Sunday, July 31, 2016

The parallels between Matt Kemp and Adam Sandler

In a world not too long ago, Adam Sandler was arguably the most popular movie star in the world. He burst onto the silver screen in the mid-90’s with hit films like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. Those films helped transform the New Hampshire-born actor into a comedic box office force. 

In 1998, Sandler started in The Waterboy, his first $100-million film. Between 1998 and 2011, Sandler started in 11 films that grossed at least $100 million, despite most critics despising the work he did. Still, the fans came out in droves, hungry for fart and boob jokes and Sandler acting like a goofball.  

With the success of his films came the large paychecks. Most celebrity net worth websites list Sandler’s net worth in the neighborhood of $300 million. At one point in time, Sandler was probably the most beloved celebrity amongst teenagers and young adults. I can attest to that -- Sandler movies became a guaranteed night out with my friends. We used to quote lines in each film and laugh like babies. “Veronica Vaughn, so hot, want to touch the hiney. OHHHHWOOOOO!!” Comedic. Freaking. Genius. 

Then when I hit my mid-20’s something changed. Sandler lost his appeal. He got old, fat and kind of stale. He was making the same exact jokes in 2011 that he made in 1996. The man played the exact same characters in every film. There was the movie where he got to “hook up” with Brooklyn Decker AND Jennifer Aniston in the same film. That’s My Boy is a cinematic masterpiece that involves a dorky Sandler impregnating the high school teacher, then reconnecting with his rich son. Oh, there’s also some insect jokes in there for good measure. Both plots were ridiculously unbelievable. wasn’t funny. In fact, I walked out of the theater thinking my love affair with Adam Sandler was over. It was time to bury him in the time capsule of my life. I’d place his films next to my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys, my Discman and the first adult magazine I found in my buddy’s dad’s drawer. No more, I said. 

After 15 years, Sandler no longer seemed relevant to me. I still love the films I saw as a teenager but I was pretty sure I would never pay to see one of his films again. He is a has-been and no longer cares about making a quality film for his audience. Hell, he has even admitted to making films just to hang out with his buddies. Peter Dante and Allen Covert has sucked at the Sandler tit for the better part of 20 years. Well, looks like the cash cow is dryer than a California summer. 

In 2006, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp made his big league debut. He was a giant outfielder -- 6’4 and 230 lbs and man, he could run like a gazelle. The athletic outfielder also could hit balls with authority and as much as I hated the Dodgers, Kemp looked to be the next superstar Padres fans would love to hate. 

In 2011, Kemp was basically the best player in baseball. He led the National League with 39 homers and 126 RBI. He stole 40 bases and his OPS+ of 172 was the best in the league. The man was an offensive force and should have won MVP. The man looked like he could be this generation’s next great slugger. He signed an 8-year, $160 million contract after that incredible season. Kemp talked about winning championships and making all-star teams. Instead of greatness, the Dodgers got a rapid decline. 

Kemp missed a lot of time in 2012 and 2013 with various injuries. He dealt with ankle and shoulder problems and his athleticism seemed to be sapped from his body. Kemp was no longer the dynamic player he once was -- in fact he wasn’t really an average player anymore. The Dodgers had seen enough. 

On December 18, 2014, the Los Angeles Dodgers traded Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal, and minor league pitchers Zach Eflin and Joe Wieland. The Dodgers paid the Padres $32 million to take Kemp off their hands. It was staggering. 

Yeah, I’ll admit, I drank the Matt Kemp Kool-Aid. I remember the Matt Kemp that used to be a physical specimen, the one that looked like a sure-fire Hall of Famer. I saw my team actually acquire big league talent instead of shipping it off to an actual contender. I salivated over a Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers led team. I remembered the dark days of watching Brad Hawpe and Orlando Hudson hitting in the middle of the order. The Padres were going for it, and it was fun, dammit. Shortly into the season, the optimism and excitement started to fade. Matt Kemp ain’t what he used to be. 

Kemp, now 31, couldn’t really run much. For most of the 2015 season, he couldn’t hit either. He had one homer through 56 games. He didn’t draw walks, he couldn’t play the outfield and really was a sub-replacement level player. To be brutally honest: he sucked. It was like watching Grown-Ups 2 all over again. Only this time the movie was six months long. 

The one thing that Kemp did was get fans excited. The casual fan remembered that he used to be good. Yes, the man eventually drove in 100 runs and hit 23 homers but he didn’t do much else. The women loved him and he was a box-office draw. There is value in name recognition. People bought up his jerseys and cheered him on. Kemp was good once, they thought, perhaps he will find the magic than made him arguably the best player in baseball at one time. Kemp never did in San Diego. 

In 2014, after his latest box-office flop, Adam Sandler signed an exclusive four-movie deal with Netflix. The thought was probably “Sandler used to relevant. Someone out there may pay us $8 a month to see him play a ukulele and jerk off a horse. Let’s make some money!” 

Low and behold, the two movies Sandler made for Netflix thus far have been critically panned. I am not sure if the company has increased their profits by inking Sandler but it doesn’t seem that likely. Sandler’s days of making America laugh are long over.

In this analogy, the San Diego Padres were Netflix. They attempted to take the fading star and hope he would propel an mundane team into the limelight. San Diego’s foray into high-spending failed miserably. It was a disappointment, for sure, as I was certain the Padres could nab a Wild-Card berth. Kemp was supposed to be the leader of that box-office smash. Instead the blended mix of players failed like Sandler’s movie Blended. Hey, let’s see him pursue and try to nail Drew Barrymore AGAIN. Box-office gold! 

Kemp returned to San Diego this season and once again, hit homers, but couldn’t do anything else. Kemp couldn’t beat the Friar mascot in 40-yard dash. He legs are shot and he is no longer dynamic. Still, the man can hit dingers, is handsome and used to be good. Could it be plausible that the rebuilding Padres could easily trade the once-amazing Kemp to bevy of contenders looking for that extra bat to propel them to a championship, right? Wrong. 

The Padres traded the corpse of Matt Kemp to the Atlanta Braves for Hector Oliveria, a 31-year-old Cuban who is currently serving an 82-game suspension for domestic violence. San Diego, wanting no part of a potential convicted felon, will designate Oliveria for assignment and eventually release him. 

San Diego’s part in the trade was motivated financially, as they will trim some money and “save” about $25 million. The Dodgers will continue to pay $3.5 million for the duration of the contract and the Padres will take on the approximate $30 million owed to Oliveria. 

So, to sum things up: Kemp was once an MVP candidate, now he is only tradeable to a last-place team for a guy who beats women. Quite the fall from grace for a man who used to romance Rihanna. The Padres essentially sold Kemp to Atlanta, hoping to open right field for younger and almost certainly less-handsome ballplayers. To see Kemp smile is to see an unfinished symphony from Mozart. The ladies love him. 

The parallels between Adam Sandler and Matt Kemp are staggering. In their prime, they were both big stars who commanded the adulation of their respective fanbases. Now, both starts seem to be going through the motions, both going where a causal fan will never find them. Sandler hasn’t done a studio film since Pac-Man tried to have him murdered and Kemp went from Los Angeles to San Diego to an Atlanta team that is in tank-mode. 

Both men were once at the top of their respective professions but now? They are wasting away, shells of what they once were. The public eye is a ruthless bitch. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Remembering Mom One Year Later

I haven't had much occasion to post anything too personal here lately -- I work a full-time job and have been plugging away, writing for a Padres minor league site, but today marks a significant day in my life. It has been one year since my mom passed away.

The death kind of came out of nowhere; a potentially strangulated bowel, turned into an ordeal that led to her death. My mom suffered from COPD as well, so the combination of anesthesia, surgery, and virtually no lung capacity was too much to recover from. She was 62.

Four months prior to that, I lost my father after a lengthy battle with multiple myeloma, a real bastard of a disease. He fought like hell, but ultimately it was just too much. Three weeks before my 30th birthday both my parents were gone. I suppose it could be worse, but my mom was and has always been my hero.

I so wanted to write some beautiful tribute shortly after she passed but I just couldn't. My usually opinionated mouth had little to say. The words never really came and I felt whatever I chose to write would not be good enough. I was completely lost. Hell, I still am.

My mom, Kathleen Wooddrick (later Charity) was born on August 29th, 1952, outside of Chicago. She moved to California when she was 18 and spent the majority of her adulthood working as an LVN. She was a nurse for nearly 40 years. She was also a single mother for most of my life.

My parents split when I was 4, my dad remarried a year or so later but my mom never did. She was in a relationship with a man for 12 years, but they never married. For the last 15 years or so of her life, she chose not to enter another relationship, perfectly content to be on her own.

My mom worked long hours, so she wasn't one of those moms you see on television. She would work a ten hour day, come home and hang out on the couch. Every now and then she would check out my homework or we would just sit around and watch television until it was time to do it all over again. She wasn't a great cook but we never went hungry. Every now and then KFC or McDonalds happened. Those were good days.

Her weekends were full of joyful activities, such as laundry and picking up after me. A toy here, a t-shirt there. She would constantly complain. I thought she was being mean. I was just being a stupid kid. At some point, she would step on a Ninja Turtle or Power Ranger then curse at me to pick my stuff up. This pattern repeated every Saturday. We were both creatures of routine.

I witnessed my mom stop at nothing to provide for me and my older sister. Her car got stolen once and she arranged for rides from co-workers. A few times she would walk to work, which was a six-mile trek one way. If she was sick, she went into work, rarely taking a sick day.

Vacations rarely happened for her -- she cashed in her vacation hours at the end of the year to buy us Christmas gifts. She lost sleep and downtime so I could have a stupid Nintendo and useless action figures. The sick days were cashed helped her pay bills and keep a roof over our heads. As a child I just expected video games and Nike tennis shoes to fall into my lap; as an adult, all those things were sacrifices of sanity from my mom.

As I hit adulthood, I stumbled through my 20's. I was always a smart kid but I was also incredibly lazy. I did poorly my first few semesters of college and ultimately put in on the back-burner. I spent the next 5 years of my life working as a "sales specialist" at Office Depot making $11 an hour to sell products I didn't fully understand. I spent most of my shifts finding ways to goof off and prolong my adolescence as long as humanly possible. At times, I felt like an absolute loser who was on the path to nowhere. My mom stood in my corner and never made me feel like a loser. She was one of the few people who believed in me.

Eventually, I got my stuff together, got a Bachelor's degree and found a real job. She encouraged me throughout the process and I mainly pushed through all the obstacles because I wanted to do it for her. She deserved to get rewarded for everything she put into me.

A few months ago, I reflected on the fact that I really didn't establish myself as a true adult until I hit 28. Many people find their path earlier in life, start careers and move out in their early 20's. While I certainly didn't maximize my potential, my "burnout" years became a blessing for me; I got to spend more time with mom. Looking back, I wouldn't change those days for anything.

I lived at home from 24-28 and boy did I bitch about it. I wanted to have my own place but $11 an hour doesn't go very far in San Diego. Once I made the return to school, mom never charged me a penny for rent, nor did I pay any bills. She allowed me to save money and have some spending money to have fun.  All she asked for was my loose change and a chocolate bar when I returned home from hanging out with friends or running errands. If a Payday bar was not received, she would light me up with curse words. Sometimes I'd neglect her sweet tooth to hear the wild things that would come out of her mouth. Her generosity was baffling, considering this woman gave me everything I had.

In those adult years, our relationship changed greatly. I would say that we bonded and became friends. My mom was a lot like me: sharp-tongued, sarcastic, reclusive, but with a heart the size of a watermelon. While she hated interacting with most people, she would also do anything to help a loved one in distress. Best of all, she wouldn't make you feel like crap about it. Cross her, or me, and she'd run you down with a Hyundai Accent.

Sure, she and I would butt heads. She would curse me out, I'd snap back with a sarcastic comment. She would hold back laughter and make another comment, sure to get in the last word. Her pet names for me included "dickhead," "asshole," and a variety of other filthy one-liners. Most people would be horrified at the way we'd talk to each other. For us, it was a term of endearment and how we bonded as adults.

At the beginning of February last year, my mom developed an umbilical hernia. The irony is that I too, had a hernia repaired a few months later. As a relatively healthy man in my late-20's I recovered in a few days. The procedure was much more risky for my mother.

Sometime in the recovery period, she lost the ability to breathe on her own and needed a breathing tube. The doctors told us her lungs were failing and that she would likely never be able to breathe on her own. The options were to have her on a tube for the remainder of her life or allow her to go peacefully, without any pain.

Knowing what I did, I knew my mom would never want to be kept alive that way. She always told me that she would rather go than to be forced into that kind of life. That was it. Her life was ending.

My sister and I spent the last few moments of her life at her bedside. It was a rainy day and I looked out the window in despair. I reflected on all the things I learned from my mom. The times she made me angry, the times she did unbelievably selfless things and I didn't know what I would do without her. As the rain fell, I watched the drops smack against the buildings outside. It rarely rains in San Diego, but the sky wept that day.

I thought about how I would live my life from here. Mom has always been the only stable force in my life. I clutched my mom's hand tightly as she took her last breath. It is surreal to know that we spent 60, 70, 80 or more years on this Earth and everything can be broken down to a few precious moments. That was it, the last time I got to spend with my mom.

I had the unfortunate pleasure of delivering the eulogies at both funerals of my parents. I don't remember every word of what I spoke because I had to fight through unbearable depression to address the rooms of people. I fought my trembling knees to stay composed and honor her in a way that seemed appropriate. I spoke a few words about the person she was.  I always describe my mom as selfless, simple and fiercely independent. She instilled the independence and tireless work ethic I have today. I owe everything to her.

So, at the one-year anniversary of her passing, I reflect on all of the memories I have. The good times as a child. The time she saw me club a home run in Little League. The trips we took to Disneyland. I reflected on the values and lessons she engrained in me. She taught me that kindness is important, working hard is essential and taking care of family trumps everything else. While she didn't have a lot in this life,  I know that my sister and I were the reason she kept going. She worked up until her last hospitalization, despite needing to be connected to oxygen 24/7. I still don't know how she overcame the things she did. She is the most remarkable person I have ever known.

I choose not to mope but remember the nearly 30 years we got to spend together. I could never repay her for all she did for me. As an adult, I realize the sacrifice our parents make for us. I am not a religious person, but I know my mom is somewhere, hopefully, relaxed and care-free. Rest easy, mom.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Hope For San Diego -- The Thoughts of a Disgruntled Chargers Fan

I’ve had enough.

This is the first thought that comes to mind whenever I think about the NFL’s race to Los Angeles. A city that allowed two NFL squads to leave for much smaller markets is attempting to lure three teams into the nation’s second largest city, promising a plethora of riches and prestige. On paper, it makes perfect sense for the NFL to move into LA – it has a surrounding population of eight million, rich with wealthy people with tons of disposable income. Perhaps big-time celebrities would be a fixture at the 50-yard line, film executives will shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for luxury seats. 

The owner or owners of the Los Angeles football teams will pass go millions of times, picking up an embarrassment of riches each time. However, the NFL wants to fill the void in Los Angeles with my team, the San Diego Chargers. It is a thought that brings sadness and anger into my thoughts.
For me, the Chargers represent the best times of my childhood. Sundays represented hanging out with my dad and watching Junior Seau run all over the field, blowing up running backs. Stan Humphries battled through concussion hell and Natrone Means giving athletic hope to a chubby slowpoke. Honestly, I can’t think about the Chargers without reminiscing on the best moments of my youth. I fell in love with the sport when the Chargers defied the odds and made it to Super Bowl 29. Sure, they were pummeled by a dominant San Francisco squad, but I knew then that I’d always root for the home team.

Yes, the Chargers have historically been terrible. After a playoff appearance in 1995, the team went nine years without making the playoffs. Ryan Leaf brought promise for a few weeks, we saw dilapidated veterans like Jim Harbaugh, Jim Everett and Doug Flutie attempt to inject some credibility into a losing franchise. We saw Junior Seau’s prime wasted, Rodney Harrison leave for greener pastures and a 1-15 season in which the team really didn’t deserve to win once. No one would have blamed any Charger fan for bailing on the organization and cheering for a better team. I kept hope. Hope that my team would build something great. It happened.

The Chargers draft in 2001 brought us LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees -- two future Hall-of-Famers taken in the same draft. I mean, how often to teams select two players of their caliber in the same draft? Unreal, right?

Well, Brees’ best days took place in New Orleans, but San Diego built a ridiculously talented team. Eventually, Philip Rivers took over when Brees left down, but that ’06 Chargers squad may have been the most talented team of the last 20 years. The complete ineptitude of the Chargers’ organization kept the Chargers from winning a title. As Norv Turner sapped all the discipline and toughness from the roster and A.J. Smith’s luck in the draft dried up, I stayed a fan. Gut-wrenching, horrible defeats snatched from the jaws of glory and happiness. Whatever, I knew the Chargers will get it right someday. Or not.

The San Diego Chargers play in the dilapidated eyesore otherwise known as Qualcomm Stadium. It’s ugly, old and it is outdated. It badly needs replacement but San Diego has not been able to make any progress in getting a replacement built. Taxpayers are gun shy about forking over a billion dollars to a billionaire with a silver spoon hanging out of his mouth. The ownership group looks around and sees palaces built around the NFR with minimal investment on the part of the ownership. Everyone wants to reach into the pockets of the public and squeeze out a few bucks.  Proposal after proposal failed. Chula Vista, National City, Oceanside, and hell even an idea to build near Orange County never came to fruition. Something had to give.

Over the last few years, Chargers owner Dean Spanos had a grandiose idea: move to Los Angeles and become the king of Southern California sports. Los Angeles is one of the most populated and fascinating cities in the United States, full of money and a desire for an NFL team. Los Angeles boasts the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, plus UCLA and USC. If you count the teams based in Orange County, the marketplace has six professional sports team, not including the aforementioned college squads. Any business man would want to conquer this untapped gold mine and become the most valuable sports franchise in the nation’s second largest city. To be the NFL team in Los Angeles could be worth billions.

Enter the St. Louis Rams, owned by mega-billionaire Stan Kroenke. Not only is Kroenke exponentially more wealthy than Mr. Spanos, but his wife is a Walton. Yes, those Waltons -- she has Wal-Mart money and is actually wealthier than her husband. Combined, they are worth $11 billion or so, while most of Spanos’ worth is tied into the value of the Chargers. Kroenke had the wealth to purchase the land and move the Rams to Inglewood, without public money. Spanos, sensing his diabolical plan about to crumble cried foul. The Rams to Los Angeles would ruin him. The Chargers depend on Los Angeles clientele to keep their little business afloat. Ok, then.

Spanos continually pleaded that 25% of the Chargers season ticket base comes from the Los Angeles market. Spanos has made this claim many times in the media, yet has never produced any evidence that his claim is true.  The Rams or any other team moving to Los Angeles would potentially remove 12-15,000 paying customers from Qualcomm Stadium and ultimately millions in revenue from the Chargers’ pockets. Dean Spanos insisted that the Chargers HAD to move, to protect their business. Sorry, San Diego but a team in Los Angeles would crumble the Spanos’ family fortune.

Spanos then decides that the Chargers should purchase potentially toxic land on a landfill in Carson and partner up with the hated Oakland Raiders and get a stadium built. The Raiders play in Stadium which makes a toilet like Qualcomm Stadium look like a palace in Dubai. Both owners would sucker Los Angeles into building a stadium and each owner could fill their pockets.

On the surface, I don’t blame Dean Spanos for wanting to move the Chargers. Heck, if you could take a four bedroom home in Fargo and move it into La Jolla and keep the profits, you would too. That nice $200,000 house in Fargo is worth $2.3 million in La Jolla. It’s just good business. A move to Los Angeles could double the net worth of Dean Spanos and family. These rational and seemingly smart moves are not the reason why Charger fans are angry. It’s the lies and it is the politics.
The Chargers have said, in recent negotiations, that the Chargers don’t have a viable plan. The NFL has said the Chargers plan, which involves $300 million in public money is not good enough. Spanos has walked away from the negotiating table months ago, in hopes of cruising up north. It looked dire and San Diegans were resigned to the fact that our team was going to be ripped away. But alas, a small beacon of hope.

The Rams are definitely moving to Los Angeles while the Chargers have the option to return to San Diego or can basically take some time and decided if becoming the little sister of the Rams is more viable than building a new stadium in San Diego. The NFL also gave the Chargers an extra $100 million to put towards a stadium here, in case Spanos decides to make things work in the city that has been home to the Bolts since 1961.

Many outside San Diego don’t particularly empathize with our plight. The national perception is that San Diego is a beautiful city that has a fair-weather fan base, at best. Every time a Charger game was shown this season, the visiting team outdrew Chargers supporters. A Raiders game at the Q is basically a home game for the silver and black. These things are true. However, those facts should come with an asterisk.

San Diego is a beautiful city. It has perfect weather, glorious beaches, beautiful women and some of the best bars and restaurants in the country. Visiting fans love to make San Diego a destination. I attended Chargers vs. Broncos game a few years ago and I met a nice bunch of Broncos fans. They like to travel to one road game each season and their first pick is always San Diego. It’s beautiful and it’s a reprieve from a cold, snowy winter. If you live in the Midwest or East Coast and see a late November game in San Diego on the schedule, wouldn’t you have a desire to call a travel agent?
San Diego is also a Navy city, meaning that much of our population migrates from other places. 

Without the data in front of me, I would imagine that San Diego would have one of the lowest percentages of indigenous citizens in the NFL. People join the Navy and end up staying here. They aren’t going to abandon the teams of their youth, so they go to the Q dressed in Patriots or Cowboys gear. They may like the Chargers in passing but they surely will not cheer for them over the teams they grew up with.

San Diego does have passionate fans, fans that spend thousands on tickets each year. There are fans that live and die with the boys in blue and gold each Sunday. I am one of them, I know many others. We hurt right now, we feel betrayed and we feel hopeless. We do exist though. Perhaps not in the same numbers as many other franchises but we are here. We want to love our Chargers no matter what. We want our boys to stay in San Diego. Again, there is always hope.
The Los Angeles outcome is a bit of a surprise, but I am not sure how I feel. I assumed the Chargers would finalize some deal on Tuesday to leave my hometown. I figured that I would be a nomadic football fan, looking for a new team to root for, or perhaps finding other ways to fill my dance card on Sunday’s. There is still a chance for new generations to see Chargers football in San Diego and for fans to continue to cheer their beloved squad.

This whole experience has left a very bitter taste in my mouth. I know that sports are built around money and every owner wants to maximize profits. I also recognize a crook when I see one.
Dean Spanos is broke. He may not even have the funds to contribute to a stadium, let alone build one himself. So, instead of contributing to the palace of his dreams, he wants a city to build a state-of-the-art stadium while doubling his net worth and making no investment of his own. It seems almost criminal, yet this is the current landscape of professional sports.

Even if the Chargers stay in San Diego, I am not sure I want to remain a fan. I will always love the heroes I worshiped as a child and as an adult. Philip Rivers, Seau, Antonio Gates, Leslie O’Neal, Tony Martin and LaDainian Tomlinson will never leave my memories. Dennis Gibson batting Neil O’Donnell’s pass at the goal line is still one of the best moments of my life. However, some things are better left in the past. Sometimes the past needs to be abandoned and we need to move on. I think it might be that time. We all deserve better, Charger fans. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Trade Of James Shields Would Be Bad For Business

By now, everyone has realized that the San Diego Padres aren’t the team we thought – and perhaps more accurately hoped they would be. After an off-season full of big name acquisitions and risky trades, most fans expected the Padres to make the playoffs and perhaps contend for a title.

Well, on July 20, the Padres are 43-49, seven games out of a playoff spot. The team isn’t dead yet, but the plug could be pulled any day. When a team is out of contention, the organization shifts course, trades expiring contracts, and further prepares the organization for next season.

The San Diego Padres have plenty of veterans on expiring deals. Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit, (assuming his option isn’t picked up) Will Venable and Justin Upton among others. Now might be the best time to trade these players for assets that could benefit the club in 2016 in beyond.

James Shields - Getty Images
James Shields is one of those players who is being dangled in trade talks. Shields may not be an ace like a Johnny Cueto or a Cole Hamels, but he is a durable veteran who has pitched in the World Series. He instantly makes any rotation in the league better. Surely, he is a player that the Padres could shop, in hopes of pressing the restart button and collecting young, controllable talent. Trading Shields, from a business standpoint, makes a lot of sense. However, the Padres would lose credibility with a Shields trade. Why? The answer is simple.

James Shields signed a four-year, $75 million deal with San Diego in February – the largest contract in the history of the organization. Shields, 33, has been one of the game’s most consistent pitchers over the last five years. Shields has pitched at least 200 innings in eight straight seasons, typically with an ERA in the mid 3’s. Shields was supposed to be the durable workhorse that the team lacked.
However, Shields has had a strange 2015, to say the least. On the surface, Shields has still been pretty good. With Friday night’s outing, Shields is sitting at 8-3, with a 3.91 ERA in 121.2 innings. His numbers are quite solid, but they do not narrate the tale of a staff ace. Shields’ stuff looks to be better than ever – he is averaging a career-high 10.11 k’s per nine innings. He is throwing his curve more than ever, which seems to be keeping hitters off-balance.

While the strikeouts are up, so are the walks. Shields is walking batters are nearly double the rate he was last year. In 2014 with Kansas City, Shields walked 44 batters in 227 innings. This season, Shields has already issued 40 free passes in 116 innings. Shields’ WHIP has naturally risen a bit, but it is still passable at 1.29.

The strangest stat for Shields in 2015 is his new-found propensity in allowing home runs. Shields has allowed 20 homers this season – half of them coming in the supposed pitcher’s haven known as Petco Park. Shields has pitched well overall at Petco Park – he has pitched to a 2.68 ERA in nine outings, but the homers have been a nemesis all year. Shields’ track record dictates that it is more of an aberration then an actual trend.

Shields brings a lot of accountability and leadership to a clubhouse that has seemed to be in dire need of it. He’s a leader, and personally, I feel that his presence on the team cannot be discounted. The Padres are simply a better team with Shields in the fold.

While fans know what Shields brings to the team on the diamond, his contract could be viewed as a hindrance in the near future. Shields is making just $10 million this year, however next year Shields’ contract jumps to a massive haul of $21 million. Shields could potentially opt out of his deal after 2016. If he chooses not to, Shields is owed $21 million in 2017 and 2018. Shields also has a club option for $16 million in 2019, with a $2 million option.  San Diego could owe Shields as much as $79 million after this season.

Yes, the Shields contract gets bloated, but that is the price of dipping into the free agent pitching pool. A team will always overpay for a dependable and above-average arm. Shields’ contract could have commanded more money on the open market, and his contract could end up being a good value over the duration of the deal.

In addition to everything that I have mentioned, trading Shields just seems like a bad business move that could make the Padres lose credibility. The perception around baseball has been that the Padres a perennial loser – a team that doesn’t take the steps necessary to build a consistent winner. The organization at least showed the financial muscle to make moves with the high revenue teams, although obviously the moves did not pan out as anticipated. The result on the field has been immensely disappointing, but most fans are still encouraged by an ownership group that has shown they want to win. It remains to be seen if the Padres attempt to lure more big names in the free agent market in the future, but a trade of Shields, in my opinion, will lead to loss of credibility.

Most big-time free agents see the opportunity to cash in when they make a move to sign a multi-year deal with the organization of their choice. It represents stability for themselves and for their families. Most players do not anticipate being traded five months into a four-year contract.

Shields lives in San Diego, and I am sure being able to sleep in his own bed was a determining factor (aside from the cash) on his decision to sign with the Padres. If San Diego chooses to pursue another big-time player, a trade of Shields will surely be brought up by competing organizations, as well as agents. It is a move removes credibility from a mediocre in dire need of it.

In addition to the potential personnel ramifications, the Padres also forfeited the #13 overall pick in June’s draft. The Padres gutted their farm system in the off-season, and the loss of the first rounder certainly doesn’t help. At the time the Padres acquired Shields, I, like most fans believed that the potential of four years of Shields outweighed whatever player the Padres could have drafted. Besides, it isn’t like the Padres have had much, if any success drafting players in the first round. Shields is a proven commodity in the game.

When the calendar strikes July 31st, I hope that James Shields is in a Padres uniform. Industry experts think he will be elsewhere. The Padres can build with James Shields, and will be better for it. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

2015 Fort Wayne Tincaps Season Preview

The Fort Wayne Tincaps, the Midwest League affiliate of the San Diego Padres, have announced their opening day roster for the 2015 season. The team will open up with 10 players who suited up for the team last year. The roster announcement was released by the organization, via Twitter.
Last season the Tincaps went 63-76, but made the playoffs for the seventh straight year, despite the losing record. Fort Wayne will open up with 13 pitchers, and 12 position players. Here is a look at the roster:
Coaching staff:  Manager Francisco Morales (1st year with team), hitting coach Lance Burkhart, pitching coach Bert Hooton

Pitchers: LHP Taylor Aikenhead, LHP Payton Baskette, RHP Jimmy Brasoban. LHP Taylor Cox, LHP Thomas Dorminy, RHP Dinelson Lamet, RHP Walker Lockett, RHP Seth Lucio, LHP Kyle McGrath, RHP Ernesto Montas, RHP Wilson Santos, RHP Bryan Verbitsky, RHP T.J. Weir
Analysis: Padres beat writer Corey Brock reported that the Tincaps rotation will feature Thomas Dorminy, Taylor Cox, Ernesto Montas and Walker Lockett. Dinelson Lamet and Taylor Aikenhead will piggyback each other.

None of the pitchers on the roster rank in the Padres top-30 prospects, but many of the young arms have shown promise in their careers.

Thomas Dorminy, 22, pitched to a 3.72 ERA in Eugene last season in his pro debut. Payton Baskette made 20 appearances (12 starts) last season for the Tincaps, and pitched to a 5.29 ERA. Dinelson Lamet will make his stateside debut for Fort Wayne. The 22-year-old pitched briefly with the Padres Dominican Summer League affiliate in 2014.

Bryan Verbitsky is the highest draft pick on the Tincaps staff. He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft, out of Hofstra University. He spent most of last season in short-season ball, where he posted a 1.67 ERA in 23 games for the Eugene Emeralds.
Catchers: Miguel Del Castillo, Jose Ruiz

Analysis: Del Castillo, 23, has been in the Padres organization since 2009, since being signed out of the Dominican Republic. Del Castillo has played in 630 games in the minors, and has a career slash line of .230/.319/.294, with two home runs.
Ruiz, 20, hails from Venezuela. Last season he played in Eugene and hit just .191 in 55 games.
Infielders: 3B Felipe Blanco, SS Franchy Cordero, 1B Duanel Jones, 1B Trae Santos, SS Josh VanMeter

Analysis: This group features some intriguing names, headlined by Cordero. Cordero is the #8 ranked prospect in the Padres system, according to
Cordero, 20, started with Fort Wayne last season, and got off to a miserable start. He just .188 in 22 games, in addition to making 18 errors, good for a .793 fielding percentage. Cordero played much better after a demotion to Eugene, where he posted a .279/.329/.458 slash line, with nine homers in 61 games.

Jones, 21, has actually spent the last two seasons at High-A Lake Elsinore. He played in 113 games for Fort Wayne way back in 2012. Jones hit .234 with 10 homers last season.

VanMeter, 20, was with Fort Wayne last season. He was the Padres’ 5th round pick in the 2013 draft, and ranks as the Padres’ 30th best prospect, according to He hit .254 in 116 games last season.

Outfielders: Henry Charles, Michael Gettys, Edwin Moreno, Franmil Reyes, Nick Torres.
Gettys is the headlining name in this group, although Franmil Reyes is an intriguing name as well.
Gettys, the 6th best prospect in the Padres’ system, according to, will be making his full season debut. Gettys, 19, was the Padres second round pick in last year’s draft. Gettys hit .310 in his professional debut.

Franmil Reyes, 19, is the one of the largest humans in the Padres farm system. At 6’5 and 240lbs, he certainly packs power potential. He spent all of last year in Fort Wayne and hit 10 home runs, certainly holding his own against players much older than him. He also could see some playing time at first base.

Nick Torres, 21, was the Padres’ 4th round pick last year. He hit .253 with Eugene in his professional debut.

Monday, April 6, 2015

San Diego Padres 2015 Season Preview and Prediction

Optimism is at an all-time high in San Diego, as the hometown Padres begin their 2015 season. A record crowd of 23,472 attended Fanfest this past weekend to “meet” this year’s squad. There has not been a buzz this resounding in San Diego since the magical season of 1998, when San Diego won the pennant.
San Diego has been the most talked about team this off-season in the blogosphere, in newspapers and on MLB Network. The Padres are a team that has national intrigue and on paper, they should be pretty darn good. Here is how the Padres will stack up in 2015:

Starting Pitching: Last season, the Padres finished 2nd in the National League with a 3.27 ERA and their adjusted ballpark ERA of 103 finished 4th. Some of the pitching success can be attributed to spacious Petco Park, however, the talent that San Diego’s staff cannot be undervalued.

As good as the Padres staff was last year, the pitching staff is better and more complete than it was in 2014.
San Diego dipped their toes into the free agent water, as they signed former Rays and Royals ace James Shields to a four-year, $75 million contract to become the new ace. Last season Shields went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA in 226 innings. He led the Royals to their first playoff appearance since 1985. Shields brings durability and a veteran presence at the top of San Diego’s rotation.

From there, the Padres will go with Tyson Ross as their #2 starter. Last season, Ross was the Padres’ best pitcher, as he made his first All-Star appearance. Ross finished the year with a 13-14 record, but with a 2.81 ERA. Ross made 31 starts in his first full season as a starter in San Diego, and will surely look to build on his success in 2015.

Last year’s opening day starter, Andrew Cashner, is penciled in at the third spot in the rotation. The key for Cashner will be health; Cashner started just 19 games last season, missing time with elbow and shoulder injuries. When healthy, Cashner can be a dominant starter. Last season, Cashner pitched to a 2.55 ERA in 123.1 innings.

The fourth spot in the rotation will be occupied by Ian Kennedy, a man who led San Diego in strikeouts and innings last season. Kennedy pitched to a solid 3.63 ERA and struck out 207 batters. Kennedy is a free agent after the 2015 season, and a big year will put him in line for a huge contract.
Brandon Morrow, a free agent signing from Toronto will be the fifth starter to begin 2015. Morrow had a 2.91 ERA for Toronto in 2012, but injuries have limited Morrow to a combined 16 starts the last two seasons. He throws hard, and if healthy, will be an excellent fifth starter.

Bullpen: San Diego already had a deep bullpen before pulling the trigger on a blockbuster trade on Easter Sunday. The Padres acquired Craig Kimbrel, arguably the game’s best closer from Atlanta, in exchange for Cameron MaybinCarlos Quentin, top pitching prospect Matt Wisler, the 41st pick in the 2015 draft and minor league outfielder Jordan Paroubeck. San Diego also received outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. in the deal.
Kimbrel is just 26, and has led the National League in saves the last four seasons. The four-time All-Star is also looking to become the first closer in baseball history to save 40 games in five consecutive seasons. Kimbrel gives San Diego the best bullpen in the National League.

The addition of Kimbrel bumps Joaquin Benoit back to a setup role. There have been concerns about Benoit’s velocity this spring, but even at the age of 37, he is still an elite setup man. Last season Benoit had a 1.49 ERA with 11 saves. He should man the 8th inning.

From there, San Diego will have Dale ThayerNick VincentShawn Kelley and lefty Frank Garces in the middle innings. Vincent threw well after a disabled list stint and Thayer and Kelley are veterans who can miss bats. Garces, who made his big league debut last season, becomes the left-handed specialist after the trade of Alex Torres.

Odrisamer Despaigne will be the longman to start the year, but he could transition to the rotation if a Padres starter has an injury. Despaigne threw well last year and should thrive in the swingman role.
In the minors, the Padres will have Brandon Maurer and Kevin Quackenbush, two solid relievers who would make most bullpens. To say that the Padres have depth in the bullpen is an understatement.

Lineup: San Diego’s offensive struggles were well-documented last season. The swinging (and often missing) Friars finished last in the National League in runs (535), batting average (.226), on-base percentage (.292), and slugging percentage (.342). To say the Padres offensive was bad is an understatement: it was pathetic.
Insert A.J. Preller, San Diego’s new “Rockstar GM.” Preller started the off-season by acquiring Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers. From there, he added Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks. On paper, the Padres look like a powerful squad.

The plan is to have new centerfielder Wil Myers to lead off. Myers possesses tremendous power from the right side, although Myers had a .294 on-base percentage last year. Myers could be an intriguing fit in the leadoff hole if he can replicate the success of his rookie season.

Kemp and Upton give the Padres one of the best 1-2 power punches in the National League. Both players possess the ability to hit 30 homers. Upton drove in 102 runs last season and Kemp had a torrid second half. Both players will need to produce for San Diego to improve.

The rest of the lineup will be dependent on players coming back from injuries and ineffectiveness. Wil Middlebrooks had an excellent spring, but has looked lost the last two seasons. Jedd Gyorko had one of the worst offensive seasons in recent memory in 2014. He did hit 23 homers in his rookie season, so the promise remains. First baseman Yonder Alonso is in a put-up or shut-up season. Another injury or poor start could lead to Tommy Medica or even Yangervis Solarte stealing playing time for him.

Derek Norris cooled off after a hot start in Oakland last season, but he can still be a solid contributor behind the dish. Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes will share the shortstop job to start 2015. Neither player brings much to the table in the way of offensive upside.

Bench: The Padres will open the season with a bench of infielder/outfielder Alexi Amarista, infielder Cory Spangenberg, infielder Yangervis Solarte, outfielder Will Venable and backup catcher Wil Nieves. Solarte was solid for the Padres a year ago and Amarista is a fine utility player who played tremendously well at shortstop down the stretch.

Venable is an excellent fourth outfielder, as he is left-handed, runs well and possesses power and the ability to play all three outfield positions. Spangenberg can play all over the field and hit well last season in a brief cameo. He will likely go back to Triple-A when Melvin Upton Jr. is activated from the disabled list.
Nieves will be the backup for now, but it would not be a surprise for the Padres to pursue another catcher outside of the organization. Nieves is 37 and has no offensive upside. His value will come in the way of veteran leadership and his handling of the pitching staff.

Final outlook: The Padres are vastly improved, but remain flawed. The team needs bounce-back years from several players and does not have a true leadoff hitter. The club is also expecting Wil Myers to play regularly in center field; something he has never done in the big leagues. The everyday lineup is also very heavily right-handed, although the bench will feature as many as four left-handed hitters.

That being said, San Diego has the deepest 12-man pitching staff in the National League. Top to bottom, there is no deeper staff. The offense should be improved as well. This year could be very fun in San Diego.
Prediction: 91-71, second in the NL West. Wild Card winner

Monday, February 9, 2015

Padres Plan Pursuit Of Yoan Moncada

After reeling in James Shields Sunday night, the Padres have not ended their pursuit of high-priced talent. The San Diego Padres have begun to pursue talented Cuban amateur infielder Yoan Moncada, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. The Padres had a private workout set for Monday afternoon with the 19-year-old budding superstar.

Moncada is one of the most exciting prospects to ever hit the international market. He has a rare combination of youth, speed and power. While Moncada might not be big league ready after signing, many experts would rank him among the most talented prospects in the game.

The Padres have traded 12 players from their farm system this off-season and they also forfeited their 1st rounder (13th overall) when they signed James Shields, so the Padres have extra incentive to add Moncada. The bidding is sure to get expensive, with many predicting Moncada could receive as much as a $40 million bonus.

Ben Badler of Baseball America compared Moncada to Yasiel Puig and Robinson Cano. He has plus-speed, plus power and is expected to be solid defensively, although many scouts don’t believe he can handle shortstop. A move to 2nd base or the outfield might be in the future. He is a switch-hitter and has an above-average arm.

San Diego will have to be ultra-aggressive in their pursuit of the talented Cuban. The Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees are all interested in Moncada’s services. The bidding could ultimately involve as many as a dozen teams.

It is hard to say who the preliminary ‘favorite’ is to sign Moncada, but the Padres have proven that they are not shy about spending money. However, they will have to outbid several of baseball’s biggest spenders to land Moncada.