Will The Padres Have A Winning Season Without Adrian Gonzalez?
Last year, the San Diego Padres surprised Major League Baseball by posting 90 wins and finishing just two games back in the National League West behind the World Champion San Francisco Giants. But, today at 1:15 p.m. all that will be behind them as the Friars lace up their cleats and take the field in St. Louis to embark on a new season.
With us to discuss the Padres new season is North County Times sports columnist Jay Paris
Jay Paris, North County Times sports columnist
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MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The sunshine has returned to San Diego, spring is in the air and it is the first day of the Major league baseball season. What could possibly cast a shadow on a day like this. Well, some people say the prospects for the Padres this year may put a little gray in the day. There are concerns that the strong pitching that put San Diego into contention last year will not hold up this season. But this opening day when all teams are equal we turned to true wisdom, to North County Times sports columnist Jay Paris. Good morning, Jay.
JAY PARIS: Hey good morning, greatest day on the calendar.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'd like to invite our listeners if they'd like to call in and comment on how they think the Padres will do this season they are more than welcome to. Our number here is 188-895-5727 that is 1888-895 KPBS. Now, we have just gotten over, we've just gotten over March madness. This amazing season played by the Aztec men's basketball team here in San Diego. Should we start to get ready to see great things from the Padres, Jay?
JAY PARIS: You know it is an acquired taste and an acquired appreciation. Baseball is such a grind in such a six or seven months long season what' going to be funny about today Maureen is no matter if they win or lose people are going to go to the extremes in either direction forgetting there is 161 of these babies left and for a scene-head like me from a baseball family and just in the optimism of the new season, yes there are some dark clouds and every team has blemishes and certainly the Padres have theirs but for one day out of the year everybody is in first. The beer is a little colder and the grass is a little greener.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know I want to bring the gray back in for a minute if you don't mind. There's a lot of people who are still upset about the trade of the great Adrian Gonzales the Padres best player traded to the Boston Red Sox. Was that a bad trade, Jay?
JAY PARIS: Count me in that group that is still mad about that. I understand the template of the Padres and their limited revenue streams and how they want to draft young players and develop them and go that route, but very rarely do you have an elite player on your team. A player that is not good, is not great is one of the finest to play the game today, speaks Spanish and English test as well, you could market the heck out of him. You could build a team around him and almost matter how well or bad you are doing there's a reason to go to the ballpark when Adrian Gonzalez is on the team. There's a reason not to go to the beer line when Adrian Gonzalez is coming up to bat. He is that good of a player. Once you've made the decision that he doesn't fit into your wallet scheme or whatever you've got to go get some young players, and they are happy with the young players that they got. But, prospects are prospects and until you know what they can do at the major-league level there have been a zillion players who shined through the minors and when they get to the show the lights go on and it doesn't quite translate. So what if the most disappointing things I've seen use the benefits of the Gonzalez trade are probably a season or two away. So this first season you're going to turn on ESPN and there is Adrian in a Red Sox uniform adding another home run. There's a dream and a Red Sox uniform making another great play at first base he was also a Gold glove first baseman, fine player. So that's going to be tough to balance where the Padres brass ones to tell you just be patient, just wait, these kids are coming, that's fine but what happens today when Gonzalez hit two home runs and drove in five runs for the Red Sox.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Harrison speaking with a County Times sports columnist Jay Paris we are talking about opening day of the Maj. league baseball season and what the Padres might be doing this year and we are inviting her calls that 188955727 if you'd like to join the conversation. And I mentioned that well, first off, Matt Latos, the Padres best starting pitcher is on the disabled list. There are concerts I know about the Padres pitching staff this year. So are those concerns reasonable?
JAY PARIS: They are legit. Matt Latos's had a fine year last year, but let's face it in September he wore down and he wasn't anywhere near the pitcher he was earlier in the year. Came to spring training this year, was very erratic, couldn't find the plate in a lot of the outings and a shoulder injury flared up which leads you to believe it might have been bothering him before they came clean with it. He is their ace, he is the guy they are going to hang on and as far as his right arm goes probably as far as the Padres go. That said, that's a lot to hang onto kid who's on his early 20s has been known to, the most important 6 inches on any field the ones between the years, he's been known to float away sometimes and his mental toughness has been questioned. So it's going to be interesting to see how he bounces back and also how he responds to those expectations. Because it is easy when you fly under the radar to show up every fifth day and are blowing smoke. Atlantis is not a secret and the other teams will not let them sneak out.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How about the overall health of this team as they go into the season
JAY PARIS: Stuff like that only for relievers on the DL as well they are a little nicked up and looking back at the really magical year last year where they had 90 wins for only the fourth time in franchise history they were very solid healthwise and when you build a team like this, when you, they are doing this on the cheap. There is no other major league team across the great landscape that has a lower payroll that the Padres. When you are going that direction there's not really much of a safety net. The skies that you are paying cheaply, if they can all stay healthy and run out there every day you will probably be okay but a lot of times with the teams that don't spend much money it is when somebody gets hurt and it is the second kind one player that I coming up next, the picture you are counting on somewhere some teams can absorb the injuries a little bit more teams don't like the Padres is a big red flag.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay Jay, you went there, so let's talk about the payroll for the Padres. How does it stack up dollar rise with other teams. He said they have the lowest payroll, but what does that mean actually in terms of dollars.
JAY PARIS: That would be like the low 40 millions the other extreme are the Yankees up toward 200 million and the angels of the road are 140 million and the Red Sox are a lot closer to the Yankees. So I think what gets Padres fans was so frustrated is that whether it was said and whether it was written down and waved on a banner or not, it was implied that when the Padres moved from QUALCOMM Stadium to Petco Park, that would open up so many new revenue streams which is the key word here for the baseball executives, that they could have, maybe they would be were obviously they would not be the New York Yankees with a $200 million payroll but somewhere they would be in the middle or right around the middle and with the new ballpark they could go after marquee free agents. With the new ballpark they could keep a gem of a player like Adrian Gonzalez. And really the opposite has been true because the last year called on the payroll of 70 something million edits almost half that These Days. So I can imagine the prostration a Padres fan has because it looks what a classic bait and switch.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We are taking listener calls at 1888-895-5727 and Bob is on the line from El Cajon. Good morning Bob. Welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Good morning, nice day. Anyway, my comment is, I look at it, Adrian could have been like Tony. He didn't have to go. He could, this is his hometown. He could have said I want to stay here. He went for the big money and as far as I'm concerned I go to watch baseball. I'm not disappointed they are bringing in the young ones. I go to watch them game of baseball not some overpaid all-star. I think Tony could have
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tony Gwynn, thank you so much for the call. There we have a fan, we've got a fan.
JAY PARIS: Him and my mom. I hear what he's saying and that's the beauty of this great game and this is how the Padres are really attacking it. It is the name on the front of your jersey not the name on the back of your jersey. And they feel, they believe they have a system in place with Bob Black who was nationally manager of the year last year and the philosophy of getting young players and playing the game is certainly, so their thinking and their hope is that regardless of the players almost the system will take care of itself but about Adrian I don't know what line of work pop music, but he always want to be paid your fair market value. And you know, he was interested in the famous San Diego discount. He wanted to go be paid well. But also, you cannot fault a man who wants to win a championship. While we hear a lot from the Padres is being competitive and you know, staying there toward the end. That stuff doesn't fly in Boston. It's all about doing the big dog pile at the end of the season and sprayed champagne in the locker room. They are there to win a world championship. They have the money to do it and a fan base that almost demands it. I cannot fault Adrian for not only being paid what his skills can gather and also wanting a better shot at winning a world championship.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's look on the positive side of this for a minute and I know that you have a lot because you are really excited about the beginning of the baseball season. In what ways have the Potter is improved let's say from last year.
JAY PARIS: Well you could make the argument that their lineup was so centered around Adrian that if he had a bad day let's say, or if he was hurt or out of the lineup that day there really wasn't much there. The Padres contention is that from top to bottom there is more balance to the lineup. The lineup doesn't fall off the cliff when they get to six, seven, eight. The guys they brought in Jason Bartlett, shortstop, Orlando Hudson second baseman, Brad Hawpe at first base, these are proven major league players and at times last year they had Adrian and the Adrian has a few elements of you guys are journeyman players that were not really top-flight major-league players. These guys they brought in our top-flight major-league players the only difference is that almost all of them are coming off the worst seasons of their career. So they are banking on those that have been pros and have proven in the past rebounding and bouncing back and that's really what (INAUDIBLE) they are coming off poor seasons the Padres are hoping for a rebound.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We lost you for a minute. Can you stay with us for the next couple of minutes. If you had the ear of Bud Black what advice might you give him to try to keep the team focused and successful during the long season.
JAY PARIS: Chemistry. Getting along. Spree to court. That is more than one year work. By going back to referencing the team last year which is kind of foolish because there are only like nine days left from the team last year. Area program sellers dream you can't tell the player is without a scorecard, that applies so well here. But they played last year with a chip on their shoulder and he has to keep the chip on his shoulder and although they won 90 games last year and came to the last week of the season being in contention for the playoffs, nobody thought the Padres could do it. They were the little engine tried to get up the hill and that has to remain. They have to still take the underdog attitude. They have to prove that they do belong, and you know if you have the confidence and the belief that you can do it, that is a big part of it. But it does a lot of things well but his positive attitude is upbeat, his patience with mistakes that will come, is among his biggest attributes and he's a fine manager and I would tell him to keep the faith and keep the guys grabbing the oar and pulling in the same direction.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's talk about the fans here in San Diego. San Diego JR people psyched for this season?
JAY PARIS: I think it is when you see another ticket numbers are up and they are encouraged with renewal rate in things along those lines. It is such a new team and when you've lost the faith of the franchise and let's face it that's what Adrian Gonzalez was pretty with the brand. He was the Padres. Now if you said the face of the Padres, for years it was Tony Gwynn, for years it was Trevor Hoffman, for years it was Adrian Gonzalez. Now the face of the Padres franchise is a big blank and you almost have to look to Bud Black. He's probably the most recognizable person in uniform and the most well-known and that's a double-edged sword when you face of your franchise as your manager because as good as he is he cannot catch or throw. So I think these Padres fans are going to wait and see a little bit. If they start slowly and they've got a tough first month of the season you're going to hear some backlash especially if Adrian Gonzalez is banging the ball all around Fenway Park. I know they are happy that the numbers are bad numbers are coming back in San Diego is a great baseball town is almost working that they are almost as excited for the baseball as they are for Padres baseball because there are so many people from other places and at the sound of the ball hitting the bat gets everyone excited whether that is on directly on the Padres may left waiting and seeing
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I will end it on a prediction about how the Padres will finish
JAY PARIS: I think they are probably a third or fourth place team at around 500, 85 wins or so. There are concerns that the guys who are coming off a few bad seasons (inaudible) of the Bell curve going the other way. You know, Maureen, one of the big pitchers they are counting on is (Cory Luebke) coming off three bad seasons. You're (inaudible) badly does is already deep down I'm going to say 500 and maybe they exceed that, but I will say this on a positive note they have one heck of a bullpen and Heath Bell, the last in to close out the game and the two pitchers that set him apart among the league's best. So if the Padres can shorten the games. If you can go six or seven inning games and turn it over to the phenomenal bullpen, they can surprise some people again.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jay, it is time to play ball
JAY PARIS: That's right, batter up.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much, nice talking with you, the North County Times sports columnist Jay Paris, it's always a pleasure and if you would like to comment please go online to KPBS.org/These Days a reminder that the Padres season opener at St. Louis Cardinals one o'clock this afternoon, the Padre's home opener at Petco Park Tuesday, April 5 against the World Series champs San Francisco Giants. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.