In this day and age of modern baseball, with its infield shifts and advanced baseball statistics, what is the philosophy of the San Diego Padres? A team that has struggled for an identity organizationally since probably its formation in 1969. They seem to be in limbo after an off-season where there was much over-haul on the existing roster.
Being a huge baseball fan I cannot tell you the respect I have for the St. Louis Cardinals organization. The Cardinals have gone through many changes, but yet their philosophy remains consistent and they continually win ball games.
Cardinal fans are very widely known to be knowledgeable and respectful of the game. If an opposing player makes a great play, they will commonly give him a round of applause. That type of respect for the game transcends time. In case you have not noticed, a baseball game or season can swing one way or another in a heartbeat. Baseball is commonly refereed to as the game of inches and nothing could be more true. Emotions on the field during a game and especially during a season can sway one way or another very easily.
By having respect for the team you are playing, the breaks will generally go your way. I really do believe that. Call them the baseball gods or whatever, but if you play the game the correct way, your team will be rewarded. Cardinal fans show that respect and the team plays the game the correct way. You will not see Cardinal players flip a bat during a home run, nor will you see pitchers mouth off to batters. The team and its players are taught very early on to respect the game.
At the same time if a player is thrown at or disrespected the pitching staff handles the situation by clearly sending a message. (I.E. hitting a batter or brushing him back off the mound with authority.) That is the way the game is played, it has been played that way for generations and it will always be played that way. Or at least it should be.
With all that being said, what happened in Atlanta regarding Derek Norris getting taken out at home plate, and both Matt Kemp and Justin Upton getting hit by pitch, was atrocious. I by no means advocate throwing at another player to hurt anyone, but not to retaliate for any of those plays was ridiculous. Tyson Ross attempted to hit Andrelton Simmons the day after, but he missed and allowed a runner to advance in the process. The same base runner later scored on a Simmons single. Not exactly an intimidating message sent to the Braves.
Let us review the whole mess. Norris was slid into by Simmons when he clearly did not have to. In my opinion, the slide was bad, but it wasn’t horrible. The call should have been safe though, as the rule clearly states the catcher must leave a lane for the runner. Simmons had the lane, and chose to make contact with Norris. If you want to protect the catcher, this rule needs to be enforced correctly. A glancing blow off the catchers knees or arm can be just as damaging as a direct take out slide like we used to see in the days of Pete Rose.
The slide was bad, but I prefer the game played with intensity and have no issues with some rough play every once in a while. In my opinion the game has gotten too soft on the base paths. With that being said, the Padres handled it correctly by not doing anything until the next game. Throwing at Simmons was intentional and its unfortunate that Ross missed. Oh well, he missed, pitchers do that. The whole incident should have been over despite the single Simmons hit off Ross later in the at bat. Ross showed the Braves that the slide was uncalled for and a clear message was sent
When Justin Upton was hit later in the game, the Braves took things to a whole new level. I don’t know if they were attempting to protect Adrelton Simmons, but there was no grounds for throwing at Upton if that was the case. The pitch didn’t look all that intentional, but at the same time Upton was upset. When your star players feel they were thrown at, the pitching staff must protect them. A team is a family and if a player feels disrespected, the whole team must step up.
I am not sure if Upton felt thrown at, perhaps he felt it wasn’t intentional and was just upset with not getting a chance to hit. The whole situation might have been dead at that point. The Padres clearly didn’t get the best of the confrontation, and clearly didn’t send a message to the other team, but the team ran by manager Bud Black is a calm collective group. It takes a lot for them to get riled up.
The next day Matt Kemp was hit with a 1-2 pitch. Again not very clear if the hit by pitch was intentional but Kemp was clearly perturbed by the fastball up and in. The benches cleared with hardly any pushing and shoving. One would think a Braves hitter would have to be plunked to even this whole mess out. But nothing. The Padres rallied to win the game and it was a huge win, but did they win the mental game with the Braves?
Andrew Cashner had a chance to send a message to the Braves but he chose not to. He has had a hard season thus far and probably did not want to get caught up in all the drama. Still as an organization, you need to stand up for yourselves. At some point you must show other teams that you are not a team to be pushed around. Again, I don’t advocate hurting anyone, but the game has these unwritten rules that somehow the Padres are not following.
If Bob Gibson or Nolan Ryan were on the mound and they felt one of their players was getting thrown at, what would they do? You tell me. Both pitchers would have no qualm about drilling a batter and more often than not, the player would take it and go to first base. You see as an opposing team, sometimes you know when you are going to get hit. You understand that, and you take your base with nothing but respect for the team that hit you.
The Braves on Thursday had to be waiting for someone to get hit. Nobody was, and the team in my estimation lost some respect for the Padres. The two teams do not play again until August so perhaps the Padres can find some organizational philosophy and come together as a team. We just have to wait and see.
Major League Baseball is 100 percent a mental game and I fear the Padres team has lost some of its mental edge with all the additions. The turnover this past off-season was tremendous, and it’s probably wise to remain cautious with this group. In order to gain a new organizational philosophy the Padres need to start from the ground up. It is really something that takes time to develop.
Padres minor leaguers need to be taught how to play the game the “Padres” way. That way must be enforced and shown on the field with its Major League squad. This will take time, it will take years to establish this time of mentality. There really is no time to start like the present. In Atlanta on Thursday a new image could have been created by the Padres. With a fierce new image, other teams will view the Padres with more respect.
In 1984 the Braves and Padres got into a huge brawl in Atlanta. Fueled by Pascual Perez, the Padres and Braves got into numerous fights on many different times during the game. The Padres prior to that were viewed as a soft team, and in my estimation that brawl brought team unity and at the same time other teams knew they could not push around the Padres. That 1984 team went all the way to the World Series before losing to the Detroit Tigers.
Before the 1998 season the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres got into a brawl when Sterling Hitchcock hit Larry Walker. The game was in the spring, days before the season was to start, but that type of unity propelled the Padres to a 19-7 record in the month of April and another World Series appearance.
Now always Padres fans will compare every present team to these two particular squads. That is only natural, those two teams showed a lot of passion and had one thing in common. If you disrespected any player on either team, you will be held accountable. That type of attitude can only be brought by the players. Sometimes they need to take control of the situation.
This present team is a conglomeration of many personalities from many different organizations originally. Again it will take time for their personalities to mesh. Hopefully for Padres fans sake the team can unite before the July 31st trade deadline. There are too many pending free agents for the Padres to let walk. Justin Upton in particular might have priced himself out of a Padres uniform. Does the team want a draft pick for his departure or will they attempt to parlay him into a few key pieces for the future. A lot has to do with the next month and a half of play on the field.
For now the Padres must develop an aura about their play and generate a feeling of pride within the organization. With the dawning of a new general manager and a new ownership group I hope that they take in account the thought process of the team. You cannot just wish for a world-class competitive team, you have to work for it.