Padres aim to turn around rough season
Injuries, lack of production place San Diego last in NL West
SAN DIEGO -- It was during a recent loss at PETCO Park, one of too many as far as the Padres were concerned, when many fans who cheered for a team that a season ago came within a game of the playoffs found another way to express their feelings.
They booed, and did so loudly.
Hearing this, pitcher Jake Peavy, who a year ago ran away with the National League Cy Young Award, shook his head in disbelief, not just about the cascade of jeers, but much more so the direction this once-promising season had turned.
"How can it get any lower?" Peavy said of the season-long funk that San Diego has been in since April. "It's just uncalled for. There's no excuse for it. We have to find a way to get better. The confidence level is not real high right now."
How could it be?
After all, the Padres, who won 89 games last season, went into the season feeling as if they had improved their team, most notably by trading for center fielder Jim Edmonds and signing free agent second baseman Tadahito Iguchi and pitcher Randy Wolf.
What the Padres didn't anticipate was a calf injury to Edmonds during the spring or the slow start (.178 batting average in 90 at-bats) that led to his release in May. They also didn't anticipate a slew of injuries to Iguchi (separate shoulder), catchers Josh Bard (ankle) and Michael Barrett (elbow and later a broken nose) and pitchers Chris Young (nose), Shawn Estes (thumb) and Peavy (elbow).
Those injuries have forced the Padres to dip into their farm system for reserves. As of July 4, there were nine players on the Padres' roster who had played for the Triple-A Portland Beavers. The Padres also plugged guys like Cha Seung Baek and Josh Banks into the starting rotation to fill some of the voids.
But you certainly can't pin all of the Padres woes in 2008 on injuries. That's only been a part of their decline through the first half of the season.
The Padres were just 3-15 in Interleague Play. They had allowed the most stolen bases in baseball (114) with 20 caught stealing.
The lights-out bullpen that led the Major Leagues in ERA in 2007 (3.06) has struggled. Closer Trevor Hoffman carried an ERA of more than 5.00 for most of the first half and suffered three blown saves and five losses.
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"If you dissect every game, you can probably point to something different. But overall, the bullpen hasn't been as consistent as in years past," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "As far as offensive production, we're not getting on base enough to generate or sustain rallies. Those are two very important parts of the team."
The Padres' offense ranked at or near the bottom of baseball in average, runs and average with runners in scoring position. The Padres had been shut out six times and were just 6-34 when scoring three or fewer runs.
Other than first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres lone representative in the All-Star Game, the offense largely struggled as the platoon of Paul McAnulty and Scott Hairston in left field didn't yield the results the team wanted. The struggles of Khalil Greene, one year after hitting 27 home runs and driving in 97 runs, baffled the team.
No, this isn't what the Padres had in mind when they built this team in the offseason.
"To me, when I wake up and look at the box score and see San Diego at the bottom, that hurts," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said in May. "Seeing where we're at in the standings, it's a reflection on all of us. I just hope we all have the same feeling when we wake up and look at the box score. If we don't, then you shouldn't be here."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.