Sports Update: Padres Woes, SDSU Athletics, NBA Finals
Why are the Padres playing so poorly this season? What impact has outgoing SDSU President Stephen Weber had on the Aztecs' athletic program? And, which team has the best chance of winning the NBA Finals? We speak to North County Times Sports Columnist Jay Paris.
Jay Paris, North County Times Sports Columnist
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CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Can this baseball season be saved? Sports fans around San Diego are wondering what if anything can bring back the kind of team cohesion and energy that put the Padres in the national league west first place last year instead of last place where they find themselves this year. North County Times sports columnist, jay Paris joins us. So, any ideas, jay?
PARIS: You know, actually, we know what the problem is with the league, it's just getting to the other side -- the point of it. It's the hitting and their lack of being able to strike the ball with consistency, especially at home is among the team's flaws this year.
CAVANAUGH: Now, the Padres are playing as we speak, right? Against the braves.
PARIS: Right. Tied up, and tip of the hat to them, they have been riding a little streak. They have been coming out of Washington, and it's baffling, you know sports is all about playing at home and home cooking and staying in your own bed and all that, and they have one of the worst records at Petco, and then they go out on the road where you're supposed to scuff a little bit and they play well. This is a critical part for the Padres of their season because they're playing as well other last place team, they're playing the Washington nationals, then they go to the Houston ashos, another last place team. So they're in Atlanta, and that is I tough team there, but if they're gonna get well, if they are gonna pull the rip cord on this thing, they got a chance here with these other opponents coming up in the next week or so.
CAVANAUGH: Sounds like some kids are having some fun in worry world there, jay.
PARIS: Yeah, you got that right. Happy memorial day to you.
CAVANAUGH: There's been a lot of talk about what are the big differences between this year's Padres team and last year's team. Would you say that would be the name of just one person or are there other reasons?
PARIS: Well, I think that's one of the key reasons. Petco Park, it gets in between your ears. It gets in your noggin. It's a big park, and it's hard to hit there. And and you have to almost adjust your game to Petco. And you can't hit fly balls, and you can't try to hit the ball out of the park. And it's just tough with the dimensions and the Marine lair, and a list of reasons. So it was such a roster flip from last year's team that won 90 games. They've only done that four times in their history. They brought in such an influx of a new list of players, it's taken them a while to catch on, if you will, and some of them still haven't.
CAVANAUGH: Now, I read some articles where basically the loss of slugger Adrian Gonzalez not only -- they postulate that it's not only the fact that we're losing him on the field, but the Padres are losing him in an attitude kind of a way, that it's not -- the team has no cohesion, it has no energy. Would you agree with that?
PARIS: In some ways. And also when you're a player of Adrian's caliber, he's just not a good player, he's a great player. A super star. And when you have somebody that comes in the face of your franchise, and the face of your lineup, it gives youa a little swagger. No matter what's going on in your our, we got this guy. Adrian Gonzalez, he's one of the premiere players. And when you're missing that, and you're asking other guys to come in, maybe a journey men, elsewhere, and all of those new faces to blend in without having that anchor, without having that face of the franchise in Adrian, it's tough. It's a tough call sometimes. That's why last year was so magical, why they were able to play through Petco Park, and play the type of baseball that needed to be played there. And they can still rally this thing. It's going the other way. But they do have the pitching. And as long as you have pitching you can be competitive. And the national league is topsy-turvy this week with injuries in San Francisco, and Adrian playing a lot better than they thought they were gonna play. So there's still a lot of baseball left, but this is a real key stretch here, but if they're gonna turn it around they have to do it right now.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, so you're saying this baseball season can be saved. A lot of fans are calling for the team to promote first base man Anthony Rizzo from triple A Tucson. Why has the team been resistant to that idea?
PARIS: He's young, he's still 21, I think, and he's just starting to play in the triple A level. Big difference between triple A and the majors. And there's a clock that starts as well. Once you reach your major league career, you reach a certain plateau, and your compensation can go up considerably 678 so there's some variance there, there's a few layers to this, part of this is the Padres are just being frugal, watching the buck. That's part of this. And the other part is his development. They don't want him to come up here and scuffle. They don't want him to come up here and send him back do you happen. So he is a prize jewel now, this Adrian Gonzalez trade. So how well Rizzo does is gonna reflect how had a trade that was. Which reflects back to the -- what they did to move Adrian.
CAVANAUGH: They gotta bring him up some time though, right?
PARIS: That's right. Especially he's playing phenomenal down in triple A, and the Padre fans are begging for more offense, and here's this guy, he hasn't been called up yet.
CAVANAUGH: Now, as if the Padres need another thing to worry about, there is actually serious talk that the team could trade all star closer Heath Bell. What do you think the chances bell could be traded this season, jay?
PARIS: Well, it's a real possibility. And we again go back to them turning it around. If they get to the all star break in, or the 3D deadline, which is the end of July, and their ten, fifteen games out of first place, they're gonna move heath, and they might move Ryan Ledler too, who's resurrected his season. So heath is just -- he's just a good guy in the club house and on the field, one of the best closers, but it comes down to a baseball decision. And that's code word for usually we move the guys that we can, load up on prospects, and see if we can turn it around next season. But I would keep know eye on that one. Heath is very valuable, and we don't have much of value yet in the major league roster. He could bring a lot back in return. I know Padre fans don't want to hear that though because he's one of their favorites.
CAVANAUGH: Exactly. And don't want to leave another favorite leaving fan either. Jay, let's change pace just a little bit and talk about the fact that SDSU president, Steven weber, is retiring from SDSU this summer, and it makes us think about what kind of impact he's had on Aztec athletics in his 15 years as president.
PARIS: You know, he could have -- there was a lot of chatter to get rid of some sports. I know they did this to pair some off, but he always seemed to be in the athletics department corner. You know there's some tough decisions he had to make money wise. But I think he always recognized what that morale could mean to that student body. Maybe he saw what could happen in Viejas arena this year when we sold out from almost every game and how the football team is kind of turning it around. And certainly their facility with the help of the owners athletic wise are just as good as anybody else in their conference. So to me, it seems like he was in their corner, he understood that physically now, what athletics and sports is worth maybe. It's hard to do on a hard figure, but over all the joy and experience of the athletic, being part of the old college life he calls experience, I think he got that.
CAVANAUGH: If I remember correctly, he was under an awful lot of pressure to basically get rid of the Aztecs so that the student fees wouldn't go up, right?
PARIS: Right. And the Aztecs were -- which is the phenomenal program at one time, you upon. They were down under the dregs and they weren't drawing flies, and they were playing in this big stadium, and there were serious thoughts that maybe that money could be spent better elsewhere. And they'd be one of the options. But the key often with a football team, it's a driver for the rest of the athletic department. So it's so key for the football team and the football department to come back, because that's usually your biggest revenue generator in an athletic program. If you don't have a football team, that leaks down your entire athletic program.
CAVANAUGH: So what is the Aztecs football team doing these days?
PARIS: Rocky long, he stepped in for Brady oaks. We hated to lose him, but rocky long was a successful coach in New Mexico. He certainly has the credentials. They're back on the raid area, San Diego state. And that could also mean keeping a lot of the talented players here in San Diego County who often went elsewhere to play their college football to play at a high level. If they can stay here, they can turn that perception, that culture that you can stay right here and play topnotch football. There's a lot of good athletes in San Diego County, that'd be a good boost for them.
CAVANAUGH: Last Aztec question to you, jay, how did the Aztecs' baseball team fair this season?
PARIS: They didn't fair too well. They had a rough season. The shiny face said they were extremely young and maybe Shay got some experience and they'll be better next year because they were young. But there's another example. They're starting to get a lot of San Diego County players who also went elsewhere. So it couldn't quite much the success of the football team. Winning their bowl game, and certainly the basketball team. But with baseball, they'll get them next year.
CAVANAUGH: We've been talking local teams, but when we talk N, BA finals we can't talk local, jay.
CAVANAUGH: The Dallas Mavericks take on the Miami Heat in game one tomorrow night in Miami. How do see this match up playing out?
PARIS: It's a great great -- sport is all about match ups and the contrast and everything. And Dallas is such a great team game and mays a team game, and passing the ball so well. And the heat is completely Hollywood, with the big three and how they take over a game. So I think Miami heat pulls it out. But I think it's gonna go seven games, and enjoy the contrast of watching how the two teams approach it. And they've both been pretty successful. It should be fun.
CAVANAUGH: And the in, BA finals are really early this year, aren't they?
PARIS: They are a little bit earlier. We're usually wrestling with the fourth of July when they come on board. So enjoy it as well. 'Cause they have some labor clouds on their labor front. They have some dark clouds, there are gonna be some contentious negotiations in the off season upon so just like the NFL, they're getting ready to get lawyered up here, and it might cost us basketball next year.
CAVANAUGH: Well, jay, you have been really very optimistic about the Padres. All the articles I've been reading so far is basically, they have no mojo, they can't do this, they can't do that. So let's leave this again. Tell us why the season is still young and the Padres still have a chance.
PARIS: You have to go to the fourth number in the standings. It's one win losses and percentages, and then GB, games behind. As long as you're always within tracking distance. As long as you don't need a pair of binoculars to see the first place team. As long as you're in the hunt, you're in the hunt. If you got 15, you got 15. That usually keeps you close. So they're certainly disappointing. Their home record is embarrassing. If they don't win vetter in dome, they're not gonna go anywhere. But as long as they're within striking distance, if they could win today, and the diamond backs lose, they coulding six games back. That's not much when you still have so much to play. Do I see it happening? Not really. But is there a chance? Absolutely.
CAVANAUGH: Now, my last question to you, jay, it seems even though Padres have been doing really badly, especially in Petco Park, attendance is still pretty good for these games. Does that say something about San Diego fans?
PARIS: To a degree. It also says something. You usually sell tickets a year in advance.
CAVANAUGH: I see.
PARIS: 'Cause a lot of that's from last year. A lot of their ticket sales are done in the off season coming off that -- the great season they had last year. So a lot of that is advanced sale. You're always looking to the walk up, that's kind of a tell tale. They're playing off last year, they have a great marketing department, so that doesn't surprise me. It's always one year after when you might see that drop off. And with summer term season coming in, there'll be a lot of out of towners as well. The Padres certainly appreciate them stopping by and spending some money.
CAVANAUGH: I like it. Always Mr. Practical am I've been speaking with jay pairs, North County Times sports columnist. Have a great day, jay.
PARIS: All right. Cheers to you.