Padres: Five things | 1 Man vs. 1 Fan | Chris Young
PEORIA, Ariz. -- John Moores is not so much the owner of the San Diego Padres as their captor. His tenure, once all bright and folksy, has darkened to the point where the club and its fans now essentially are held hostage.
The franchise continues hemorrhaging credibility the way a hemophiliac gushes blood. When contract talks turned ugly and icon Trevor Hoffman was denied a requested meeting with the owner during the winter before the club rescinded its offer, it only confirmed that the unaccountable Moores had long since checked out.
But that's only a part of the stink. The owner's ongoing divorce is directly related to the slashing of the payroll, and the brazen offseason salary dump of Khalil Greene wasn't even the worst of the amateur-hour antics regarding him.
The club has a grievance pending as it attempts to recoup up to $1.47 million in salary from Greene because he missed the final two months last season when he broke his hand slamming an equipment trunk in fit of frustration.
Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Quentin of the Chicago White Sox also each landed on the disabled list last season because of self-inflicted injuries suffered in fits of pique. But only John Moores' Padres ordered their players' wages garnished.
Yep, stay classy, San Diego.
To say that most everyone around the club is waiting for its potential sale to a group led by Jeff Moorad, the former player agent and then chief executive officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is like saying Tony Gwynn could hit a little.
Sleeper ... Chase Headley: Headley was a solid rookie as a midseason call-up last year and should eventually develop into a must-have in all Fantasy leagues. This year, though, could be the last he will be on the board late on Draft Day. His numbers figure to make him a marginal starter for deeper mixed leagues, but if he makes as many strides as he did last season, that will change. Headley improved each month after his June call-up and is an unquestioned starter heading into spring training. He might even prove to be a No. 5 hitter in the lineup.
Bust ... Chris R. Young: Young has had a solid career to date, posting a 3.72 ERA in 117 starts. He can also strike out around a batter per inning. That is the good news and the bad news. He will be drafted well earlier than reasonable for a merely decent starter on one of baseball's worst teams. It will be very hard for him to pitch up to his draft position, which could be as high as a top 30 starter in some leagues. That is a lofty draft position for a pitcher who has never reached 180 innings in a single season, much less the 200 you need to get out of the pitchers who will go off the board at the same time as Young. Granted, his injury last season was a freak accident -- a liner off the forehead -- but your pick or auction dollar is better spent on someone with a better track record of health and innings -- not to mention wins potential from a team that can score more runs.
Breakout ... Kevin Kouzmanoff: Kouzmanoff is a streaky slugger who is now in his prime, so we don't think his .260 average, 23 homers, 84 RBI, 71 runs -- the three latter numbers all career highs -- represent a ceiling for him. He should be just getting started. He wore down in the second half, hitting just .241 with a .272 on-base percentage, so his full-season numbers can improve a significant amount by merely becoming more accustomed to a full-season. This will be just his third full season in the majors and, despite less patience, his power numbers at a similar stage of his career are better than that of Kevin Youkilis, who become a Fantasy gem at an even deeper position last year. Kouzmanoff is attainable in the latter rounds of mixed leagues and will be one of the many overlooked Padres after Peavy and Gonzalez on Draft Day.
-- Eric Mack
Top Padres Prospects ('09 destination)
1. Matt Antonelli, 2B, Triple-A
2. Kyle Blanks, 1B, Triple-A
3. Wynn Pelzer, RHP, Class A
4. William Inman, RHP, Triple-A
5. Will Venable, OF, Triple-A
|Padres Fantasy outlook | '09 Draft Prep|
"Until the deal is completed, he's still the owner of our team," says outfielder Brian Giles, whom the club attempted to trade last July in another salary clearance only to be thwarted when he invoked his no-trade powers. "You hear rumblings about that, but until that changes ..."
Until then, there doesn't appear to be enough ransom money in the state of California to help. The Padres are so paralyzed they're taking in strays. And those watching them this spring speak in the hushed tones of men who just saw a dog get smoked on a freeway.
"They're not a major-league team," one National League scout says quietly. "They've got some talented players, a couple of talented players. But they're fielding a 4-A team right now."
That being the standard designation for a club that's technically above the Triple-A level but far from major-league level.
As Moores' humiliating personal travails play out off of the field, the Padres are on the verge of humiliating themselves again on the field.
Yes, the Cha-Seung Baek.
As for the Nos. 4 and 5 slots ... well, let's just say that none of the five or six names competing has been impressive enough to prevent the Padres from inviting to camp 32-year-old Walter Silva, who, and this is the gospel truth, is on loan from the Mexican League on the advice of the Gonzalez brothers, first baseman Adrian and second baseman Edgar.
And, the kicker: He drove 18 hours from Mazatlan, Mexico, to Peoria, after the invitation was extended.
Strays, loaners ... soon the Padres will be leasing players with an option to own.
How does manager Bud Black characterize the rotation right now?
"It is ... ah ... emerging," Black says.
Then, warming to the challenge, he adds: "We think (Kevin) Correia is emerging. And there'll be another pitcher who emerges from the group of Josh Geer, Wade LeBlanc, the Joker (Cesar Ramos) and whether Kevin (Towers, general manager) and our scouts continue to look at pitchers around Florida and Arizona."
How does the skipper characterize the relief corps right now?
"There are opportunities for a number of guys in this camp," Black says.
More camp reports:
|More Outlooks: AL | NL|
And, out of this camp. Towers signed free agent Duaner Sanchez, whose low salary fit into the club's austerity program, on Sunday. There might be more on the way. With no money and growing alarm over the meat posing as pitching in camp, it's on Towers to spend some serious time dumpster diving this spring in search of rejects and reclamation projects.
Season ticket sales have nosedived to the point where the Padres might draw fewer than 2 million fans for the first time in 16 years despite playing in still-relatively new Petco Park. The club is in the midst of a five-alarm public relations crisis. Many baseball fans in San Diego are livid, rightfully feeling swindled by an owner who insinuated in the late 1990s that the Padres would have the money to compete if he got a new ballpark.
Then there is Giles' situation. The defendant in a $10 million palimony suit filed by a former girlfriend in 2008, Giles has countersued, denying Cheri Olvera's claim that he physically abused her, stating that it was she who abused him.
The negative perception surrounding the club, especially in its own community, is palpable. Happy new year? Ha. The players know it, too. Part of their test will be to see how well they can shield themselves from it.
"We can't have that in here," says starter Chris Young. "We can't pay attention to what people are saying about us -- fans, media, whomever. We've got nothing to lose. People don't have expectations, so it will be hard for us to disappoint. We're going to play the game the right way and find a way to win."
Giles, difficult as it is to believe, insists that the corrosion of the franchise has not seeped into the clubhouse.
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"I think it's the same optimism you have each spring," Giles says. "All 30 teams have it. We had it in Pittsburgh when I was there and St. Louis and Houston were dominating the division.
"If you're in spring training and you have no optimism, you might as well cash it in right now. You can't come to spring training feeling sorry for yourself because of what happened over the winter."
Meantime, circle these dates on your schedule, Padres fans: Aug. 14-16 and Aug. 20-23.
Key series in an approaching stretch run?
Nah. It's just the home-and-home series with St. Louis, one of them being the likely time when the Padres-Greene dispute will be heard by an arbitrator, according to Michael Weiner, general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Union.
As Weiner says, in this one, it's not just a case where the arbitrator can catch Greene coming through New York. They're going to need Greene and folks from the Padres as witnesses.
Maybe by then, if a hostage rescue team hasn't stormed the joint, a real friar can join them to administer last rites.