Padres need another Jake Peavy in starting staff

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July 31, 2009, stands out as a day that will live in infamy in the history of the San Diego Padres.

On that fateful day, the Padres sent the team’s passionate ace and certified fan favorite, Jake Peavy, to the Chicago White Sox.

Earlier in the year, Peavy had vetoed a trade to the Windy City. At that time, the Padres had a .500 record, and he wanted to stay with the team that had chosen him. But by the trade deadline the team’s record had fallen to 42-62—no-hope territory–so Peavy agreed to move on.

Peavy had been napping with one of his sons when the news broke. Darren Smith of the Mighty 1090 at the time, interviewed the star pitcher as the news sunk in, and both men lamented the turn of events that would send the Padres’ 1999 draft pick out of town.  Thanks to a messy divorce, owner John Moores needed to save money. Offloading Peavy’s contract would help him reach his goal. By Moores’ reckoning, the team needed to shed over $50 million, and the $52 million owed to Peavy through the 2012 season helped immensely. Of course, now that number pales in contrast to the hefty salaries of top-flight pitchers.

Earlier this year AJ Cassavell of celebrated the “Padres’ 5 best homegrown Draft picks,” and Peavy made the list. Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn, led the pack with Dave Winfield second, Peavy third, Randy Jones fourth, and Khalil Greene fifth. Unfortunately, only Gwynn became a Padre for life.

Drafted by Kevin Towers, Peavy made his debut in June 2002 at the age of 21. He lasted 15 years in the major leagues and won the National League Cy Young award in 2007. In Padres history only three other pitchers have received that award, all coming before Peavy–Randy Jones in 1976, Gaylord Perry in 1978, and Mark Davis in 1989. It’s been 14 long years since the Padres have celebrated a Cy Young award.

In return for Peavy, the Padres received four pitchers: Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell, Dexter Carter. The latter never made it past AA ball, and only Richard had much of a role in San Diego. Over a total of eight years, Clayton Richard had a 58-68 record with a 4.51 ERA, 1.429 WHIP, and 1.1WAR. In Peavy’s eight years in San Diego, he had a record of 92-68, an ERA of 3.29, and 24.6 WAR. Over his career, Peavy compiled a 152-126 record, 3.63 ERA 1.196 WHIP, and 39.2 WAR

In 2002, Peavy began his big-league career at the age of 21 with unspectacular results. He appeared in 17 games, went 6-7 with an ERA of 4.52, ERA+ 83. But the following year he began to show his promise pitching in 32 games with a record of 12-11. In 2004 he upped the ante with a 15-6 record, 2.37 ERA 171 ERA+. His career-best came in 2007–19-6, 2.54 ERA 158 ERA+.

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During his tenure in San Diego, Peavy received three All-Star-Game invitations. In fact, in 2007 was chosen as National League All-Star starting pitcher. He was awarded the 2004 National League pitching title in 2004. In 2007 Peavy won a trifecta: the pitching title, triple crown, and Cy Young awards for the National League. Over his career, Peavy also contributed to two World Series championships, won two NL ERA championships, and led the league in strikeouts in 2005 and 2007. His 15-year career included five years in Chicago, three years in San Francisco, and two years in Boston.

During his time in San Diego, Peavy and Tim Flannery became friends. Flannery, whose first full major league season dated back to 1982, had become a fan favorite, not because of out-of-this-world talent, but because he loved the game and played like his hair was on fire. After his career on the field ended, he became a broadcaster, a coach, and a musician in a group he called the Lunatic Fringe. Thanks to Flannery, Peavy took up the guitar and even joined the band on stage for several benefit conferences. During his time in San Francisco, he became friends with members of the Grateful Dead. Later he said that music makes him feel closer to God.

A native of a small town in Alabama, Peavy has become involved in the music scene in Mobile. In September of this year, he told Caine O’Rear of  “MobileBay,” (a local magazine and e-newsletter) that he hopes through music to break down racial and economic barriers and to create a “melting pot where blues, rock, country, and hip-hop feed off one another with a synthesis like no other place in America.”

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For a decade and a half, Jake Peavy proved his worth as one of the best starting pitchers in Major League Baseball. During Peavy’s tenure in San Diego, the Padres boasted rotations that included Greg Maddux and Chris Young. However, after his departure, the pitching situation has been rather pedestrian—until this year when A.J. Preller, now president of baseball operations and general manager, added Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, and Blake Snell.  We all know how that turned out, but there’s always next year…

Obviously, the front office will work to improve the pitching situation in the off-season. However, finding another Jake Peavy–a home-grown, passionate, and talented bulldog of a starting pitcher—will be a tall order.

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