Taco Train Update: The Midway Report

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Report from the Train. Premature rumors of the death of the Taco Train are false. Full stop. False alarms, ring merry bells of spring in the taking. True. Wounded Knee at home plate, just because a man can turn around the young bats of the Phillies doesn’t mean it’ll take hold out West in the bat of an eye. Well, what can we say. The illusions of the Taco Train might as well be the next election, and that ain’t until after the season anyway.

First, and let’s get this out-of-the-way pronto: to what other MLB team would they send on a 17 out of 19 gala-vant across the country without the corresponding reason some stadium congestion and/or general Olympian-sized nature event? I mean, WTF? 17 out of 19? For no other reason besides it was inconvenient for the schedule makers to figure out another way? Total horse-sh__, pardon or don’t pardon my half-spoken French. By the end of the triple digit heat index days in Texas the Padres looked like punch-drunk saxophone chaperone-less sailors after a night out in Bangkok, only without the good times of the speak easys or the soft summer nights of the easy summer sights.

17 out of 19. And we’ve been led to believe Ron Fowler carries weight around here.

Whatever. There’s still half a season left. Even Hunter Renfroe has returned from the social media and sabermetric dead to post a 110 OPS+ and make the occasional exceptional play in the outfield. In other words, things CAN improve. Things DO get better. The only people who throw in the towel are millennials looking for affordable housing and Democrats if the French haven’t beaten them to it. The second half is going to get very interesting.

When we play Padre baseball, Taco Train baseball, it’s as good as any other. It ain’t just a bunch of freak shows powering a nerf ball over an inflatable Yankee Stadium wall relying on yet another Barnum and Bailey giveaway dressed up as a Broadway musical. It’s squeezing the most out of what we got stored away in our little beloved holy corner of the world. We don’t swat 333 homers a year. We don’t strike out 666 hitters every time out with our 111 mile an hour fastball. We don’t have a rivalry with anyone we presume is the nation’s rivalry when in reality it’s a bunch of douches who can’t decide whether Paul Revere was really a Minuteman or just another character in a Bob Dylan song. Like I said. Whatever.

2019 is shaping up as a helluva year in Padre-Land and the second half of 2018 will lead straight into it. Just watching the continued development of our rookie lefties, Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer, will be worth the price of admission. How about the development of Clayton Richard into…if not a genuine ace, then the next best thing: one of the best inning eaters in the business with a low-to-mid 3 ERA, and a demeanor which cries out a genuine Derek Jeter without the corporate patronage. And Change the Padres was questioning the waste of money on a two-year deal on Richard just a few weeks ago.

Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates are simply marvels. It’s a joy to watch veteran professionals excel at their craft, especially after suffering setbacks of one sort or another earlier in their career. Speaking of veteran professional marvels, who can question the trade of a prospect for Freddie Galvis? I can hear it now, it’s said as if a mantra in a bad television show from the 70s: but what good does it do? What does it matter whether we win 52 or 67 or 71 or 77? We don’t need Freddie Galvis. We can play without a shortstop. In fact, our best bet is to play everyone in right field with Hunter, they can go hunting in between innings, after the raccoons have finished scavenging the garbage cans and the moon has ridden high into the sky.

(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

I think people forget sports transcend. They transcend winning and losing. They transcend time and space. They transcend theatre and art. They are sports, and sports are us, either in the watching, the playing, the perusing, the band-wagoning, the ignoring, the insecuring, the worshiping or the dramatizing.

The 2018 Padres would be nothing without Freddie Galvis. Watching this little Venezuelan angel single-handedly glue the Padres defense like a holy trinity of consistency, beauty and determination makes up for every pathetic excuse of a team the Padres actually are in 2018, and for good measure, makes one want to get up in the morning with a kick in your step and a heart’s neck draped around your sleeve. Go easy on me. Me and Freddy Galvis have a thing. When he has a bad game I pray for the soft souls of the universe to send a massage his way (he’s played every game of the year which wins the Cal Ripken Award for not taking a day off in a world where it sometimes seems like God himself has taken one gigantic day off. But I digress.)

Where was I. I’m starting to lose my way. I wanted to say something about Eric Hosmer and I will do so by talking about Travis Jankowski first. When Travis got re-called up in early May he scorched the earth and sparked the Padres to a winning month. Eric Hosmer followed in kind. Hosmer seems to feed off the flight of fancy of his mates. Light a kindling for Hosmer, and he’ll light that fire above the lake, those embers sailing off into the Midwest Moon where rhythm and blues still burns a barnyard slide, and brisket is king of the Kings. The Royals were a gang where every member had their part. There was no contractor to go take out a hit. That came much later when they got Cueto. As the Royals went their way each member had to play their part. And in playing their part, they fed off each other, like an organic membrane eating itself, yet growing larger and stronger at the same time. Give Hosmer an excuse, he’ll at least take a hack. (And hopefully not hit into a double play.)

But Jankowski predictably cooled. Hosmer did too. His OBP is still quality, but his power numbers are down and his overall numbers have come down. The fuse hasn’t been lit. Ignition has dissolved into the Great Padre Black Hole of the 20th and 21st Century, as if Abner Doubleday put a curse on the city of San Diego with his last dying breath, a curse known only to his priest and his savior, and neither one are talking at present. It is hard to say. Hosmer has been a joy at first and is in the leaders for doubles and plays with a heart and grit that is inspiring, so the experiment is just starting as opposed to finding any sort of determination. But the last 19 have been a grind. The Padres have been doing their time.

Credit: AP

Lastly, Mr. Hand. 23 of 27 in saves. 23 amazing saves (Best in the business for my money). Four blown saves which have probably cost us nine games. Brutal losses. Each one almost inexplicable in how they unfolded. A series of soft contact hits, pitches getting away and somewhat shockingly hitting batters, and Ryan Braun juicing up for one last fling with the horse. And every time, unless I’m mistaken (I don’t have time to check), we couldn’t recover. We lost the two or three games following too. At least one game. They say sabermetrics proves there’s no such thing as momentum. I love saying bullshit to things without proof of what I’m saying so I say bullshit, I think there is such a thing as momentum, it exists in the air the same way the Holy Spirit does, and if you’re not a Christian like I am and don’t know what the Holy Spirit is, then think of momentum flying by in the speed of an eye (did I mean blink?), leading you on into your best self, your higher self, your best higher self, leading ever higher and upward, up above what you thought was above before you ended up looking down below at it. Because of the Holy Spirit. Or momentum. Knocking. Heaven’s Door.

Anyway, four blown saves are the difference between the edge of a race and obituaries being written for the gang. Gangs hate reading their obits. They don’t take these things lightly. Think about it. Just about everybody’s been in some sort of gang or two, and you don’t like it when you’ve been written off, when you’ve been told you lack, well, momentum. To hold the line. To carry and thrust forward. To survive. To maintain in silence and dignity. To carry out peace through the borders and disorders of the truth and honey-chorders. To continue down the blood on the tracks, the Taco Train there to carry you along, taking in the coast and inland in the valleys, holding on strong to the Lord and neighbors and Lou Gehrig and Satchel Paige, wherever they may be, in the harbor-coat of our loins made up of laws, petty grievances and beatitudes. (Did somebody say I had the attitude for the beatitudes?)

Lawn me up, let’s play 81 more. I bet we can hit a little bit more. It’d be nice if Myers can give us a healthy 70. My vote for MVP is AJ Ellis. Maybe Manny Margot can be a superstar after all. Franchy Cordero is the closest thing I’ve seen to Willie Mays in his prime since my classmate Keith Gainey in 10th grade. Keith had it all but lost it due to drugs and fast cars. By 11th grade he’d been all but forgotten, except by those of us who remembered Willie Mays.

Remember one thing for me: the Taco Train loves you, no matter your fun, fact or persuasion. I think you have the attitude for the beatitudes. It doesn’t matter though, cause we got 81 to go with many stops along the way. Plenty of time to play possum and travel the infinite roads of wisdom.

Go you rookie lefties, go.

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