Friday, October 1, 2010

Would This Count As A Collapse?

  • That would be two in four years for the Padres:

While it was more high-profile and embarrassing that the Mets blew playoff spots in both 2007 and 2008, these things happen relatively often. The 2007 Mets stumble was so egregious because it was the largest lead ever blown in such a short time-frame, but there have been many other such "collapses".

Off the top of my head, here are a couple. The 1987 Blue Jays coughed up a 3 1/2 game lead over the Tigers by losing their last seven games----four to those Tigers; the 1995 Angels had an 11 game lead on August 9th and blew it to the Mariners.

It happens relatively frequently and because they're of lower profile or have happened to teams for whom it's easier to formulate an excuse; that doesn't make it any better. Once in awhile, credit also has to be given to the teams that won.

So where do the 2010 San Diego Padres stand in the annals of such "collapses".

Contrary to prevailing belief, they're still alive. An advantage they have is that they trail the Giants by 3 games and are playing the Giants; they hold their own destiny in their hands. It's hard to imagine them sweeping the three games in San Francisco; but if they pull it off, by virtue of having won the season series, the one-game playoff would be in San Diego; if they somehow sweep the Giants, the momentum would belong to the Padres.

There's also the Wild Card route into the playoffs. Trailing the Braves by two with three games to play is also a daunting task, but the Braves are playing the Phillies and the Phillies, despite resting their regulars, aren't simply going to give the games away to the Braves. The last thing the Braves want is to lose and see the Padres coming to Atlanta for a playoff game on Monday.

But this too has happened before.

The 1999 Mets entered the final weekend two games behind the Reds for the Wild Card with three to play; the Mets swept the Pirates and the Reds lost two of three to the Brewers. The Mets won the playoff game that Monday in Cincinnati.

It's very possible.

Be that as it may, would the Padres blowing a 6 game division lead on August 28th; and a 4 1/2 game lead in the Wild Card be placed in the pantheon of epic failures?

There are easy caveats for the Padres----they're young; they have a low payroll; no one expected them to compete----but as far as I'm concerned, these go out the window once August rolls around. By then teams pretty much are what they are. They can have unprecedented hot streaks like the Rockies, but the "innocent climb" hump should be scaled at that point.

There's no one to blame this time. Bud Black is good at handling his bullpen, but shaky in other strategic aspects. So are many other managers. Even such luminaries as Mike Scioscia with the Angels aren't immune to criticism for their errors. (Scioscia famously refused to alter his gameplan to account for the increased power his lineup had with Mark Teixeira in 2008 and it cost them dearly in their ALDS loss to the Red Sox.)

Such was not the case in 2007 when the Padres, like the Mets, blew a playoff spot with a late season swoon. That was the responsibility to the inexperienced Black as he started Jake Peavy on short rest against the Diamondbacks on September 5th----ostensibly to "finish" them off since in that season, Peavy was dominating against all of baseball in general and the Diamondbacks in particular.

Of course, like the flashpoint scene from a great novel, Peavy got blasted; the insult was turned into a rallying cry for the young Diamondbacks and, led by the borderline deranged ranting of Eric Byrnes (who also hit some big homers for good measure), the Padres found themselves fighting for a Wild Card spot with the streaking Rockies; they went to Colorado for a one-game playoff and saw "Hall of Fame" closer Trevor Hoffman gack the game in the bottom of the 13th inning to put an exclamation point on the fall.

Because no one expected the Padres to come so far so fast, that doesn't make it any more palatable if they can't take care of business this weekend. This team is young and flush with pitching talent, but this would be the second time since 2007 that they had a playoff spot in their hands and let it slip through their collective fingers.

Will that be reported with glee and ridicule similar to other recent stumbles?

It's all about perception and whether it's discussed as such. Maybe it should be with the Padres because it's happened twice.

  • Viewer Mail 10.1.2010:

PairFace writes RE the Phillies and me:

Hey Paul - Just checking in, because I said I would. I wanted to see who's side of the debate prevailed - yours or mine - when it came to the NL East. You had your Mets winning, and my "arrogant" Phillies finishing 3rd. Furthermore, you also had Reyes winning the NL MVP and Jerry Manuel winning NL MoY. Ooooof!!!

Normally, I don't rip pre-season predictions, because everyone's is off by varying degrees. But the way you dismissed my reasoning (feel free to re-read those exchanges from March/April) and the way you SAVAGED Ruben Amaro for his handling of the personnel, well, I hate to tell you I told you so, but...

I think at the very least, you owe Amaro some props for the job he did. I thought he overpaid on some of those contracts, especially Howard. But as it turns out, those contracts gave some cost certainty to the Phils' ownership group, and allowed Amaro to go out and get Roy Oswalt at the deadline. Now the Phils have, without question, the top starting 3 in all of baseball with Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels (btw, remember calling Hamels the next Steve Avery??? LOL!). All 3 are under club control next year, and possibly 2012 if the club picks up Oswalt's option.

You went on and on about what a mistake it was to trade "Stone Cold Assassin" Cliff Lee away. But let's face it, Lee has been a disappointment in Texas. He may turn it on in the playoffs. But when the Phils traded him, it wasn't just a move to re-stock the farm, it was also a vote of confidence in Hamels, who responded with a very good season, and a GREAT 2nd half.

As for the Mets - you've probably already said everything that needs to be said, so I don't need to add a whole lot. The Krod fiasco is just another symptom of the disease that is the Mets' organization. They are just not going to win under the Wilpons, because they don't appear to know what they are doing. They have some nice prospects in the system. But the core of the team just did not develop as planned. They'll make a half-hearted run at Cliff Lee this winter, and then will tell their fanbase "we tried" when Lee signs with the Yankees.

BTW - I don't think that Cards-White Sox WS is going to happen. Have a good day.

It's interesting that you waited until now to come back at me and try----not succeed, but try----to toss my words back at me with glaring omissions of fact.

You'll probably never admit this, but I'll guess in July, you were punching walls and trying to reconcile the words you were going to have to say, "My God, that (BLANK) Paul was right!"

The Phillies were playing not close to the way I predicted, but exactly the way I predicted. You pick and choose facts to support your claim to having been "right", but weren't right at all. Cole Hamels was pitching poorly into mid-season (2010 Gamelogs); the starting pitching was as questionable as expected behind Roy Halladay; the bullpen wasn't pitching well; and----shockingly to anyone and everyone----the lineup wasn't performing.

They were lucky that Oswalt fell into their laps and the Shane Victorino injury precluded an attempt to trade Jayson Werth. They have played phenomenal baseball since getting Oswalt.

You "told me so" regarding what? That the trade of Cliff Lee was the right thing to do? Your defense of Ruben Amaro is based on that? How is this possible when the acquisition of Oswalt was made to specifically address the hole that was created by the trade of Lee? As for him receiving "credit" for getting Oswalt, that was an accident of circumstance more than any laudatory statements being doled on Amaro for his part in the trade. If he deserves "props" for anything, it's for----as I said at the time the Phillies search for starting pitching was in full bloom----putting his ego aside and rectifying the problem that his trade of Lee created.

The Astros had few places to which they could trade Oswalt. The Cardinals didn't have the money for Oswalt and the Astros didn't want to trade him within the division, nor did they want to help the Cardinals; the Yankees and Red Sox weren't actively pursuing him; the Angels traded for Dan Haren; the Mets didn't want to give up the prospects to get him and it was no guarantee that the pitcher would've waived his no-trade to go to join them; the Dodgers were in disarray. If he was to be traded, it was to the Phillies and no one else; when the owners got involved and it was clear that Astros GM Ed Wade was steering the pitcher to his former club; the Astros paid a large chunk of Oswalt's salary and Oswalt agreed to forgo a guarantee for his 2012 option, what exactly did Amaro do to deserve accolades for the trade?

We can debate the merits of the Phillies as they grow more expensive and age in the coming years----they're likely to be very good next year. After that? That's an old team with limited prospects specifically because of these trades. I said on Twitter weeks ago, the team might have two more championships in exchange for a possible 76-86 record in 2012----a trade I'd gladly make.

Are you seriously coming back at me on the Lee front because of a few poor starts he's made with the Rangers? Which starts are "proof" of the Phillies having been "right" about Lee? Which ones are applicable for the Rangers having made a "mistake"? Were they the poor performances in August when his back was later revealed to have been bothering him? Or is it the good starts he's delivered since? This argument is nonsensical. (By the way, my name for him is the "Stone Cold Killer"; not the "Stone Cold Assassin".)

I think even you realize by now that my selection of the Mets in the division (at which people were bowing to me at mid-season when they were playing well) and the Phillies taking a tumble wasn't based on partisanship as you accused me of (and added threats, ridicule and bullying----which didn't work), was misplaced.

I judged the trade of Lee to be a mistake because it was making a lateral move rather than an improvement----and it turned out to be accurate. In case you didn't notice (or did notice and refuse to acknowledge), I defended Amaro as the get-back in the Lee trade has been nothing short of a disaster. Others used the Tyson Gillies cocaine arrest as another reason to hammer at Amaro----I didn't; unless the Phillies knew about a drug problem prior to the deal, how could anyone be blamed for it? The prospects weren't then, nor are they now, the foundation for criticizing the deal.

From whence this irrational hatred many members of your fan base hold for the Mets is a mystery to me; if they're so irrelevant, why do you even pay them any mind?

As I said when I selected Jose Reyes as the MVP and heard the laughter and scoffing, does he not have the talent to win an MVP? Injuries and illness----none of which could've been predicted----derailed his season. It's not as if I selected Gary Matthews Jr. to win it because he had the word "Mets" emblazoned across his chest. The Manager of the Year winner is always based on a team that either wins; or plays far over their expected heads. Picking the Mets to play well would automatically mean that Manuel deserved honors for said results and in the midst of the prediction, I said the Mets were going to go one of two ways----up or down; it turned out they pulled off the rare trick of doing both.

Are you really gloating over a missed World Series pick? Was it as if I made the White Sox vs Cardinals pick out of thin air with no reasoning behind it? Did I pick the Indians and the Pirates? Did I say that these teams were going to be good or bad just "because"?

Everything I wrote was based on a reason. I have purposely said little about the picks I've gotten right and have continually referred to the gaffes which are, in addition to the Reyes/Manuel selections, Jake Peavy winning the AL Cy Young Award; the Dodgers winning the NL West; the Reds playing poorly, among many others.

What about that which I got right? The Diamondbacks; the Marlins; the Indians; John Lackey----again----among many other things. Why the selectivity about the wrongs without admitting what I got right?

The ownership issues for the Mets are what they are, but to come up with such absurdities as "they're never going to win under the Wilpons"? How can that be said when they were a game away from the World Series----under the Wilpons----in 2006; as they would've made the playoffs in both 2007-2008 barring collapses, injuries and circumstances? It's all relative. They look bad now and it's easy to blame ownership for that.

They've said they're not going for Lee and, considering the way pitchers have repeatedly failed to live up to massive contracts, is that already judged to be such a mistake? Again, that will be proven accurate or inaccurate in time----just like my picks.

Underneath all the snark you so endlessly revel in, I truly think there's a good guy under there someplace; someone who could be of some use to me....if you actually think with your head before attacking me with a convenient twisting of reality.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Francisco Rodriguez and the union:

K-Rod's actions were uncalled for. If I did that at my job, I'd be sitting in prison right now.

I understand that the Union is there to protect the players, but how does guaranteeing a massive contract to a massive asshole who royally screwed up protect the player? Where is the protection for the employer? For the victims?

The MLB Union is too strong and its message is clear: we can do whatever we feel like.

It's gotta end. Soon.

Understandably, they think that if they give on this one issue, other issues will follow----where does it begin and end? They have to protect union members even if they know he's wrong; they have to be worried that they're going to lose this time.

Matt writes RE K-Rod:

"...but it would give the employer some semblance of control over whether or not they have to pay a player whose behavior in any other sector would void his contract."

Any other sector except maybe financial. If K-Rod were an investment banker he would have had to at least kill his father-in-law on the boardroom table to void his golden parachute. Even then...

I was thinking about the corporate world while I was writing that yesterday, but chose not to mention it. You're right. They get their money one way or the other without much loss of the package no matter what they've done.

Sometimes it's easier just to pay someone to leave and that's what the Mets may end up doing with K-Rod, but if they win the grievance, they're not going to be paying the full load; in fact, they'll pay a small fraction of it; they'll gladly do it to get him out of their sight and free themselves from that financial albatross and public relations disaster.

Max Stevens at The Lonely One writes RE K-Rod and the Mets:

Fantastic posting today on the K-Rod situation. As an unabashed lefty, I almost always root for labor to defeat the bosses, especially since it happens so rarely in the US. However, it's very difficult to pull for today's MLBPA. The union is hardly the bearer of working class insurgency. When the players face off against the owners, it's more like big capitalists against huge capitalists, and it's a very different set of circumstances from what Marvin Miller was working to remedy back in the day. All of which is to say that I kind of hope you're right about the Mets. I wouldn't be heartbroken to see the club prevail against Frankie Rodriguez. Every time I attend a game, and I pay $100 for seats, $50 for food, $50 (at least!) for beer, and $50 for souvenirs if I take my niece, I feel like I have the MLBPA to thank for being $250 lighter. I know it's not an entirely fair way of looking at things, but it's not entirely unfair either.

I'm a moderate who, if anything, leans toward the right, but as Jeff said, the union is far too strong for their own good. To me, this isn't about breaking the sanctity of a contract; it's saying, "We're not going to allow you to do whatever you want and still collect tens of millions of dollars from us."

From management on down through the players, the clubs tend to forget the concept of money and that fans are paying such vast amounts of cash for the right to watch games. If they remember that fact, perhaps the idea of a legitimate code of conduct and resulting consequences for breaching it would be more prevalent and enforceable.

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She-Fan said...

I wouldn't consider the Padres' situation a collapse for the simple reason that no one thought they'd be a contender in the first place.

Jeff said...

I'm with Jane on this one. I'm pulling for the Padres to go on a roll and at least make it interesting after this weekend, but Hoyer & Co. gotta be happy about Year One whether they make it or not.

Remember 2008? 99 losses is a lot to overcome, even if given two years.

Gabriel said...

I do consider it a collapse, since no one expected them to contend, but then they were in contention. What's important is as Jeff said, even if they do not qualify to the playoffs, it has been a good year, in which they surpassed expectations.

It's going to be a fight to the death. Great games to watch this weekend.

PairFace said...

Sorry Paul, you don't get to have it both ways here. You don't get to trash Amaro for his dealing away of Lee, and say on the other hand that Oswalt fell into Amaro's lap by some divine intervention. Other teams had shots at Oswalt. (Yankees could use a starter right about now), but it was Amaro who landed him. Like it or not, Amaro has now produced TWO aces at the trading deadline for the Phillies - Lee last year, and Oswalt this year.

Also, I never claimed trading Lee was the "right" move. But your claim of Lee for Halladay being a lateral move turned out to be indeed inaccurate. Halladay out-pitched Lee this year, and is under club control for 3 more years. Lee is a pending free agent who will be asking for a 6 or 7 year deal (Mets should offer 8, LOL!). My point is this. If it was "wrong" for Amaro to trade Lee away, then it was "right" to pick up Oswalt. Don't come up with a laundry list of excuses. Just be a man and give Amaro his due.

To answer your question about if I was worried about the Phillies in July, my answer is an honest no. Two reasons - 1. The season doesn't end in July, and 2. The Braves needed to put a lot more distance between themselves and the Phillies than they did when they had the chance. As many injuries that the Phils dealt with through July (more than NYM, btw), they were never more than 7 back. The Braves had a chance to pull away, and they failed to do so. Once the trigger was pulled on the Oswalt deal, and Howard and Utley were back in the lineup, it wasn't a matter of "if" they were going to catch the Braves, only "when".

Bringing up your WS picks were just a harmless dig. But are you really hanging your hat on your predictions for the Diamondbacks, Marlins and Indians??? Man, you are really reaching.

One final point to correct: Hamels struggled through April, not "mid-season". Tough to deny that 2nd-half though. Not very Steve Avery-like, that's for sure.

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