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Padres Still Have Questions to Answer

Remember being a kid? Back when you would find something so simple, yet it would fascinate
you to the point where you’d ask more questions than your average ATM does in a day? Well
that’s what’s it’s been like for me this season – question after question after question about the
San Diego Padres.

The inquiries began early this season with me wondering, “Where will Adrian Gonzalez be
traded to?” Soon after it was, “How did they end up with the NL West lead?” Followed by, “How
are they going to hold the NL West lead?” Then, “How long will they hold the NL West lead?”
Throw in the periodical, “So this is for real?” Then more recently I asked, “Will Gonzalez be
traded?” With that answered this past week, following the removal of Gonzalez from the trade
market, I am now onto the question, “If the Padres don’t get another bat, can they be a serious
contender?”

Ten years ago, asking that question would have been like asking if a three legged horse named
Tripod would need a fourth leg to win the Kentucky Derby. But things have changed in ten
years.

In the 2000 season, the league averaged a .270 batting average, 1.14 home runs and 5.14
runs per team, per game. That home run ratio is the highest major league average in the history
of baseball, and 5.14 runs scored per team well surpasses the 4.45 average for this season.
The .270 batting average from the 2000 season is tied for the second highest since 1939,
before the start of baseball’s golden years, beginning around 1945. This season’s major league
batting average is .260, which at this rate would translate to 55 fewer hits per team this season.

Only five of San Diego’s players have recorded more than 55 hits so far this season.

That’s a lot of numbers, but basically it points out the end of the steroid era. No more will we
see players triple their home run totals and helmet sizes in the same season. The fact is you can’t
win with good hitting and just mediocre pitching. But can you win with good pitching and only
mediocre hitting? Well, yes, but very few teams have done it, especially in the modern era. It’s
not easy, just ask the 1991 Atlanta Braves, who lost game 7 of the World Series 1-0 despite
John Smoltz’s gem of a game.

But I think the Padres have a pretty good shot this season for a few reasons…

1. They currently lead the NL West and have the best record in the National League. If
they were to end the regular season today, the Padres would have home field advantage
throughout the playoffs, also due in part to the National League’s All-Star game win. I
know home-field advantage isn’t supposed to matter in baseball, but you can’t tell me
a team with the makeup of the Padres wouldn’t prefer Petco Park, a notorious pitcher’s
park. This team was made for Petco Park and it’s San Diego’s best route to the World
Series.

2. They just seem to win. I shouldn’t have to elaborate too much here. In a game
more dedicated to statistics than any other, the wins column will always be the most
important stat each season. The Padres may not lead in many statistical categories,
but they still manage to get the job done. And don’t kid yourself – that’s important.

3. The Padres will put themselves in a good position to win almost every night. I’m not
saying they’ll win every night, but they’ll have a chance, and in the playoffs, that’s all you
can ask for.

4. I still expect the Padres to go out and make a trade before the July 31 trade deadline.
The Padres do need another hitter and General Manager Jed Hoyer has gone on record
saying the team wants to be buyers this offseason. One more bat should make the
Padres serious contenders for the National League pennant.

5. Adrian Gonzalez and the team have a different attitude in the club house this season. In
the past the team has been happy to make the playoffs, according to a recent article in
the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I wouldn’t let the team be happy with just getting in,” he
said. “And there are a lot of us in here that feel the same way.”

It all reminds me of something Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan once said: “One of the
beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation
where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something.” The
next question is, when San Diego arrives at that situation, will they prove something?

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