I hope everyone had a good St. Patrick's Day and that you've recovered from everything green. I'm still a bit green though but not from good ol' St. Paddy. It's more from the fears of Spring Training. Let me elaborate.
When the Padres were a floor mat for the division, they consistently did well in Spring Training. Maybe because players wanted to make the team so bad they put extra effort into the spring and the Pads did fairly well. Now if we fast forward to this year, we see a different "philosophy" taking place. The Padres are expected to do well and things are turned upside down now. They are losing more than winning (until the last few days) and to be honest, they are getting pummeled in some games. Now spring is a time for working out kinks, etc. but what's the difference between going all out when you are a returning losing team vs. a winning team? Do players take it easier when they are expected to win during the regular season or do the fans just dismiss the losses more easily? The Giants have the best spring training record and the Padres are towards the bottom. That concerns me since Bonds hasn't been a factor and as I predicted earlier I think his injuries will catch up to him this year (he just had a second knee surgery if you missed it and now the former girl-friend and Steroids comes up again along with some "tax" issues). If he's out and they are still doing well, it doesn't look well for the Padres at this point trying to unseat them.
I'm concerned a bit because the pitching seems a bit "rough" to me. Players that are supposed to be in the starting rotation are getting tattooed. In one of my earlier articles I expressed concerns about the ages of some of the players. Maybe it just takes them a little longer to get up to speed now or maybe they are pacing themselves. I'd be a lot more comfortable if the Padres had a few more wins (over the last few days the bats have certainly come alive and that has helped the overall Win/Loss record, but pitching is still suspect).
What I am not concerned about is the infield of the Padres. I think that the middle infield is set for some time and will again produce outstanding numbers in fielding, on base, average, etc. percentages. I also think that Nevin and Burroughs will have better years after a complete year in the new park. Behind the plate the Padres have that covered too. The outfield is still a question mark in my mind. Roberts is already having problems and regardless of how he's feeling, look at the past. He has a history of injuries that continue to plague him. I have always liked Klesko and I hope that he improves the numbers a bit but I'm not worried about his production this year. Lately he's been coming on strong and is peaking at the right time.
It's a cliché but I think it'll be the pitching this year that makes or breaks the season. No real news there and the Padres have some quality in the first 3 spots of the rotation. After that though, I'm a bit worried.
I know, I know. Everyone will say that it's only Spring Training and it doesn't matter. I say it does. It does from a momentum standpoint. At the end of the day though, it only matters what happens when the season starts and I'll try to sit back and keep quiet until then but in the mean time I'd like to see the pitchers starting to make better progress during the time when it doesn't matter.
I know it seems as if I'm being a bit contradictory in this article. Let me clarify. I think Spring training is important. I think getting more wins than losses in Spring training is important – helps build a winning attitude. I think the pitchers have more work to do than hitters and fielders do (takes more time to get your pitching groove and I don't see it happening while batting can come around quickly).
I'll make a pre-season prediction. Padres finish in second place this year.
Kevin can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org