Those of us who are
scarily addicted regular visitors of the game threads here at Twinkie Town may remember earlier this year when a handful of friendly people from San Diego came to chat with us in our game thread. I have never had any other fan group from SB Nation come and visit our Game Threads with such friendliness. I met Gaslamp Ball writer TheThinGwynn, who asked me to answer some questions about Twins baseball for our short Twins vs. Padres series this week.
Since I can barely name a single current Padres player, I decided to ask him about Padres baseball too. Here's what TheThinGwynn had to say:
Q: How would you describe the state of the Padres fan-base right now? What are fans happy about and what are they mad about? (or is it just apathy?)
A: There is a strong divide in the Padres fan-base. There's the "Ehh, what can you do but hope for a better day?" crowd, and then there's the torches-and-pitchforks bunch who "demand" accountability and make hollow threats while loudly proclaiming that anyone in the first group of fans is "corrupted" or a lackey for ownership. There have been a lot of things to get worked up about, from the revolving-door ownership of the past few years to everyone simultaneously forgetting how to hit this season, and everything in between. The "in between" includes firing the PA announcer and turning the opening into an American Idol-style debacle, along with the universally panned use of their twenty-eighth-round pick on Johnny Manziel. (Editor's Note [myjah]: lol). Some fans just focus on whatever positives can be found, and others would be mad if the Padres won the World Series in five games because it wasn't a sweep.
Q: How did fans feel about the Chase Headley trade?
A: I certainly thought I'd feel something when it finally happened, but I'd been so desensitized at that point... Wait, there has to be a better way of phrasing that. Honestly, it kind of felt like he had already been traded long ago. The writing had been on the wall and everywhere else that he wouldn't be returning to San Diego, so it was just a matter of getting something in return after holding on to him for this long. I think most fans wish he had been traded when his stock was still high, but a lot of that is hindsight. The fact that Yangervis Solarte has been outhitting Headley since the trade went down definitely helps, even before taking into account all the years of club control and stuff like that.
Q: Which Padres player would be the "fan-favorite" right now?
A: Even though Andrew Cashner has been on the disabled list more than his fair share, he's that guy. When he's healthy, he's a threat to throw the franchise's first no-hitter every time he takes the mound. Off the mound, he's that guy playing pranks in the dugout, and his enthusiasm seems infectious. He reminds me of Heath Bell a lot in that way.
Q: Which Padres player is the least favorite with fans or just yourself?
A: There's no clear-cut Orlando Hudson on this team.
Q: Wait--was Orlando Hudson a problem in San Diego?
A: HATED. He talked so much to fans, telling them to cut his lawn and whatnot. Plus, he seemed not to care one bit. He'd do stupid stuff like tossing the ball in the stands after the second out which, whatever, but he was so defensive and above reproach
I see. I heard similar things in Minneapolis. It was mostly that he got on peoples' nerves for talking so much.
Q: Anyway, which Padre is the least favorite?
I think part of it is that nearly everyone has been atrocious with a bat, so it's hard to single anyone out for their performance (although Yonder Alonso gets the brunt of it). Plus, they all seem like fairly decent human beings. People are sick of Carlos Quentin constantly being injured and Eric Stults constantly getting lit up, but there's no real animosity toward them. Will Venable is certainly the most polarizing player. It looked like he finally put it together in 2013, but he's been beyond lost all this season and familiarity has bred a good bit of contempt.
Q: I have only faintly heard about the turnover in the Padres front office right now. How are fans looking at and dealing with that?
A: With sighing and cynicism. The last general manager, Josh Byrnes, was a hire of the previous ownership group, so it makes sense that the current ownership would want their own guy. That and the whole season-falling-apart thing. Everybody got a lot more excited and optimistic when the final four candidates were announced, as they were all solid choices and none of them were named Kevin Towers.
This question is especially timely since word trickled out after the game that Rangers Assistant GM AJ Preller has been hired as the Padres' new GM. He's particularly adept at international scouting, which is something a team like the Padres needs to excel at to make up some of the ground between them and the huge-payroll teams. The Preller hire has already been very well-received on Twitter by Padres fans and baseball pundits alike. He sounds alright enough to me, although I was really hoping Kim Ng would get the job.
Yes, I have heard at least a couple people bring up Kim Ng recently.
Q: Dave Winfield is big here in the Twin Cities, being from St. Paul and spending a couple years with the Twins. How is he remembered among Padres fans, or by yourself?
A: Even though he's pictured wearing a Padres hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, I think most Padres fans regard Winfield as a really good player who happened to play in San Diego for a while as opposed to a franchise icon. He certainly seemed to self-identify as a Yankee, even when he was on the Padres' payroll for a dozen years as a senior advisor (glorified Wal-Mart greeter). Personally, I associate him more with the American League since his Padres days predated my birth, but I got his autobiography when I was ten years old; I read it over and over, wringing every last drip of knowledge about the Padres I could get. To this day, any time I drink or even see Cutty Sark, I think of Nate Colbert.
Q: What makes you most excited to be a Padres fan right now?
A: In a word, pitching. When Cashner is healthy, he's Walter Johnson with a mullet. Ian Kennedy has rebounded beautifully, and Tyson Ross has put it all together under pitching coach Darren Balsley and manager Bud Black's watch. Dave Duncan used to get a lot of credit for giving pitchers second lives, but Balsley has been doing it in San Diego for eons only to receive no acclaim outside the 619 area code. Odrisamer Despaigne has came back down to earth his last couple of starts, but it's a joy to watch batters flail at his slop. As for Jesse Hahn, he's been unbelievable in 10 starts since his early-June major league debut, with a 2.28 ERA and an unbelievable 7-3 record for a team that doesn't know run support from Run-DMC. And that's not even counting the starters waiting in the wings or rebounding from Tommy John surgery: Matt Wisler, Casey Kelly, Donn Roach, Joe Wieland, Robbie Erlin, and Cory Luebke, to name a few.
Q: Most underrated current Padre?
A: Hmmm, this is a real brain-buster like trying to spell 'Rizzuto' in cursive, mostly because everyone seems to be rated fairly, uh, fairly. Tommy Medica hasn't been around long enough to be truly underrated, but he hit very well during his September call-up last season and has continued to prove himself as a major league hitter this year, especially as of recent. He's hitting .410 since the All-Star break, and .432 in his last ten games. If he keeps it up (obviously not to that extent), Yonder Alonso could become a footnote sooner than later.
Q: Most underrated all-time Padre?
A: Although I never saw him play, Gene Richards immediately came to mind. Despite being all over the team's all-time leaderboards, you rarely hear a peep about him. And by "you" I mean "I". From his rookie year of 1977 through 1983, Richards hit .291 with 63 triples and 242 stolen bases. His .291 batting average with San Diego is fourth-best in franchise history, as are his 994 hits. His 63 triples are good for second, sandwiched right between Tony Gwynn and Dave Winfield. Being mentioned in the same sentence as those two is about as good as it gets. Speaking of which, Richards is the only player other than Tony Gwynn to have worn #19 for the major league Padres. Back when the Padres were a AAA Pacific Coast League team, 19 was worn by a young San Diegan by the name of Ted Williams. The more you know.
Speaking of Tony, thanks again to you and your fellow Twinkie Towners who stopped by Gaslamp Ball to offer your condolences after he passed. I remembering thinking between sobs that if anyone could come close to understanding what Padres fans as a whole were feeling, it would be Twins fans since you experienced something so similar just eight short years ago.