Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Are the Padres primed to make a run at the National League West title this season? We talk to Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton about the team's regular season opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the outlook for the 2010 season.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. A couple of errors cost the Padres an opening day win against the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday. Today the Padres continue their series in Phoenix. The Padres are coming off a good spring training season, and some are even asking if the team is primed to make a run at the National League West title? Here to give us his preview of the Padres season is my guest, Lee ‘Hacksaw’ Hamilton, sports talkshow host on XX1090 and a sports columnist for SDNN.com. Lee, welcome back to These Days.
LEE ‘HACKSAW’ HAMILTON (Sports Talkshow Host): Good morning, Maureen. Has it been busy enough in the sports world for you?
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, a couple of things going on, huh?
HAMILTON: Gee, between the opening of the baseball season, the upcoming NFL draft, March Madness’s conclusion and Tiger Woods’ press conference, yeah, we have a lot to talk about.
CAVANAUGH: There’s a lot going on in the old sports world. Well, let’s start off with the Padres. The Padres lost 6 to 3 yesterday in their first game of the season against Arizona. What did we see from the Padres yesterday?
HAMILTON: Well, I think there was disappointment. John Garland had been brought in to be a starting pitcher in the off season and he’s really a solid veteran but he really struggled. He struggled yesterday, he struggled in a couple of other exhibition starts. A little bit surprised he pitched as poorly as he did and he just kind of dug the team a hole that they never really climbed out of. In addition, the defense, which played pretty well during all the, excuse me, all of the grapefruit season and Cactus League season, did not play very well at all yesterday. Four of the six runs that they gave up were unearned because of Padre errors. It only counts as one loss but it kind of took a little bit of the air out of the balloon…
HAMILTON: …of all the excitement because, you know, the Padres, in their last 21 games of the exhibition schedule only lost one time.
HAMILTON: And then to go out and play as poorly as they did – But they get back at it again tonight. And Chris Young, who’s coming off shoulder surgery and has had a pretty solid spring, will get the start. I’d hate to think the Padres would start the season, though, 0 and 2.
CAVANAUGH: Right, there’s a – as you say, there’s a lot been said about what kind of team the Padres will have this season coming off this really good spring training season that they have. So what kind of team do you think the Padres have?
HAMILTON: I think it’ll be competitive but it must be competitive without injuries. They don’t have a lot of depth. If they lose any of their everyday players in their starting lineup, I think they’re in trouble. If they have any injuries to their front three veteran starting pitchers, they could be in trouble. And injuries, unfortunately, injuries are part of the game. But they had a really good spring and I think they’ve changed the personality of the team. It’s a much more aggressive team in terms of hitting the – putting the ball in play, stealing bases, creating runs and rallies. And I think their starting rotation, despite what John Garland did yesterday, is much, much more competitive and they’ve got a good cross section between veteran pitchers and some young pitchers that are with the big club and more young pitchers that are down at Triple A Portland. So I think the arrow is pointing up. I had said on our talk shows on Double-X and I had just written on a big column on SDNN that I really believe they could be 81 and 81. That’d be a .500 season.
HAMILTON: A .500 season in a pretty competitive division is quite an accomplishment and use that as a foundation and your building blocks going forward. But that’s 81 and 81 with no catastrophic injuries and I don’t know anybody in baseball that can guarantee that.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Now there’ve been some speculation that All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez could be traded this season. What do you think are the chances of that happening, Lee?
HAMILTON: I would say negligible and I’ll tell you why. He’s very cost affordable right now. He’s got two years left on his contract before he can become a free agent so there’s no urgency to trade him right now unless somebody were to offer you an overwhelming package. You know, a year ago in July and August, they traded Jake Peavy to the White Sox. He was the ace of the pitching staff at that point, but he was traded because his contract escalated to $12 million and then $16 million the next two seasons and San Diego could not handle that in their budget.
CAVANAUGH: Ah, uh-huh.
HAMILTON: Adrian’s contract is very, very affordable so there’s no urgency that they move him now. Now that’s not to say that Boston might not need a first baseman or Seattle might not need a power hitting first baseman. And if the Padres got a mega-offer in which they got four or five good young players back in return, maybe they would look at it but at this point in time, I don’t see that happening.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Lee, you mentioned money and the Padres are projected to have the lowest payroll in baseball this year, about $45 million. How does that, how does the money affect their chances of winning this year?
HAMILTON: Well, the opening day lineups in baseball yesterday, they reconstructed the figures. USA Today just put out a new tabulation. The Padres have the second-lowest payroll in baseball.
HAMILTON: The Padres’ payroll is going to be $38.5 million…
HAMILTON: …which is really low. Pittsburgh has the lowest and of course Pittsburgh’s had 17 straight non-winning seasons. What San Diego’s situation is, they have a very young roster, so their lower payroll is a by product of a much younger roster. If they had a roster of older, veteran players, their payroll might be in the seventies. At this point, the in-coming owner, Jeff Moorad, says we are starting small because we’re so young. We expect to increase this payroll up to $70 million within the next couple of years. I would hope so. I would think because of the fact they have this brand new stadium, there’s a real mandate that they – they’ve really got to upgrade this payroll. But they’re starting small because it is, for the most part, a fairly young ball club.
CAVANAUGH: And what kind of impact have we seen from the new owner, Jeff Moorad, and the new GM, Jed Hoyer? Have they put their stamp on the club yet?
HAMILTON: Not really. Not in terms of on the field, not in terms of the roster. In terms of the front office operation, yes. They have hired additional more scouts. They have poured a lot of money into signing draft picks, which has not been part of the way the Padres have done business over the last group of years in the John Moores era. They’ve spent – last year they spent $9 million on draft pick signings, which is a significant investment. It was one of the higher outlays of all the teams in Major League Baseball. Of course, they had high draft picks so, therefore, the higher pick gets a bigger signing bonus, but yet that being said, they did make the commitment there. They’ve also changed a lot of people on the business side of the operation and they’ve got a lot of experience. Moorad took part in the ownership of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tom Garfinkel, his new president and CEO, was with him in Arizona. They have a certain standard in the way they’ve done business and they wanted to put their signature on the business side of the operation. For the most part, they’ve left the baseball side here except that they’ve really loaded the farm system and it does not show up on the opening day roster, will not show up in the standings, but if you follow baseball the way I do as a talk show host, what you look at when you look at their farm system, they’ve now got some quality players at Triple A Portland, quality players at Double A San Antonio, a load of pretty good young players at Class A Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. And what you need to do, if you’re going to be successful organizationally is you want to have a group of core players at each level that are going to grow through your farm system. They’re not all going to make the major leagues but if you’ve got five or six pretty good ones at Portland and you’ve got five, six or ten at San Antonio and the same number at Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, you have a much better chance of developing a pipeline on a regular basis, and that’s what small market teams really, in baseball, have to do.
CAVANAUGH: Let’s move on to the end of March Madness. Now it wasn’t the upset that some people were kind of rooting for, the Duke Blue Devils are NCAA champs again. Were you surprised to see the Blue Devils dominate the tournament like – the way they did?
HAMILTON: Well, it wasn’t easy though.
HAMILTON: They had an easy bracket but I will tell you, it – I would not call it real dominance. I thought it was a very competitive…
HAMILTON: …three-week run in college basketball. And, you know, Butler was in that thing right to the end. Butler played 59 minutes and 50 seconds of really gritty basketball. And if either of the last two jump shots go in, Butler wins that…
HAMILTON: …game and Duke goes home stunned. College basketball’s landscape has changed. I think March Madness is really special. We had 23 upsets in the first three weekends of the NCAA tournament, upsets in which lower seeds beat higher seeds, a much more competitive balance in college basketball right now. There’s good players going to lots of different places. And the other thing that’s happened, there are so many underclassmen that are leaving school early to try to make it in the NBA and those underclassmen come off the marquee teams, the Dukes, the North Carolinas, the UCLAs, etcetera, that there’s just a lot more competitive balance in college basketball. The kids at Butler stay there for four years and to, in some cases, five years and they’re playing against guys that are going to be at Duke or North Carolina for one or one and a half years and are gone. So that’s why we saw so many upsets in college basketball this year. It was fun. It was like the movie “Hoosiers.” You know, and…
HAMILTON: …oddly enough, you know, all…
HAMILTON: …the linkage of that, Butler, Hinkle Fieldhouse, five miles from downtown Indianapolis where they shot the old basketball movie “Hoosiers,” which was based on the 1954 high school team, Milan, Indiana that upset Muncie Catholic in the greatest upset of all time in high school basketball tournament play. So there was so many similarities, and I was rooting for Butler. Duke, as I said on our talk shows this morning, Duke may have won the title but I think Butler won the hearts of America.
CAVANAUGH: There’s a lot of heart in that game, no doubt about it. Now, I want to ask you, you’re talking about the parity in the March Madness this year. Of course, the Lady Aztecs, the women Aztecs, got in to play Sweet Sixteen for the first time. Now SDSU senior guard Jené Morris is among the top prospects in Thursday’s WNBA draft. She’ll be the first Aztec to be drafted by the WNBA. What can you tell us about Jené Morris’ game? Do we have any idea where she might be drafted?
HAMILTON: Well, I would assume she’ll probably be drafted in the upper third. I don’t know, probably in the top ten picks. She’s not the elite player in the country but she’s good. I mean, she’s tall, she’s tremendously athletic, she’s got a very good outside shot. I think she goes to the NBA probably as a guard, a big guard at 6’2”, 6’3”, who is also a slasher to the basket. She’s a really compleat basketball player. And the other thing is, she plays at the other end of the floor. She plays some very, very good basketball defense, so she’s going to get her opportunity to play at, quote, the next level, which is the WNBA. Although, you know, the WNBA is not held in the same light nor followed but with any intensity like pro basketball, like the NBA is, but…
HAMILTON: …she’s done a good job. Beth Burns has done a spectacular job. I think the bigger story is can San Diego State hold onto Beth Burns because the rumblings are everywhere that Colorado and their athletic director, Mike Bohn, who used to be at San Diego State, that Colorado would like to talk to her about taking that job with the women’s basketball program at CU. I hope she doesn’t leave. I don’t – Maybe she won’t leave because she’s really built a nice little foundation.
CAVANAUGH: Beth Burns, of course, the coach for the Aztec women. I want to move on because we cannot leave this discussion without talking about Tiger Woods. The press conference that he held, did that do him any good?
HAMILTON: Well, he took 48 questions. He left a lot of things still unanswered but he was open. And, you know, I don’t know how to read everything that’s happened with him. I’ve been very opinionated on our talk shows at Double-X that I don’t think that people should ever view him again the same. And the response from the listening community is, well, you’re talking about view him as a golfer? I say, no, view him as a person. Because he sold the world this phony image of great businessman, great father, great philanthropist, and then you find out he’s been involved with at least 20 women allegedly that have come front and center, if not more, and just some seamy, sleazy stuff, plain and simple. Now you can hold all the press conferences but, you know, there’s still a lot of unanswered stuff. Were you on drugs the night you had the crash? What is the fact or fiction as these rumors that you paid all these women, including porn stars, to be silent? Why did you not cooperate with the police? Why did you not allow the police to come in your home while they were conducting the investigation? Were you assaulted by your wife with a golf club, because that’s a common denominator theme through the course of this whole story.
CAVANAUGH: Right, right.
HAMILTON: Now he did answer some tough questions yesterday. He did talk about a different injury that nobody knew about. He talked about why he was involved with this Canadian doctor for this plasma platelet transfer process to help him recover from a torn Achilles tendon. But there’s still a lot of unanswered stuff and my biggest theory is this story is not going to go away because I still think there’s more angles to the story that are out there. Now, can he put it behind him? Yeah, he sure can if he never, ever gets in trouble again. And we don’t know what’s going to happen with his marriage, whether or not he’ll stay married, whether she stays with him. There’s an awful lot of sordid stuff that I still think, Maureen, unfortunately is out there. Now, Thursday maybe it goes away when he starts to play golf, but I don’t know how any golf fan could look at him in the same light now compared to the way we looked at him prior to last Thanksgiving when all this junk just kind of came to the surface.
CAVANAUGH: Lee, we have to end it there. I want to thank you so much for speaking with us.
HAMILTON: Maureen, we’ll talk to you again. My pleasure.
CAVANAUGH: Indeed, we will. Lee ‘Hacksaw’ Hamilton, sports talk show host on XX-1090 and a sports columnist for SDNN.com. If you’d like to comment on what you’ve heard today on These Days, go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.