Thursday, January 17, 2013

Andy Benes? More like Andy Bestest!

One of the great things about sports are the moments that become a part of not only the communal timeline, but our own. All of San Diego will remember where they were when the Padres claimed both of their pennants, or the day Dennis Gibson knocked down that Neil O'Donnell pass to send the Chargers to the Super Bowl, but only you will know what it means and how it's a part of your personal story.

On the other hand, there are the memories that are 100% ours. Maybe you met Jake Peavy at an autograph signing at a Chevy Dealership, or you spotted (then harassed) Tony Gwynn & family at a Sockers game. Or maybe you finally caught a foul ball at a game. Never mind that it was hit by Terrence Long, you finally have yourself that ball you'd been longing after.

For me, that moment came during batting practice during what I would have to guess was the 1991 season. I'm sure I'm not alone here, but I was the kid who had to get to each game early and watch batting practice. The obsession then became securing a foul or home run ball. It was elusive as could be, as I seemed to emit some sort of energy that kept baseballs out of my general area. I kept at it, though. Brought my glove, got there early, and awaited my opportunity to score the prize of a lifetime*.

Benito Santiago entered the cage. No doubt about it, that stance was unmistakable. I don't remember if it was the first or tenth pitch, but it came off the bat fast. It took a moment for me to realize it, but that ball was headed right for me! Holy shit!

This was it. All of the practices, seasons, tournaments were mere preparation for this very moment. My time had come and oh my god, it's in my glove! WAIT, NO! WHATTHEFUGOTTOBEKIDDINGME!? 

Body checked. By a middle-aged man shagging BP balls; you know the type. It was in my glove, and he tried to steal it from me. Now, it's laying on the Jack Murphy Stadium field, between the wall and the outfield fence. No-man's land. A cruel joke perpetuated by the baseball gods in the form of a guy we'll call Darrell. Nothing against Darrells, but he looked like a Darrell. Fuck you, Darrell.

It is said that it's darkest before the dawn...and just as it seemed all hope was lost, a hero emerged. His name is Andy Benes. He mounted his white horse, tossed his hair about, and rode to the rescue of this young man. Where he could have easily tossed me any old ball, he set about to retrieve the ball that was lost. Darrell was determined to try and get that ball, but Andy told that guy to take a hike and made sure I got the ball that was rightfully mine.

A small gesture, but one that meant the world to this young fan. You're a good guy, Andy Benes.

* - I ended up using the ball to play baseball with friends. Relentlessly. Hey, it was a REAL MAJOR LEAGUE BALL. Well, National League ball. They still had separate balls, back then.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An Open Letter To Our Readers, Padres Style

Dear Vocal Minority Reader(s),

It's come to my attention that we haven't written anything on this blog since the end of the 2012 baseball season. I am writing you tonight to ease your possible concerns that we haven't been trying to improve the blog. I've certainly thought about the Padres in the offseason. I've written hundreds of tweets (@The_NV), posted quite a bit on Padres forums, and I've even actively but unsuccessfully sought to write blog posts a few times. I know, none of that helps you, the reader, and yes it's true that I haven't gotten anything done, but I don't feel bad, and this isn't an apology. This isn't even going to be a full length blog post. None of that is necessary. I feel great about the state of this blog heading into the 2013 season!

Where David and I stand right now, I think we have 7-8 blog ideas we could throw out there, and any of them would be fine. They may not be the best blog ideas out there. Other team's blogs may have several ideas much better than ours, but we still feel good about ours. We're not looking for any more ideas that aren't any better than what we have right now. If we do write anything else before the spring training starts, it's going to have to be an upgrade from the ideas that we have right now, but chances are that won't happen. We'll definitely have some much better ideas coming up at some point in the middle of the season, so you have that to look forward to.

So yeah, thanks for all your support in 2012 and here's to a great 2013! I'm sure Tom has a fence update to hold you over. Tom? You do? Great, thanks!



Monday, September 24, 2012

Keeping The Faith

It's Monday night. TV is bad on Mondays. The only show I'm watching right now on Mondays is Revolution, and I'm not at all excited about that after the pilot. Monday Night Football? Maybe with the sound off. So here I am, looking for something to do, and I noticed that the Padres were one Cardinals win away from being completely eliminated from the playoffs, and they play tonight while the Padres have the night off for the last time this season, so I thought I'd write something.

The Padres' elimination number isn't the only thing that I noticed today. I was off work and not wanting to clean, so I did something I don't normally do and read the latest post from Dex over at Gaslamp Ball. I guess it was the last in his 2012 series on how to enjoy being a Padres fan, or something like that. Lo and behold, part of that post drew my particular attention:
All's I'm saying is that in the grand scheme of things, the Padres are doing pretty well. Sure, there are haters out there who will point out all the random stuff that's wrong with the Padres and the cable deal and all that, but let's be honest. Those guys are idiots. Don't listen to them. They don't actually live in San Diego and probably cry when they masturbate.

Hey, I think that guy is talking about me! Obviously he doesn't know me very well though. Other than in dealing with a recent serious family medical issue, I'm generally pretty stoic and nearly dead inside, no matter my activity, although I make other exceptions for when I watch movies like Field of Dreams, The Notebook, or Dear Zachary (oh man, that one is a crusher).

Here's the thing, and the reason why I'm writing this tonight: I agree with Dex. The Padres have been doing pretty well for some time, and there's a lot to like about the team they've been putting out on the field the past few months, especially from an offensive standpoint. The pitching? Well, that's a work in progress, for sure.

It's September 24th and the Padres are just now being eliminated from playoff contention. Even with the new 2 wild card format, nobody could have thought that possible on June 1st. The Padres have made great strides as this season has gone along, boosted by a strong rookie performance by Yasmani Grandal and a career year from Chase Headley that has been an absolute joy to watch, especially for people who already loved the guy like you know I do. The offense has been quite good, especially when adjusted for park factor, and even a below average hitter like Everth Cabrera has been exciting to watch on the base paths.

Yes, I question the sustainability of this success. Yes, I'm wary of another offseason with Josh Byrnes calling the shots. Yes, I think the fact that over 40% of San Diegans still can't watch the games on TV is ridiculous. The Chargers being blacked out for one game seems to have gotten more attention than a whole season's worth of this Fox Sports SD debacle. But there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic:

  • Chase Headley - even allowing for some regression, with the adjustments he's made to his swing, approach, and ability to maintain his weight in-season, it appears that to go along with his strong defense and OBP, Headley is entering the prime of his career with a real power boost that I think should be sustainable in the 20+ home run range. Padres fans (who still use these stats as their benchmarks) have longed for a .280/20/80 guy at that position. Well now you have a .281/29/108 guy who should add on to that in the last 9 games. Be excited. Beg Josh Byrnes and Tom Garfinkel to lock him up.
  • Yasmani Grandal - Yonder Alonso was the most MLB-ready prospect obtained in the Mat Latos trade, but Yasmani was the best prospect, and he has shown exactly why. His WAR-rate has actually been better than Headley's. Can he keep it up next year? Will he regress or is he an all-star? I don't know, but I'm looking forward to finding out, and with Nick Hundley's troubles seemingly being able to be traced to his meniscus injury, the Padres catching situation should be really solid next season
  • Money to Spend - the Padres have been said to be looking to target multiple outfielders and multiple starting pitchers this offseason. Even if you don't trust the GM, that's exciting. I've got a wish list that includes BJ Upton, Anibal Sanchez, and Edwin Jackson. Your wish list may differ. It's fun to debate who the best options are and which ones might actually sign with the Padres.
  • Even the Fox Sports SD situation seems to be looking up. There are rumors that DirecTV will add the channel in its entirety at some point in this offseason (so you can watch reruns of the Giants' playoff clinching celebration, and not just have to suffer through it live), and grumblings that AT&T U-Verse will be adding the channel as well as part of a scheduled upgrade of their Fox lineup. Will Time Warner or Dish get in on it as well? Not as optimistic, but if U-Verse does, that should give San Diegans without satellite availability a legitimate option to switch providers, in what I would classify as an upgrade all-around.
So yeah, things aren't so bad, Padres fans. I agree with Dex, and I didn't even have to resort to name-calling to make my point. I will respond directly to the slap about being an out-of-towner. I was born and raised in San Diego. I left in 2006, 3 weeks before my 25th birthday, for Cleveland because I had fallen in love. I've been here for 6 years now, married for 2 1/2, and not only am I still a big fan of San Diego sports, I feel more connected to the Padres now than at any point in my life. With technological advancements, I have the ability to watch every game the Padres play on Slingbox, and because the games usually don't start here until 10pm, my day is winding down while the game is on and I don't have a lot of distractions to deal with. Not only am I a bigger Padres fan now than I was in 2006, but I use the Padres as a way to maintain my connection with my hometown. What was the first thing I did last time I flew home? Ate Mexican food. What was the next thing? Went to a Padres game with my dad, uncle, and brother, even though I'd been up since 3am local time and traveling all day. Padres fans that live elsewhere have two options; let their fandom fall away, or make a commitment to the franchise by choosing to continue to follow the team, even as distance makes it more difficult.

It's 4-1 Cardinals over the Astros in the 6th. Looks like tonight's the elimination night. But anything can happen, right? Keep the faith.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What Jerry Coleman Means To Me

Thumbs up to the Colonel!

It's Saturday, September 15, and today's the day the Padres will honor long-time radio voice Jerry Coleman prior to tonight's game. The ceremony's piece de resistance is to be the unveiling of a statue of Jerry's likeness. The much-deserved honor is an overdue one, but will allow Jerry to live forever at Petco Park. He will, however (if you'll allow me...), live in the hearts of Padres fans in perpetuity.

Being that Jerry has been broadcasting Padres baseball since before I was born (save for his stint as Padres skipper in 1980), there's certainly the element of having always been there that plays a part in my admiration. He's like a member of the family. Good or bad, (during baseball season) Jerry was always on the air to call the action. With humility and a fantastic sense of humor, Jerry pulled from his years of baseball experience to paint a beautiful picture for the listener.

Sitting in the stands as a kid, my eyes always shot to the KFMB booth after a great play. "Is Jerry going to do it?", I would wonder to myself. And sure enough, there was the giant gold star dangling from the booth. Literally, hang a star on that, baby.

Now, you have to wasn't always a clear picture that Jerry would paint for the listener. Online, he's known as the "master of the malaprop". That's what's so great about San Diego's relationship with Jerry; he wasn't always technically perfect, but his unique delivery and undeniable charm allowed us to embrace him as one of ours. Much like Rickey Henderson, Jerry Coleman quotes have taken on a life of their own. Some of them actually happened, some of them did not. Most are pretty great, though.

“Winfield goes back to the wall. He hits his head on the wall — and it rolls off! It’s rolling all the way back to second base! This is a terrible thing for the Padres.”

“Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen.”

"On the mound is Randy Jones, the left-hander with the Karl Marx hairdo."

Or, my favorite Coleman-isms, which I actually heard during a Padres/Indians game in Cleveland a few years ago. A fan kept playing a drum in the stands, which Ted and Jerry had made note of a few times. Finally, Jerry lets loose with this gem, which made Ted absolutely loose his shit. Uncontrollable laughter.

"Why doesn't that guy go home and bang something else?"

As Jerry has gotten older and Ted Leitner did a little more of the heavy lifting during broadcasts, we got the "What'd you do today, Jer?" portions of the broadcast. And, surely self-aware, Jerry would tell what should have been a generally uninteresting story about going for a walk (generally, with his beloved dog, Gus) that would have Ted and listeners rolling by the end of it. Only Jerry Coleman.

These days, it seems like Jerry calls most of his games with Andy Masur, and we've pretty much seen these segments done away with. I am a fan of Andy's work, but the chemistry just isn't the same as it is when Jerry and Ted are working together. So, it was a treat the other day when I turned on the radio, and sure enough Jerry and Ted were in the booth. At that moment, I heard those magic words - "What'd you do today, Jer?"

I wish I could tell you today what Jerry talked about, but I was so happy. And I suppose that's what it boils down to with Jerry, he makes me happy. Always has. He's an American hero, a Hall of Fame broadcaster (both National Radio Hall of Fame and a Ford C. Frick winner, giving him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame), Rookie of the Year, World Series Champion, and All-Star. To me, though, he's Jerry. He's an integral part of my baseball family....and he makes me happy.

Congratulations, Jerry. All honors are deserved, and then some. I think I speak for all Padres fans when I say that we have a deep affection for you and hope to hear you for years to come.

Here are a couple of quotes I'm partial to, as much as we love the Coleman-isms:

"Oh, Doctor! You can hang a star on that, baby! A star for the ages for Tony Gwynn! Number 3,000!"

"A one-hopper to Nettles to Wiggins, and the Padres have the National League Pennant! Oh, Doctor! You can hang a star on that, baby!"

"Here's the 1-1 pitch. It's on the way to Tucker. Drive left-center field in the air coming on quickly. Finley. He's under it. He's got it! And the Padres drape the National League flag around their shoulders for 1998! Oh, Doctor!"

Late night update:
Here are a few photographs I took at the unveiling of Jerry's statue.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Too Expensive? Don't Buy It.

Disclaimer: Yes, all I ever write about is Chase Headley. I don’t mean to, but today I read something about the Chase Headley situation that made me go on a rant on twitter (@The_NV), so here I am, several hours later, properly motivated to expound on that rant with a real thousand word blog post. So here goes nothing.
Chase Headley is getting expensive. He’s entering his third arbitration year in 2013, thanks to his super-two status in 2011, and that means he’s going to start making real money. Somewhere around $6 million next year, they say. That’s a lot of money. This is why the Padres need to trade him and start Jedd Gyorko at 3B next year. Gyorko is $5.5 million less expensive than Headley, and have you seen him crushing baseballs in Tucson? It’s impressive. He’s ready. It’s time to move on.
Wait, what?
The Padres long-awaited ownership transfer is almost over. Ron Fowler, the O’Malley/Seidler kids, Phil Mickelson, and whoever else they’ve got with them have been approved by the owners. Moores and Moorad are past history, thank God. We have about a week to go before all the money is exchanged and our new overlords will be willing to actually speak to the media and the fans about where the Padres are headed under their leadership.
What should this mean? A changing of the guard should mean a restoration of the pre-2008 direction of the Padres. Payroll’s going up, it seems. The Padres, pre-trade deadline, apparently with the approval of our new overlords, Josh Byrnes started handing out contracts. Carlos Quentin got a 3 year deal worth at least $27 million. Huston Street got a 2 year deal worth at least $14 million. Next year, they will make a combined $16.75 million. Also, reportedly, the Padres are looking at outfielders this offseason, including but not limited to Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, and BJ Upton. 
Those guys are going to make a lot of money. Hamilton and Bourn will likely make north of $15 million a year for at least 5 years. Upton won’t make as much, but signing him would still be a significant long-term investment. If the Padres are seriously considering one of these guys, then why are they seemingly so hesitant to commit to Chase Headley’s $6 million arbitration number?
If the Padres do plan to spend money this offseason, $6 million is nothing. $6 million isn’t going to prevent them from doing anything they’re already planning or hoping to do. Chase Headley is not getting expensive.  Chase Headley, given the production that should be expected from him for the next 5+ years, will likely never be expensive. If the Padres signed Chase Headley tomorrow to a $5 year, $55 million, which I think would be market value and buying high, the only time he’s ever expensive is the on the last year of a back loaded deal. Chase Headley making $13 million in 2016 isn’t expensive. $15 million in 2017 would be pretty steep, sure, but given the trajectory the franchise should be on, not going to break the bank, and in 2017 he’ll only be 33 years old. If they want to see if Chase’s 20+ home run power is sustainable before they bust out the checkbook, $6 million is a bargain. The idea that $6 million is a lot of money in Major League Baseball in 2013, for a team with new owners and a new billion-dollar TV deal, should be taken out back and shot. Anybody who says $6 million is expensive should be dismissed immediately.
But what about Jedd Gyorko? He, so many say, is ready to step right in whenever the team brings him up, whether it’s to play third or second. I watched a video of a homer he hit the other day. It was a great right-handed swing that should work pretty well in Petco. I’m in. Let’s do it. Let’s put him at second base, sign an outfielder, bring up our young starters who are healthy and put this baby into overdrive for 2013!
What Jedd Gyorko shouldn’t do is push Chase Headley off his bag and out of town. Gyorko is not a great defender, at third or second, and almost all his value will be in his offense, playing half his games in an extreme pitcher’s park he’ll have to adjust to or work around, against much better pitching than he’s faced thus far in his short professional career. Not even Chase Headley was allowed to push the starter off his bag when he arrived in San Diego, and he was a much higher ranked prospect than Gyorko currently is. He’s not Jurickson Profar by any means. Profar is a phenom, one of the 5 best prospects in baseball. Gyorko is a consensus borderline top 50 prospect. That’s good, but it’s not “push your best player out of town” good.
And that brings me to my final point: Chase Headley is the best player on the Padres. He is the team MVP for 2012. He’s homegrown, a clubhouse leader, and no matter what stats you value most, and he’s the best the Padres have to offer. He is, in a lot of ways, like Adrian Gonzalez before the 2010 season. One of the ways he’s not like Adrian is that he won’t make anywhere near $20+ million a year when he eventually signs a long-term deal somewhere. If the new owners want to signal a changing of the guard, to show the fans that brighter days are ahead, isn’t extending your best player the best way to do so? Wouldn’t trading your best player send the opposite signal, that these new owners bring the status quo to San Diego, the inability to commit to competing on a regular basis? Phil Mickelson wants to change the culture of the Padres and the community? Wouldn’t the best way to make that commitment to the fans (other than getting the team on TV throughout the county) be making a commitment to the team’s best player?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No Deal

I don't have a lot to say. I didn't want Chase Headley traded. He wasn't traded. This is good.

I don't know how long Chase will be a Padre. I hope for many years to come.

I'm not going to pretend to know what the front office's plan for the team is going forward. I don't even know who the front office is going to be going forward.

I'm happy to still have Chase Headley. I think he's better than Jedd Gyorko. I hope he's extended. I hope Gyorko can either play second base or get the Padres something valuable in trade. I don't know what's going to happen.

I would like to see the Padres try to compete in 2013, or at least build towards competing in 2014. I think that is probably the plan. I don't know. If they are going to try, they're going to have to make some serious moves and add a significant amount of payroll in the offseason. We'll see what happens.

Tonight I'm going to drink a beer and watch Chase Headley hit 3rd for the Padres, and be thankful he's still on the team.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Oh, Dog!: The Padres Brewing Project

Some months back, I was thinking about some sort of gimmick for this blog. Aside from writing angry, rambling horse shit posts that nobody actually reads, of course. Rather, let's refer to this as "recurring subject matter" as opposed to a gimmick. Anyway, follow my logic to loosely connect some of my passions:

  1. I love the San Diego Padres.
  2. I love beer.
  3. I love brewing beer.
  4. I hate blue uniforms.
  5. I love brown uniforms. Brown is the only acceptable color for the San Diego Padres.
  6. I should brew a brown ale dedicated to the Padres.
  7. I am not particularly fond of most brown ales.
  8. I should brew Padres-themed brown ales in various styles. As a challenge to myself as a brewer and a beer drinker.
  9. I should blog about it.
  10. Why not?
So, with that I decided to brew brown ales in an attempt to find one that I might enjoy. I won't necessarily attempt to make a standard brown ale, but rather I would take inspiration from Padres past and present and brew a style (very) loosely-related to the player. The first beer I came up with was a saison. 

Saison is a style of beer hailing from the Wallonia region of Belgium, originally brewed in the farmhouses of the region (hence the "farmhouse" ale label). It was originally light, refreshing, and low-ABV, as the beer was intended to be consumed through hot summer days by farm workers. Some of my favorite modern examples of this would be Ommegang's Hennepin, The Lost Abbey's Carnevale, Saison DuPont, Stone/Victory/Dogfish Head's Saison du BUFF, and Boulevard's Tank 7. It's a style of beer one might enjoy on a warm, Saturday afternoon whilst mowing their lawn. Drawing on the inspiration of a lawn mowing phenomenon, I present to you "Oh, Dog!"


Now, it's worth noting that Orlando Hudson was still a member of the Padres when I brewed this beer. The name was a funny, relevant reference at the time. Relevant, anyway. With your assistance and imagination, it could still be. Help a guy out!

The thing I love about saison is that it's a very malleable style. If a beer was going to shoot the shit with anyone and everyone they come across, I would argue that it would be saison. Not that imagination doesn't allow you to approach any beer as a blank canvas of sorts (and, certainly, this project is built entirely upon this premise), but I feel with saison it is particularly so. While it's normally a pale style beer, I didn't think it would be too thrown off if I attempted a brown saison. As it turns out, it worked! Very typical saison flavor here, light, refreshing, spicy, fruity, with a dry (and slightly caramel, in this instance!) finish. The nutty flavor you wouldn't normally find in this style actually blends in quite well, as it's pretty subtle. And at 5.8% ABV, it's totally ready for the ballpark!

I only bottled half of this batch of beer. The rest, I have set aside and infected. "WHAT?", you may ask. By that, I basically mean I added wild yeast and bacteria to the beer in order to "sour" it. So, we'll see how the process changes this beer. I'm using previously-infected oak from a lambic I made a couple of years ago. It's already yielded great results in the past, so this should be fun.

Next beer? I have ideas, but I'm also open to suggestions. Also, if you're a home brewer, I'm more than willing to share any of these recipes with you. Drop a line in the comments section, and I'll get on it.