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Wait Till Next Year


Observations By RICK ELKIN

 

Drysdale, Maury Wills and Fernando Valenzuela. 

Maybe the hardest part was giving up listening to Vin Scully.

It was a difficult decision for me to give my heart to San Diego but it was my new home and I wanted to root for the local professional sports franchises, the Padres and Chargers.

For the first couple of years, I was entertained by Air Coryell and Dan Fouts. The Chargers were fun to watch, but always found a way to lose the big games. The Padres always had one or two great players but could never afford to keep them. Both franchises seemed to have a death wish. But I hung in …

I was excited when Steve Garvey joined the Padres along with former Yankees Graig Nettles and Goose Gossage.  When Garvey hit the memorable walk-off homer to beat the Cubs in the third game of the 1984 Division Series, I jumped off the sofa and ran outside and blasted the horn on my car. I wasn’t the only one, I heard horns all over North County! Even though they lost the World Series to the evil Yankees, I had married San Diego and I was forever going to be a Padres fan.

But it has been a troubled marriage. I don’t even speak about the Chargers anymore, they are dead to me. So I am tied to the Padres at the waist. Whenever they start to turn the corner, they trade away our best players for “prospects”!  Every year we hear “We have a terrific minor league inventory, it is just a matter of time before we compete at the highest level.”

Then I watch the guys we traded playing in the playoffs! 

So here is my Padre Fan Rant: The GM has to choose a new manager: The Andy Green get-everybody-involved, play-the-odds theorists have had their chance. Andy was a nice guy… too nice! Give me a really nasty Alpha Dog any day. Find an old-school manager who will put the best nine guys at their respective positions on the field and let ‘em go mano e mano, day after day. 

Find someone who will hold the players accountable. Watching the Padres lose track of the outs, run through signs, miss the cut-off man, get picked off base and outfielders who let balls fly over their heads late in games makes me crazy! I have watched little league teams with more discipline!

The front office has to establish some consistency. They are enamored by “five tool” multi-position, switch hitting draft prospects. Too often they pass on high quality position players because of their “limitations” (i.e., Christian Yelich, 2010 draft: .329 avg/97 RBI/44 HR in 2019). 

There is a reason players play certain positions. Show more respect for the skill set required for each function. Stop moving players around like musical chairs!  Baseball is a game of  tradition and routine. Players need to know what to expect when they get to the ballpark. They have spent their whole lives developing skills at certain positions, it’s front office foolishness to try to reinvent them at this point in their careers. Pick a lineup and batting order and stick with it. 

On the field, the Padres have a glaring weakness. They haven’t fielded an All Star catcher since Benito Santiago in 1992! I know they like Francisco Mejia, but he hasn’t shown the durability or throwing accuracy playoff teams need. Everything revolves around the on-the-field manager. The catcher is in on every play, and makes or breaks your pitching staff. He keeps the runners honest and he sets the emotional tone. But the Padres seem to look at the catcher’s position as an afterthought. Until the organization can put a beast behind the plate, they will continue to be also-rans.

And then there is the pitching problem. Padre scouts focus on pitchers who can throw 100 mph but forget Trevor Hoffman credited his success with developing a devastating change up. Remember Randy Jones, Gaylord Perry and Greg Maddux? They were real pitchers, not just fireballers. They went deep into games, reducing the demand on the bullpen. Pitchers that use a variety of pitches, especially off-speed floaters take the power game away from the big boppers. You can’t just go into every game looking to win a home run derby. 

I think fans would rather see a return to finesse pitching and speed on the base paths. I know I would. That is what puts the drama in the game. Just waiting for the next longball is not entertaining baseball. 

Remember how important and exciting the stolen base can be when the game is on the line? Remember when Dave Roberts ignited one of baseball history’s most incredible winning streaks by stealing second base in the Red Sox 2004 Division Championship Game against the Yankees?

I think some of the modern super-power players are really talented, but I miss Rickey Henderson, Davey Lopes and Maury Wills.

Rick Elkin is a cultural and media observer, author and columnist. His most recent book, Trump’s Reckoning: Bulldozing Progressivism, Rebuilding Americanism , is available through most online book sellers. He resides in Escondido, California. You can follow him at RickElkin.com or on Twitter @Rick_Elkin.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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