Washington games next week will speak loudly for the need of non-premium games, as well as premium games.

Will that ever happen? Chances for non-premium games are about as likely as ever seeing a double header on the original schedule for a Major League Baseball season.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Peavy looking like an All-Star

You heard it here first: Jake Peavy will be the National League’s starting pitcher in the 2007 All-Star Game.

Peavy is on fire now for the San Diego Padres.

In his last start, he tied a team record (his own) with 16 strikeouts against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Only a questionable call on a check-swing kept Peavy from tying Tom Seaver’s all-time Major League Baseball record of 10 consecutive strikeouts, set against the Padres in 1970.

Peavy is no one-game wonder in 2007. He definitely has a trend going.

In four of his five starts, he has allowed just two runs total in 27 innings. During the other start, he gave up five runs (four earned) in 5 1/3 innings of an 11-5 win over Arizona. Peavy had a shutout through four innings, and then ran out of gas after running the bases on a triple with a head-first slide. He also doubled in the game.

His record thus far? Three wins, no losses and an ERA of 1.67. His 36 strikeouts are second in the NL to Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, who has 37.

Peavy, an All-Star is 2005, is coming off a sub-par 2006 season when he went 11-14 with a 4.09 ERA. He was never completely right physically last season after pushing himself too hard in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

If Peavy has a fault, it is forcing himself to go harder than the situation dictates. That’s certainly what happened in the 2006 World Baseball Classic; and it cost him earlier this year with the unnecessary head-first slide into third base.

All Peavy has to do is keep himself under control through early July. If so, don’t be surprised to see No. 44 start on the mound during the All-Star game in San Francisco.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A.J. Smith: Genius or Not?

A.J. Smith is an absolute genius … or is he?

Smith is certainly given the most pats on the back for the San Diego Chargers’ impressive 35-13 record the past three regular seasons. But if that be the case, he’s also part of the team failing to win its playoff games in 2004 and 2006.

The team’s cornerstone players are LaDainian Tomlinson on offense and Jamal Williams on defense. Both players were with the Chargers before Smith became general manager.

Smith had a stellar draft in 2004.

Selecting quarterback Eli Manning in the first round and trading him to the New York Giants for QB Philip Rivers was a steal; considering the Chargers also received a third-round pick (kicker Nate Kaeding), and first-round selection in 2005 (linebacker Shawne Merriman).

San Diego’s 2004 draft was further bolstered by picking current starters Igor Olshansky (defensive end, second round), Nick Hardwick (center, third round) and Shaun Phillips (linebacker, fourth round.)

What about Smith’s other drafts? You might want to close your eyes on some.

2003: This draft yielded busts in two of the first three picks with defensive backs Sammy Davis and Terrence Kiel. However, it did yield current starters CB Drayton Florence (2nd), LB Matt Wilhelm (4th) and P Mike Scifres (5th).

2005: Besides Merriman, current starters DE Luis Castillo (1st) and WR Vincent Jackson (2nd) were also taken. Beyond that, none of the draftees figure to be starters this season.

2006: Starters were chosen in the first two rounds with CB Antonio Cromartie and OT Marcus McNeill. Once again, that’s where the starters stop among draft picks.

We’ll find out if Smith is a true architect in 2007. The Chargers did not sign any free agents from outside the organization, so they are certainly no stronger than the day they lost to New England in the playoffs with leading tackler Donnie Edwards (now a Kansas City Chief) at linebacker.

The Chargers fired Marty Schottenheimer, at least in part, because he cannot win in the playoffs despite being one of the best regular-season coaches in NFL history. They might not have to worry about a playoff loss with new boss Norv Turner, who has failed to make the postseason in eight of his nine seasons as a head coach.

A.J. Smith: Genius or overrated? This year’s NFL draft could tell a lot about that question.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Chargers may select linebacker first

Virtually every “expert” expects the San Diego Chargers to pick a wide receiver or safety in the first round of this weekend’s NFL draft.

But what about a linebacker?

Now that Donnie Edwards has bolted the Chargers for Kansas City, San Diego is in desperate need of someone to step up inside.

It’s going to be hard for anybody to match Edwards’ production. Not only did he lead the Chargers in tackles each of the past five seasons, he also seemed to make the key interception whenever the team needed a game saver.

Can Matt Wilhelm or Stephen Cooper do the same when they likely start at inside linebacker in 2007? We’ll likely find out as Randall Godfrey (who started alongside Edwards the past three seasons) is also expected to move on.

Certainly, the Chargers are set at outside linebacker with Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. But back-up linebackers Carlos Polk, Marques Harris and Tim Dobbins are just that – back ups.

Without Edwards, the Chargers will go from a very strong linebacker group to a somewhat questionable one … at least depth-wise. Wilhelm and Cooper must step up in 2007 if the Chargers are to remain among the NFL’s elite at linebacker.

Talk all you want about the team needing to draft a wide receiver or Safety. However, don’t be surprised if General Manager A.J. Smith’s No. 1 pick is at linebacker.

After all, Smith is gambling that his personal feud with Edwards that caused the veteran linebacker to leave will not create a huge hole for the 2007 Chargers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Randy Johnson: Is He Washed Up?

Is Randy Johnson washed up at age 43?
We’ll begin to find out tonight when Johnson makes his season debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the San Diego Padres.
You could argue that Johnson won 17 games each of the past two seasons for the New York Yankees. To counter that, consider that Johnson’s ERA has risen from 2.60 in 2004 with the Diamondbacks to 3.79 and 5.00 in the past two respective seasons with the Yankees.
Certainly, the Big Unit benefited from a Yankees lineup that is as potent as any around. He won’t enjoy the same luxury with an Arizona team that has lost four straight and scored three runs in its last three games.
Johnson made three rehabilitation starts in the minor leagues this year while working his way back from offseason back surgery. He’s a hero in Arizona, where he won four of his five Cy Young awards from 1999 to 2002 and was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series along with Diamondbacks teammate Curt Schilling.
Arizona is certainly banking on Johnson to still be the Big Unit, as opposed to a smaller unit. The Diamondbacks signed him in January to a two-year, $26 million contract. He’s being paid $4 million this year, $10 million next year and has a $12 million signing bonus payable through 2010.
Even if he is not the same this time around, the Diamondbacks will consider him a good investment because of what he brought to them in the past and what he brings in present marketing value.
Johnson pitches tonight against San Diego’s David Wells, another 43-year-old. In fact, their combined ages will be the oldest in history of two major league left-handed starting pitchers facing each other.
Both still have that competitive fire, but are they still competitive at age 43? We’ll know by September.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Make no mistake about it

Make a sports-related mistake on San Diego sports television or radio and you will likely read about in the San Diego Union-Tribune’s sports TV-Radio column on Friday.
Make a mistake in the Union Tribune and … well, I guess you are above being criticized.
Take the April 21, 2007 edition of the paper, for instance. There was mention of a Chargers “playoff” game in New York in 1995, along with a local listing for a college football game that day between San Diego State and the Air Force Academy.
The Chargers-Giants game in question was played Dec. 23, 1995. It could not have been a playoff game for two reasons: (a) the NFL does not start its playoffs before Christmas, and (b) the Chargers and Giants could only meet in the Super Bowl since they play in separate conferences.
As for the SDSU-Air Force football game, that must have come as a shock to the Aztecs as they were scheduled for a spring scrimmage that day. With tongue in cheek, I guess the NCAA now allows colleges to play each other during spring practice.
In today’s paper (April 23, 2007), there is another glaring error. The Union-Tribune states than pitcher Greg Maddux had 344 career wins, which contradicts the fact he actually has 334 career victories.
Certainly, we all make mistakes. The Union-Tribune is no exception.
Next time the U-T jumps all over somebody else’s mistake, perhaps the paper should look inward first.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

SDSU Dominates Fox Baseball Telecasts

Check out the Fox television in-studio commentators some Saturday on the Major League Baseball game of the week.
Jeanne Zelasko has been the in-studio host since 2001. Her primary partners during the 2007 season are Kevin Kennedy and Mark Grace.
What do all three of them have in common? Each is an alumnus of San Diego State University.
Guess the folks at Fox can start coloring their set in red and black.
Aztecs also come in threes in the NFL. There are currently a trio of ex-Aztecs serving as head coaches with Joe Gibbs (Washington), John Fox (Carolina) and Herman Edwards (Kansas City).
And there is one other famous SDSU alum that will certainly be in the spotlight this summer. Tony Gwynn, who will be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, is also an alumnus of SDSU … as well as the university’s head baseball coach.
Seems like the major sporting leagues just can’t get enough of the Aztecs.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Yankees-Red Sox: It's Getting Tired

Two years ago, Channel 4 San Diego announcer Matt Vasgersian described the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees act as “tired.”
The Padres play-by-play voice had it right then … and he is certainly on the money more than ever now.
This weekend, the Yankees and Red Sox play their first series of the season. Pardon me while I yawn.
So what does this mean? How about ESPN, Friday night; Fox, Saturday afternoon; ESPN, Sunday night? Then next weekend, it’s Red-Sox Yankees again on Fox. Give me a break, national TV!
New Yorkers and East Coasters just don’t get it. Those of us in the most populated state in America (California) and others could give a darn about New York and the East Coast.
Want proof? The 2000 World Series featuring New York-New York recorded the lowest TV ratings in World Series history up to that time, according to Baseball Almanac.
During Game 5 of that Subway Series, 61% of the televisions in New York were tuned in to the game. Everybody else? The next 30 largest television markets, during that exact same viewing period, registered double-digit percentage losses compared to the New York City market for the Series.
What do we have this weekend with Yankees-Red Sox? How about a Yankees team that hasn’t won a World Series since beating another New York team seven years ago? How about a Boston team that finished third out of five teams in the AL East last year?
You can have Yankees-Red Sox. I’ll gladly take Cubs-Cardinals … or even Padres-Rockies … as a more than viable alternative this weekend!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Are umpires the show? Fat chance

Is David Wells fat? Make your own call by watching him on TV.
Is an umpire within his rights to call Wells fat? Fat chance … the answer is no.
Wells claims that first base umpire Doug Eddings rubbed his belly and made a gesture that Wells was fat Wednesday night. This came during an incident when Eddings was ejecting Wells for arguing from the bench.
In a he said/he said matter, Eddings denies making the gesture. But there’s no doubt the umpire was making a show of himself, according to what was shown on Channel 4 San Diego.
When such great umpires as Doug Harvey were working games, they realized they weren’t the show. Harvey would take it when someone argued with him, then he’d walk away. If Harvey was followed, that’s when an ejection also normally followed.
Today’s umpires could certainly learn from their predecessors with class, such as Harvey. It seems like all officials would have gotten a clue when referee Joey Crawford was suspended for the entire NBA playoffs because of his antics.
Doug Eddings obviously wasn’t paying attention.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Aztecs on the right path academically

As spring football practice continues at San Diego State, Chuck Long has the Aztecs on the right path … at least academically.
SDSU’s second-year head coach has spelled out a 4 ½-year plan for his players to apply both on the field and in the classroom.
Under the plan, the Aztecs expect players to graduate within 4 ½ years to keep the grass from growing between the time they finish football and graduate from college.
Here’s how it works: Say a freshman comes in with the current 2007 class. If he redshirts this season and plays the next four years, his SDSU football career concludes in December 2011. If he graduates in 4 ½ years, that also occurs in December 2011. Under this scenario, players won’t be tempted to leave school after their football career is done without graduating.
According to the most recent NCAA Graduation-Rate Report, SDSU student-athletes graduated at a rate of 81 percent. This percentage is higher than for the general student population.
SDSU was also recently recognized with the Diversity in Athletics Award for being one of the top athletics programs in the country for its graduation rate of African-American male student-athletes and Title IX compliance.
Chuck Long and his staff are definitely trying to keep the Aztecs on pace academically. Now if they can do something about last year’s 3-9 record and actually go to a bowl game, it would be another feather in SDSU’s cap.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nevin is a breath of fresh air

It’s nice to hear the voice of Phil Nevin on XX Sports Radio these days.
Nevin started last Friday on the Padres pre-game radio show, and he certainly is a breath of fresh air.
He’s not one of those former ballplayers who are going to make excuses for what happens on the field. He tells it like it is, which is what listeners want to hear after all.
Nevin was the first Padre to speak his mind when Petco Park opened in 2004 concerning how difficult of a hitter’s park the new facility is. He took the rap from management for being the first guy to say something that is commonly repeated these days about how low-scoring games and long fly outs (that would be home runs in most ballparks) are the norm at Petco Park.
It was interesting a couple years ago when Nevin became so frustrated by Petco Park’s vast dimensions that he let it be known by directing his anger toward General Manager Kevin Towers in the press box during an August game against Pittsburgh. As the story is told, Towers took then Padre announcer Rick Sutcliffe to the clubhouse with him after the game to act as a buffer and keep Towers from going overboard after Nevin.
The sad part for Nevin is that he has certainly burned bridges with the Padres. The team desperately needs another right-handed bat, and Nevin is capable of filling the role.
But because Nevin was the first to speak out against Petco Park, he will always be held liable for what plenty of others are saying nowadays.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Cubs will always be the Cubs

Kurt Bevacqua carried a big bat – and a mouth to match – when he played for the San Diego Padres from 1979-80 and 1982-85.
But most times, one couldn’t help but pay attention when Bevacqua spoke.
After the Padres lost their first two games in a best-of-five series to the Chicago Cubs in the 1984 National League Championship Series, Bevacqua made the following claim:
“I’d sure like to go to Las Vegas and bet a lot of money on us to win this series,” he said with a straight face.
Many people had to hold back their laughs. After all, the Cubs had outscored the Padres 17-2 in the first two games of the series and were a virtual lock to win at least one of three games in San Diego.
From there, the rest is history. The Padres became the first team in National League Championship Series to rebound from a two-game deficit and win three straight.
What did Bevacqua know that the rest of the world did not? Quite frankly, the Cubs will always be the Cubs (see: losers.)
They can come within five outs of advancing to the World Series in 2003. They can add $300 million to their payroll in 2007.
But you know what? They’re still the Cubs, and they are still laughable losers.
If you don’t think so, just consider current manager Lou Piniella. It took just nine games into this season for Piniella’s first explosion after the Cubs blew a 5-0 lead with ace Carlos Zambrano on the mound.
“What the hell do you think isn't working? You see the damn game,” Piniella snapped at reporters. “And then I bring in the reliever who's throwing 30- to 40-foot curveballs to boot. I can see. I can start to see some of the ways this team has lost ballgames.”
Get used to it, Lou. You have a pair of pitchers in Kerry Wood and Mark Prior who are making (not earning) a combined $5.325 million this year. Don’t be surprised if the Cubs pay about $1 million per win from those two guys.
Then there are the new players (or newly-resigned players) such as Alfonso Soriano ($136 million), Aramis Ramirez ($75 million), Ted Lilly ($40 million) and Jason Marquis ($21 million, or more than Trevor Hoffman’s current three-year deal.)
The Cubs may appear to have a solid roster as they host the San Diego Padres in a two-game series beginning tonight.
But they’re still the Cubs … so the smartest thing to do is go to Las Vegas with Kurt Bevacqua and bet against them in a game that matters most.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Remembering Jackie Robinson

All across America, people today are celebrating the fact that Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier 60 years ago.
Six decades later, Robinson’s legend lives on. Not only did he open the door in Major League Baseball, he also paved the way for people throughout our great land to achieve their goals regardless of race.
There are Jackie Robinson’s in every corner the United States. Even in your neighborhood, I’m sure there are people making a difference in race relations.
One of the more impressive stories in San Diego County is happening in the mountain-like community of Alpine. Two years ago, Coyvell "C.J." Jackson began making an impact by becoming the first African-American church pastor in the community of about 18,000 people.
Jackson started a church called On The RISE, an acronym for Relationships, Intentionality, Servanthood and Empowerment. Since beginning the church in the predominantly-white community, Jackson’s congregation has more than quadrupled in size. (More information on his congregation is available at
According to the 2000 census, only 0.83% of Alpine residents were African-American at the turn of the millennium. The racial makeup then was 90.78% White, 0.83% African-American, 1.17% Native American, 1.98% Asian, 0.21% Pacific Islander, 2.86% from other races, and 2.18% from two or more races.
Jackson’s congregation is primarily white, but it also includes Hispanics and African-Americans. The non-denominational church furthers its diversity by having worshippers from such backgrounds as Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Church of Christ and charismatic.
Jackie Robinson would have been proud of those continuing his fight for equality in America. Count C.J. Jackson among those continuing to pave the way for blacks to make a difference in their community.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Don't hit the panic button

Don’t let the Padres’ 9-1 loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles last night ruin your day.
Just put it in perspective.
The Padres lost their first two games against the Dodgers last season. They lost their last contest against the Dodgers in the well-publicized game when Los Angeles hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs.
What happened between those first two losses and the last defeat? The Padres beat the Dodgers 13 of 15 times.
Don’t forget that the Dodgers were about to sweep a three-game series in San Diego last April with a 5-0 lead over the Padres in the ninth inning. That’s when San Diego scored five times in the bottom of the ninth and once in the 10th to pull out an improbable 6-5 win.
Even with that victory, the Padres still finished April with a 9-15 record, standing 5 ½ games out of first place.
What will it mean if the Dodgers sweep this weekend? It will mean both teams still have 150 games to play ... with many ups-and-downs to experience.

Friday, April 13, 2007

How about those Dodgers?

If you remember the television show four decades ago called “Mr. Ed,” you’ll recall the star was a talking horse who often wore a Dodger hat because he lived in Los Angeles.
Whenever Mr. Ed got into trouble with his owner Wilbur Post, he would say: “How about those Dodgers?”
So, how about those 2007 Dodgers, who open a three-game home series tonight against the Padres? Like Mr. Ed, they could be known to cause a lot of trouble.
Or do you think a team with Brad Penny as its No. 4 starter is weak on pitching? Hardly, considering Penny started the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star game for the National League.
Thus far, the Padres certainly have bullpen strength over the Dodgers. But the more one sees of Los Angeles closer Takashi Saito, the more it becomes obvious this guy throws a lot of 1-2-3 innings like Trevor Hoffman.
The Dodger lineup is certainly formidable with Rafael Furcal (hoping to return tonight from a sprained ankle) and Juan Pierre at the top. And it’s not bad in the middle with Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent and Luis Gonzalez. It’s easy to point out that the Dodgers are aging in the middle of their order, but the age factor could certainly point right back at Padres 40-something pitchers Greg Maddux and David Wells.
Padre nemesis Derek Lowe will start the series opener. Lowe is just 2-2 lifetime against the Padres but has a solid 2.37 ERA against them.
The Padres did win 13 of 18 last year against the Dodgers, including seven of nine in Los Angeles. San Diego always seems more fired up than the Dodgers when the teams meet.
If the Padres are to repeat as NL West champions, it may take another 13-5 record against the Dodgers. Why? Because the Dodgers seem to do much better when they’re not playing the Padres.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Right on schedule

Just what is up with Major League Baseball’s schedule makers?
Take a look at the Padres’ travel schedule over the next week and it will make you wonder.
After a Sunday night game in Los Angeles, the Padres travel to Chicago for games Monday night and Tuesday afternoon. Then they come all the way back from Chicago for home games Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon against Arizona. Those two games are followed by a three-day trip to Colorado.
When you break it down, the Padres will be in Chicago for less than 48 hours after leaving Los Angeles. Their stay at home will also be less than 48 hours before heading out to Colorado.
Logic tells me this isn’t logical. Wouldn’t it make more sense to hit Colorado and Chicago on the same trip, as well as play back-to-back series in Los Angeles and San Diego instead of Los Angeles-Chicago-San Diego-Colorado?
Major League Baseball’s schedule was designed by the husband-wife team of Henry and Holly Stephenson from 1981-2004. During their 24 years, it appeared as if there was more rhyme and reason to the schedule.
The Padres’ schedule over the next week won’t exactly be hanging in any museum soon under the category “work of art.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Chargers face difficult schedule

The Chargers face a challenging 2007 schedule, as announced today by the NFL. Charger followers will face their own challenges, too.
The good news is the bad news on the schedule. Or do you think having your only Monday night home game of the year on Christmas Eve is ideal?
It may be ideal for those watching from home. It won’t be so special for those having to choose on Christmas Eve from among their family, their church and watching the Chargers live at Qualcomm Stadium.
Thanks, NFL!
The Chargers put themselves behind the eight-ball in their non-playoff 2005 season by losing their first two games. That’s also a possibility with a daunting 2007 schedule that begins Sept. 9 at home against the Chicago Bears and in a Sunday night game Sept. 16 at New England. We all know the Bears and Patriots advanced further than the Chargers in last year’s playoffs.
The next three weeks are also tough opponents: at Green Bay (Sept. 23), Kansas City (Sept. 30) and at Denver (Oct. 7). Then comes a home game against Oakland (Oct. 14), then a bye in Week 7.
The Chargers return from their bye as such: Houston (Oct. 28), at Minnesota (Nov. 4), Indianapolis (Sunday night, Nov. 11), at Jacksonville (Nov. 18), Baltimore (Nov. 25), at Kansas City (Dec. 2), at Tennessee (Dec. 9), Detroit (Dec. 16), Denver (Monday night, Dec. 24) and at Oakland (Dec. 30).
The five-week stretch from the Indianapolis through Tennessee games are all against teams expected to contend in 2007. Yes, this schedule is much tougher than in 2006. That’s the price you pay with a first-place schedule.
It shows the Chargers are a national player with the three prime-time contests at New England, and home against Indianapolis and Denver. Too bad the Denver game can’t be moved to Sunday night and off Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Get it over with ... fast!

What has been the most impressive thing about the Padres through the first week of this season?
The team’s 5-2 record? The bullpen not allowing a run in 20 2/3 innings?
Maybe it’s none of the above. Perhaps the most noteworthy item about the 2007 Padres through Week One is how rapidly their pitchers work.
Through seven games, the Padres are playing in an average time of 2:34. Their longest game took 2:42 opening day at San Francisco, which would be considered a fast game by today’s standards.
The past two games have seemed to move at the speed of light. It took only 2:27 to beat the Colorado Rockies, 2-1, in 10 innings Sunday; then last night’s 1-0 win over the San Francisco Giants took a mere 2:25.
This is all bringing to mind the 1998 pitching staff led by Kevin Brown, Sterling Hitchcock and Andy Ashby. They worked as if they were double-parked and wanted to get away from the ballpark before they were issued a parking ticket. And their ultimate ticket was a trip to the World Series that year against the New York Yankees.
Nobody has ever been a quicker worker for the Padres than Randy Jones. I can remember seeing Jones once in 1976 beat Steve Carlton and the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-0, in one-hour and 33 minutes.
This year’s Padres are also pitching as if they have an early date for the night. All spectators can be thankful for that in the era of the three-hour game.

Monday, April 9, 2007

What was Bochy thinking?

What was Bruce Bochy thinking when he left the Padres for the San Francisco Giants?
Maybe he was thinking it was time to move on because the Padres showed no interest in renewing him as manager after his contract expired in 2007. Or perhaps he thought the Giants gave him his best chance at winning a third-straight NL West title.
After one week, Bochy appears to have made a foolish decision. His team is 1-5, tying its worst start ever (1967 and 1980) since the Giants moved west from New York in 1958. It’s easy to assume that will continue when the Giants start a three-game series in San Diego tonight against the Padres.
Not so fast!
Is Barry Zito going to continue on his pace with an 0-2 record and 8.18 ERA? Is Barry Bonds going to remain healthy, hurting the team more defensively and attitude-wise than he helps its offensively?
Never take one week of a six-month season and draw conclusions from it.
Remember when the Dodgers lost 13 of 14 following the All-Star break last year? Everybody said they were out of it. Remember when the Dodgers then immediately won 15 of 16? Many said they would win the World Series. They weren’t out of it after two horrible weeks; nor did they win anything in the playoffs after two great mid-summer weeks.
Austin Kearns of the Washington Nationals sure has it right after one week of the 2007 season. His team has an NL-worst record of 1-6, losing four straight.
"I laugh at people who hit the panic button after the first week," he said.
Baseball fans will probably be laughing at the Nationals all year. But don’t be so quick to hit the panic button with Bochy’s Giants, who could become a factor in the NL West, after all.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Padres need an early alarm clock

There are two ways to look at it. Either the Padres are a great hitting team in the clutch, or they are incapable of putting away another team’s starting pitcher.
Consider the last four games. The Padres have scored six of their 11 runs in the ninth inning or later.
It breaks down this way: They have scored five runs in 32 innings through the first eight innings of each game, compared to six times in five innings after the eighth.
More than 50 percent of their runs are coming in the ninth or 10th innings? Better hope the starting pitching holds up and the bullpen goes all season without allowing a run.
Kevin Kouzmanoff must be the most relieved man in San Diego today. His single with the infield drawn-in broke a 2-for-20 slump and provided a 2-1 win over Colorado in 10 innings.
The best advice for the Padres from here on out? Bring an alarm clock before the ninth inning!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Bring your own paper towels to Petco Park

So, what's the deal with the paper towels at Petco Park?
Last night, they said there were not any towels in the press box men's restroom. So tonight, I just visited the restroom in the right field bleachers.Guess what? No paper towels there, either.
Maybe that is part of the Padres' financial cutbacks this year. If you have to pay the players millions, why not cut corners by eliminating towels from the restroom?
Just a bit of advice if you are going to Petco Park this season. Unless you don't plan to visit the restroom during your three- to four-hour visit, bring along your own paper towels.You just might need them!

The real baseball season starts tonight

No more season openers at San Francisco. No more home openers against Colorado. Now it’s time to get on to the real baseball season, when real baseball fans are watching.
The next 158 games are when people interested in baseball pay attention. The fanfare people are gone, along with the home and road openers.
Even after four games, there are a couple of observations about the Padres:
It might not be wise to have Greg Maddux and David Wells back-to-back in the pitching rotation. Neither 40-something veteran is much more than a five- or six-inning pitcher these days. That will make for plenty of work on back-to-back days for the bullpen. The good news there is that the Padre bullpen has yet to allow a run in 13 1/3 innings.
The pop-gun offense may also be a concern. This team doesn’t appear capable of scoring runs until the eighth or ninth inning. That’s going to be too late oftentimes, such as in last night’s 4-3 loss to the Rockies in the home opener.
Speaking of, my friends in the press box tell me they had some glitches last night. For a majority of the game, there were not any paper towels in the men’s restroom. They also ran low on food, which didn’t sit well with those paying $9 a pop for dinner.
Maybe we can’t blame stadium workers for those shortcomings. After all, the real fans and media start coming tonight ... and perhaps the stadium maintenance people are under the theory the season doesn’t start until the true baseball fan starts showing up!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Let's get past the home opener!

The home opener. Fans will be all dressed up. Petco Park will be all decked out, as if it’s a playoff game.
This only happens once a year. It’s the Padres vs. Colorado Rockies, Game 1 of 81 at Petco Park this regular season.
From an appearance standpoint, it’s the best of times. From other aspects, it’s the worst of times. Or did you not notice all the local TV stations this morning at Petco Park, who were tripping over themselves as if they are going to be there for games in mid-season.
It all goes back to Tony Gwynn’s comments about opening night. He always looked forward to the second night, because that’s when the real fans come out.
I’m sure there will be fans tonight wondering why the Cubs loaned Greg Maddux to the Padres to pitch their home opener. Or why Steve Garvey isn’t playing first base. Or why Bruce Bochy isn’t managing the Padres.
Many of the people who “have” to be there on opening night won’t “have” to be at another game until next year’s home opener. Of course, they’ll also be the first ones wondering why they can’t get playoff tickets if the Padres make the postseason.
Their called front-runners and they make up a large percentage of San Diego fans. Look at the Chargers. They barely sold out several of their early-season home games in 2006. By the time they won 10 straight and the bandwagon was in full gear, tickets were harder to come by than a snowy day in San Diego.
Enjoy opening night, since it only comes once a year. Just remember, the Rockies are also here tomorrow night. See you then!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Two-faced San Diego media

Tomorrow morning, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s sports TV-radio columnist will certainly criticize another local media member by pointing out a picky mistake. Before he does so, perhaps he should look at his paper’s TV listings today.
The Brigham Young-San Diego State softball double-header is listed with a 5 p.m. start and is not included on the local TV list. Actually, the action starts at 3 p.m. and is being shown locally on CSTV.
I wonder if the Union-Tribune guy will point out his paper’s errors tomorrow.
Then there are the tough guys over at mighty1090/double x or whatever they are calling themselves these days. As soon as SDSU left their station for a five-year contract with KOGO, themighty 1090 guys started ripping SDSU on the air. It started with station owner John Lynch and even trickled down to his boys such as Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith. They actually said some true things about how hardly anybody cares for SDSU, and Aztec fans rarely called their show.
But why weren’t these guys criticizing SDSU when the Aztecs were paying them about $150,000 annually to air the games on 1090/double x? It sure smells like checkbook journalism when you praise a team whose games are on your station, then start blasting them the moment they leave for someone else.
The good news for SDSU? About 20% of the county can’t hear 1090/double x anyway, and at least all the football games will be on one station this year. Last year, it took a compass every week to find out which 1090/double x/1700, etc. station was broadcasting Aztec football.

There's still a long way to go!

There are still 160 games to go. You hear that all the time when a baseball team starts 2-0. But why not enjoy the Padres so far?
Jake Peavy was spectacular on opening day. Chris Young didn't have his good stuff in Game 2, but so what? The team won without an above average outing from its starter.
And what do you think Bruce Bochy is thinking about in the Giants dugout? He has left Cla Meredith, Scott Linebrink and Trevor Hoffman behind in the bullpen. Now he has Brad Hennessey, Jack Taschner and Armando Benitez in their place. Ouch! If you think the Padres are a potential sinking ship, just look at the Giants. Their bullpen has about as much spark as Chargers' General Manager A.J. Smith has personality.
Tonight will be interesting with Clay Hensley facing Matt Morris of the Giants. Morris has turned into an average pitcher, at best. Hensley is up-and-coming, but he needs to get over that blister problem on his pitching hand.
Are you all looking forward to the Padres' home opener Friday night? Not me. I'm more interested in the second home game on Saturday night. Tony Gwynn always said the REAL baseball fans come out the second night. Let's face it: Mr. Hall of Famer knows what he is talking about.
One note of caution. Don't be fooled by the Padres averaging six runs in their first two games. This is a team with a pop-gun offense that is going to struggle to score runs. If it is to win a third straight NL West title, it will probably be because of the bullpen again.
It's April; everybody's eyes are on a new season. Just don't let the first week fool you. I remember the original Padres in 1969 won their first three games, then won only 49 more over the next six months. In Jerry Coleman's year as manager, the team started 5-2 the first week and was running the bases like crazy. By the end of the season, Coleman was run out of town (at least as manager.)
It's way too early to judge Bud Black now. He looks like a genius so far. We'll see over the next 160 games ... starting with a potential three-game sweep tonight at San Francisco.