It was one game, but …
Hello, Padres fans. …
Normally, I’m not one to make too a big deal out of any one game in a baseball season for the simple fact that there’s always another, then another one and another one. The NFL season … well, there’s 16 games, not 162. One injury to a key player can torpedo your season. So right out of the chute, your team can easily be sunk.
This doesn’t hold true in baseball, does it? I’m beginning to wonder. I will give you an example from last season. It’s April 17, the Padres are at PETCO Park against the Rockies and have a record of 8-7. Not too bad, not great either. They had beaten Roy Oswalt, Matt Cain and Chad Billingsley to that point, so it’s not like they were beating up on the Albuquerque Isotopes.
The Padres lose that game in 22 innings, a loss that depletes their bullpen greatly. Not just that, Tony Clark plays the entire game, gets hurt isn’t much help from there on out.
Then the next night in Arizona, Greg Maddux gets shelled and essentially is forced to fall on the grenade since there is no relief help to be had. The Padres lose seven of their next eight games, allowing 9, 10, 10 and 11 runs, as their bullpen is exposed.
At this point, the Padres are 9-15 and already 8 1/2 games back in the National League West Division. Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not saying that if they had won that 22-inning game that things would have been different. The makeup of the 25-man roster from Opening Day was not good and this team certainly would have struggled anyway.
But … it’s food for thought.
That brings us to this season. I think we can all agree that the Padres got off to a much faster start than anyone would have figured. I never once thought, and still don’t, that this team is a 99-loss team. They’re better in several areas, none we have to get into now.
I want to talk about that loss in Philadelphia on April 13. That’s the game where rookie Everth Cabrera broke a bone in his left hand and where Edwin Moreno allowed a game-winning home run to Raul Ibanez because an taxed Heath Bell got a game off as closer.
The Padres haven’t been the same since that game, dropping six of their last seven. The loss of Cabrera, on the surface, doesn’t appear to be much. He’s a rookie who hasn’t played above the Class A level before this season, right? Well, Cabrera is a much different player now than he was when he arrived at Spring Training, offensively and defensively.
I don’t think it’s out of the question that he could have pushed or even surpassed shortstop Luis Rodriguez for more playing time as we moved forward. He had gotten that much better, and earned the trust of the coaching staff. He also has the kind of speed that can prove to be very disruptive. Now he’s out for two months.
As for Moreno, who won a job this spring with his ability to string together impressive outings, I think he’s still going to be a pretty good pitcher. I would like to see him develop another pitch to go with his fastball and that nasty changeup. Can he be entrusted with important innings late in a game? Really, can anyone but Bell? We’ll see soon enough.