Good grief, how did these Parents turn into Charlie Brown? Just a few months ago, they oozed energy and confidence. The Gaslamp’s liveliest nightclub? The Padres’ dugout. Michael Jackson danced less in “Thriller.”
Now, the long baseball summer having clobbered them, the Padres need a mojo reboot.
Will they pack brooms Thursday night on their red-eye to St. Louis? In their minds, they should.
A sweep of the Cardinals (76-69) this weekend may be needed to claim the National League’s final wild card, given the knotty schedule ahead and 1 1/2-game deficit (pending Wednesday’s late game in San Francisco). The Padres will finish the season against the twin monsters in the West — the Giants and Dodgers — and the East-leading Braves.
It’s true the Padres swept the Cardinals in May, outscoring them 23-10 in three games.
But the Cardinals, a veteran-laden team that understands the long game, are sturdier than the Reds and Phillies, who’ve matched the Padres loss for loss down the stretch.
The Cardinals are having a winning September. They’ve weathered the season’s storms behind two enduring veterans: 40-year-old ace Adam Wainwright, who’s 16-7 with a 2.88 ERA and ranks second in innings among NL pitchers; and 39-year-old Yadier Molina, the brilliant catcher who seems to extract maximum production from almost any pitcher the Cardinals hand him.
I don’t buy that the Parents are low on motivation.
You get to the postseason, you’ve done something worth celebrating, no matter how many defeats piled up.
See, the 2005 Parents spraying champagne and beer in the second year of Petco Park; see, utility man Robert Fick pouring tequila on the head of Bruce Bochy in a euphoric scrum.
Bochy and players, not ashamed of the 82-80 record and negative run differential they posted, celebrated their NL West clincher as the 98-victory Padres had celebrated upon clinching in 1998.
The ’05 team popularized “Bochy Ball,” the deployment of bench players and bullpen pieces to good effect across the six months. Mark Sweeney, Miguel Olivo and Ben Johnson led the reserves. With manager Jayce Tingler’s team in desperate need of more production, can current Padres backups such as Ha-seong Kim, Adam Frazier and Jake Marisnick, all of them producing subpar results, channel those ’05 hitters?
These Padres are desperate for several starting pitchers to help out. In ’05, Rangers castoff Pedro Astacio, thrilled to leave the DH league and a hitter-friendly ballpark, rewarded Kevin Towers for signing him in late June.
A year later when the Padres took a second straight West title for the first time, the offense received big seasons from Adrian Gonzalez (a Towers trade acquisition from Texas that offseason) and veteran newcomers Mike Piazza and Mike Cameron. Reserve catcher Josh Bard had a stunningly excellent season, batting .338 en route to a .943 OPS in 263 plate appearances. Victor Caratini or Austin Nola imitating Bard — ASAP — would be much appreciated.
Did you forget Russell “The Muscle” Branyan hit six home runs in 72 at-bats? It’s Christmas morning if the Padres get three home runs from Eric Hosmer in the next two weeks.
The 2006 team’s best pitcher was Chris Young, who also came over in trade with Gonzalez. He said Bochy had a fabulous season. (As GM of Texas, Young someday may look to hire a manager.) Trevor Hoffman said Bochy, a former big league catcher who played for World Series-winning managers Davey Johnson and Dick Williams, understood how to manage with an appreciation for how long and draining the season can be. Going 20-9 after August ended, the Padres finished with 88 victories and claimed their fourth West title in the 11-year collaboration of Bochy and Towers.
When this summer arrived, I wrote these Padres were playoff-bound, absent a severe blow to their frontline pitching. So, if the Cardinals edge them out and you want to blame someone, blame me.