Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Deadline Has Passed

You'll never know the ups and downs we have experienced over the past 24 hours, and unfortunately, I'm not permitted to share the details with you per MLB rules. Obviously, our conversations ended in troughs rather than peaks, but it was a wild ride nonetheless.

In the past two days we were serious enough to exchange names with seven different organizations in wide-ranging deals. A number of those deals even went through multiple iterations of players involved, which generally gives any deal life and a much better chance of happening. In some instances, the deals were just too skinny for us to accept, and in others our trading partner decided to move in another direction (or not move at all). At the end of the day all of our deals fell within the 95% that get discussed but never happen.

That does not necessarily mean that the players we have now will automatically be with us for the remainder of the year, though, as a number of deals happen after this July 31 deadline every season. The August waiver trading period is a bit tricky, so I'll attempt a point-by-point explanation:
  • No player can get traded after July 31 without being placed on trade waivers.
  • Unlike outright waivers, August trade waivers are NOT irrevocable. In other words, if we place a player on trade waivers, and another organization places a claim on that player, we can take him off waivers if we don't want to lose him or trade him.
  • Once a player is placed on trade waivers, the other 29 organizations have 48 hours during which to place a claim. If a player is claimed by another organization, one of two things can happen: a) the player can be traded to (or simply given to) the claiming organization only or b) the player can be pulled off of waivers by the originating Club. Any trade with the claiming Club has to be consummated within 48 hours.
  • If a player is claimed on trade waivers, and the originating Club pulls that player off of waivers, he CANNOT be traded for the remainder of the season unless... the originating Club puts the player on trade waivers a second time. If they do this, however, the waivers become irrevocable so any claim would result in the automatic assignment of the player to the claiming team.
  • If a player goes unclaimed, he can be traded to any other team at any time.

Due to these rules, many teams will place virtually there entire 25-man Major League roster on trade waivers at some point during August (maximum of seven per day) even if they have no intention of trading any of them. Furthermore, many teams will place claims on players with absolutely no intention of acquiring them. They do this in order to block another organization from being able to trade for that player. This can get tricky, though, as the originating Club can choose to dump the player on the claiming Club along with the player's entire contract.

Ok, I'm not sure I've made it any clearer. The point of it all is that trades can and will be made during August. However, there are many more obstacles in the way.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Trading Deadline Frenzy

We have a little more than a day remaining before the non-waiver trading deadline, and the last 24 hours are always wild.

At this point in the process every team has talked to each other at least once if not multiple times. Teams are following up on potential matches and busy doing all of the background work required to exchange names. We do all of this work with full knowledge that 95% of the deals we work on will never happen.

What makes the last 24 hours an emotional rollercoaster is that virtually every team has multiple balls in the air, and many times one deal is contingent about another deal (or even a couple of other deals) coming to fruition. Teams' interests or needs can change within the hour, so we can go from being incredibly excited, to distraught, to working vigorously on another deal all within about 20 minutes.

We also don't have the luxury of time. Over the winter and even up until today, deals take time to come together and everybody goes about their due diligence in a controlled manner. For the next 24 hours speed is critical, so every front office needs to be prepared in advance and our scouts need to be on-call in order to act quickly on an opportunity. Despite having numerous conversations with clubs throughout the weeks leading to the deadline, there will often be a new idea or a new proposal sometime in the final hours that requires prior preparation to beat the clock.

As for the Padres, we continue to work on multiple fronts. The odds of making a deal are what they are, but you never know what opportunity may present itself in the next 24 hours. I can't wait for another rollercoaster ride.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jonathan Galvez and Pedro Hernandez

Both Jonathan Galvez and Pedro Hernandez were selected for the Dominican Summer League All-Star Game which took place last week.

I've written about Galvez before, as he's been tearing up the DSL this season. He's a premium all-around prospect who is continuing his impressive season with a .420 obp and .366 slg over about 160 plate appearances. What's even more impressive is that he has those numbers despite a recent 0 for 22. Just 17 years old, 6'2" and an offensive SS, we're excited about the future for Jonathan.

Pedro Hernandez has not gotten the same hype, but he's had an equally impressive season on the mound. A left-hander from Venezuela, Hernandez has outstanding command. His line so far this season is a remarkable: 41.1 ip, 40 h, 3 bb, and 49 k's. Due to his command, Pedro has been very consistent this season, as he has yet to allow more than two runs in any appearance.

These two players certainly earned their All-Star status, but we also had a number of deserving players left off the All-Star squad, none more deserving than Jorge Minyeti. Jorge is a switch-hitting middle infielder who is just 17 years old and yet having an outstanding offensive season. His .903 OPS (.478 obp, .425 slg) leads the team by a wide margin as does his 35:20 walk to strikeout ratio. Overall, Jorge is 2nd in the entire DSL in OBP, 10th in AVG and 10th in OPS.

If you want more of an in-depth look into Jonathan Galvez and Pedro Hernandez, check out their videos: First Take - Jonathan Galvez and First Take - Pedro Hernandez. Hopefully, this is the kind of original in-depth content we'll be able to provide on the new Padres Channel.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Inspired By Readers

About six weeks ago during the draft we had an idea that was born out of the obvious passion of some of the readers of this blog. With the enthusiastic cooperation of the people at MLBAM (not to mention our own production staff - thanks, Erik), we have been able to make this idea a reality in a very short period of time.

Welcome to the new Padres Channel!

The above is actually a temporary link, and the channel is clearly in BETA version, but I wanted to get it out to you as soon as possible. In reality, this is a sneak preview for all of you who inspired the idea.

This channel already has some great content including: an in-depth interview with Grady Fuson discussing our 2008 draft, footage of our July 2nd international signings, a great clubhouse tour (under "entertainment"), and much, much more. We plan on adding a lot more content, but there's plenty for you to check out now.

We couldn't be more excited about this new channel. It's a deeper look into the Padres than you've ever seen before.

Enjoy and thank you!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Signing Update - Figueroa and Clark

It doesn't stop! On Friday we announced the signings of SS Cole Figueroa from the University of Florida and 1B Matt Clark from LSU.

A left-handed hitting SS, Cole was a standout player throughout his amateur career, often being recognized for his baseball instincts and gamer mentality. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as Cole's father, Bien Figueroa, spent time as a Major League player and minor league manager. At the plate Cole has shown an advanced feel for hitting with a nice combination of strike zone discipline, bat control, and power. As a 20-year old sophomore this spring (he turned 21 at the end of June which is what made him eligible for the draft), Cole hit .350/.424/.534 while also stealing 20 bags in 24 attempts.

Since Cole was a sophomore eligible in the draft, he had been playing in the Cape Cod League for the second consecutive summer. When he left the Cape to sign with us he was in the midst of an eight game hitting streak and was hitting .306 in July.

When we selected Cole in the 6th round, we were fully aware that he was not a 6th round talent and therefore would not sign for 6th round money. In fact, Cole had turned down significant money after being drafted out of high school in order to attend Florida, and he had plenty of reasons to return to Florida for his junior season. However, our area scout, Rob Sidwell, had done an excellent job in understanding what it was going to take to sign Cole, and we decided he was well worth the investment.

At 6'5", 235 lbs, Matt has been a top prospect since his days at Etiwanda HS. After being ranked as a top 200 prospect by Baseball America in high school, Matt went to Riverside Community College where he was first-team All-Southern California, All-California, JUCO All-American, and MVP of the California State Tournament. All of these accomplishments got Matt drafted again in 2007, but he elected to attend LSU.

This decision appears to have been a good one, as Matt hit .344 with a whopping 28 home runs in 227 at-bats for LSU this season. Furthemore, Matt's LSU squad qualified for the College World Series and during one stretch won 26 out of 29 games.

As in Cole Figueroa's case, we knew that Matt's expectations were greater than 12th round money. Once again, however, we believe in his talent and are happy to sign him for a bigger bonus that his draft position would indicate. As I wrote during the draft, we were focused on taking the most talented players available regardless of signability, so we're very excited to add both of these players into our system.

For more on our draft, check out Grady Fuson's interview on the new Padres Channel.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wolf to Astros

Today we traded Randy Wolf to the Astros for RHP Chad Reineke.

As discussed a while back, given his contractual situation - free agent at the end of the year - Randy was a likely candidate to be traded before the deadline. The fact that the Astros had interest also wasn't a great surprise considering the history Houston's GM, Ed Wade, has with Randy going back to their days together in Philadelphia.

Though we didn't want to be in this position when we signed Randy last December, we are excited to add Chad Reineke into our system. This winter Baseball America rated Chad as the Astros' 7th best prospect, marking the second consecutive season that Chad has appeared on the Astros' top ten list. A 6'6" RHP, Chad is currently on the 40-man roster and a starting pitcher at AAA Round Rock. After being drafted in the 13th round in 2004, Chad went from short-season A through AA in 2 1/2 years with a combined 3.12 ERA in 283 ip. In 2007 in his first season in AAA, Chad split time between the rotation and the pen. This year he has pitched exclusively in the rotation (except for one 6-inning relief appearance) and has amassed 112 innings so far. His overall line is: 4.41 ERA, 112.1 ip, 112 hits, 35 walks, 100 strikeouts.

According to our reports, our scouts believe Chad has the potential for both a plus fastball and plus slider that could play in either the rotation or toward the back end of a bullpen. Houston certainly recognized this as well, as Reineke started seeing some time in the pen in 2007 similar to what Chad Qualls did when he was in AAA for the 'Stros. As a rotation pitcher, Reineke normally pitches around 90 mph, but our scouts have clocked him as high as 94 mph out of the pen, so we understand the reasoning. At 6'6" his angle to the plate has given hitters trouble, which could serve him well in both roles.

In each of the past two seasons Chad has gotten off to slow starts, posting a combined 8.66 ERA in April. In the months after April, however, his ERA has dropped to 3.71. In fact, over his last seven appearances, Chad has posted a 1.84 ERA over 44 innings with 30 hits, 11 walks, and 44 strikeouts. All in all, Chad is an interesting prospect whose arm, performance, and experience puts him pretty close to Petco. Hopefully, he'll have a chance to help us relatively soon.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Signing Update - Weems

Today we signed SS Beamer Weems from Baylor. He was our 8th round selection.

Coming into this spring, Beamer was known as one of the best defensive shortstops in the country. He has true SS hands and actions leaving little doubt that he can stay at the position in pro ball. Offensively, Beamer is a switch-hitter, shows a good feel for the strike zone and is a smart baserunner.

When we selected Beamer in the 8th round, we knew he wouldn't sign for "slot money". Nevertheless, we thought his combination of shortstop defense and offensive potential warranted the selection and payment over slot. We're excited to add him to the system.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tony Clark to Arizona

Yes, the rumors are true. Today we traded Tony Clark to the Diamondbacks for RHP Evan Scribner.

While primarily a starter in his amateur days at Central Connecticut, the D'Backs have used Evan as a reliever. Standing 6'3" and featuring a 90-91 mph fastball with a big curveball, Evan has posted the following line so far in his pro career: 2.27 ERA, 91 innings, 70 hits, 24 walks, and 123 strikeouts.

After being drafted in the 28th round in 2007, Evan began his career in rookie ball before finishing the season with 10.1 innings at South Bend (Midwest League). Evan returned to South Bend for the 2008 season, pitching 34.1 innings, striking out 52 hitters, and sporting a 1.57 ERA. The D'Backs recently moved Evan to high-A Visalia in the Cal League where he has pitched 9.2 innings (5 hits, 2 walks, 10 k's). Overall he has nine saves on the season.

In addition to the reports we receive from our scouts, both amateur and pro, we also ask our player development staffs to weigh in on players in their leagues. Generally we don't ask for too much volume or detail. After all, our staffs are busy enough managing their own teams. However, we do ask that they leave a voicemail with some specifics if there is an opposing player they particularly like. That way we can make sure our scouts follow up with a more formal report as the season continues. In this case, Doug Dascenzo, our manager in Ft. Wayne, phoned in a report on Evan earlier this season which initiated our interest.

We're excited to add Evan to our system, and we wish Tony the best of luck. He's truly a class act. As I wrote in an earlier post, his leadership in the clubhouse and his game-changing power are great attributes for a Club looking to complete their puzzle. Unfortunately, we're not in a position this season to take full advantage of those skills.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chris Young and Josh Bard

I went to Lake Elsinore tonight to watch the rehab starts of Chris Young and Josh Bard and came away encouraged.

Chris pitched 3.2 innings on approximately 60 pitches, yielding two hits and striking out four. He did give up a homer to the final batter he faced, but his command was better than I would have expected after nearly a two month layoff. In fact, throwing primarily fastballs, Chris pumped 24 strikes in 29 pitches covering the first two innings. It was great to see him back on the mound.

Josh Bard also had a good night, hitting two hard line drives in his three plate appearances and catching CY's innings without incident.

For those of you who live in Southern California, a trip to a Lake Elsinore game is worth it. In addition to the atmosphere created by the ballpark staff, the team can flat out hit.

Brian Giles

There have been a number of comments concerning Brian Giles, so I thought he should be the topic of a post.

In my previous posting regarding our potential free agents and the trading deadline, I did not include Brian. I did not include him principally because he's not a free agent at the end of this season should the Club decide to exercise the option, so he automatically falls into the category of "less likely to be traded". Furthermore, at this stage we're just not terribly interested in trading him.

Before anyone gets upset at that statement, I will say that we would entertain trading anybody if we felt it would make us better - I don't believe in the concept of "untouchable". Every player has a threshold that would force our hand. Certain players may very well have a threshold that is completely unrealistic, so for all intents and purposes, they're untouchable, but nobody is truly untouchable. Anything can happen.

Many of the arguments in favor of trading Brian suggested that the chances are slim for the Padres in 2009. Given the current state of the NL West, our history the past four seasons, the continued maturity of our young players, and payroll flexibility this winter, nobody at the Padres is ready to acquiesce to such an outlook. Don't misunderstand me, we will always attempt to be prudent as we assess the balance of short-term and long-term, but I don't believe any team in baseball should be ready to give up on a season nine months before it even begins, especially with the parity in today's game.

The second reason, and the more important one, is very simply that Brian is the type of player we want our young position players to emulate. It's one thing for us or our coaches to try to explain our philosophy, but it's quite another, and much more powerful, to have a working example. I don't think I can emphasize this enough, especially considering the number of young position players currently on the team and expected to be on the team going forward.

In the current season Brian is hitting .301 with a .394 obp and a .433 slg. His .394 obp stands 6th in the NL, and it's the best on the Padres by a wide margin. Furthermore, Brian has walked more than he has struck out so far this year, which would mark the 10th consecutive season of that accomplishment. Though the slugging percentage is below his .512 career mark, it is the highest in his past three seasons and his ISO has been very steady over the past three years. In short, throughout his career Brian has personified the patience with power philosophy - posting quality at-bats in seemingly every plate appearance. He has been precisely what we want our young hitters to become.

In addition to his performance on the field (and in the outfield, for that matter), Brian also brings a number of intangibles to our team. First and foremost, Brian plays hard and plays through pain. Before banging his knee into the wall last season he had played in at least 158 games for three consecutive seasons. He wants to be on the field, and he wants to win. As many of you know, Brian is also a bit, how shall I say, irreverant in the clubhouse, which is incredibly helpful over the course of a long season. He loves playing the game, and it shows.

Brian may be the elder statesman among our position players at this point, but that leadership role could positively impact the Padres in 2008, 2009, and well beyond.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Signing Update

Today we've officially signed our third round pick, Blake Tekotte from the University of Miami. He has reported to Eugene in the Northwest League and will hopefully be in the lineup sometime soon.

Blake is a leadoff hitting centerfielder who can make an impact on both sides of the ball. His defense in CF is very solid, and offensively he brings speed, on-base skills, and some surprising power. Needless to say, we're very happy to have him signed and part of the organization.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Verdict Is In

As we approach 100 comments and 1000 votes, there isn't what I would call a... wide variety of opinion. So, now is as good a time as any to post a response.

The fact that the "buy" vote is residing in Nader neighborhood isn't all that surprising . After all, the fans who are interested in this forum are generally passionate fans who have a solid overall understanding. It was interesting, however, to read through all of the comments, as there was a divide regarding certain players. Therefore, I wanted to offer some food for thought, though the following does not necessarily indicate the organizational approach over the next three weeks.

Free Agents
When teams talk about trading players at the deadline, potential free agents dominate the discussion. After all, teams want to get something for these players before losing them to free agency, which is the primary incentive to trade them. There were a number of comments regarding draft pick compensation, so that needs to be fully understood.

At the conclusion of the season every free agent will be ranked, and only the Type A and Type B free agents carry any kind of compensation with them. This is roughly the top 30% of players (overall, not just free agents) in terms of performance both on a one-year and multi-year look. For the Club to receive any compensation a few things have to happen:

1) The Club must offer the player arbitration (sometimes a risky proposition)
2) The Player must reject the offer of arbitration
3) The Player must sign a Major League contract with another organization

Furthermore, when a Type A free agent signs with another Club, the signing Club loses their first round pick (or second round pick if their first round pick is within the first 15 picks). So, if you have a Type A free agent, you had better be awfully sure that he's not going to accept arbitration and that some other team is going to be willing to sacrifice a top pick in order to sign him. Type B free agents do not "cost" the signing club anything in terms of a pick.

These rules are why there were just 16 compensation picks in between the first and second rounds of the 2008 draft despite the fact that there were over 100 free agents last winter. In short, it's not a foregone conclusion that you'll receive draft picks as compensation. There is no doubt, however, that the potential for draft picks (or lack thereof) weighs into the calculus at the deadline.

Non-Free Agents
These players just don't get moved all that often at the deadline. Don't get me wrong - it happens - but just not with the same regularity as potential free agents. Clubs generally have no sense of urgency when it comes to trading a player whose rights they control going forward. When Clubs don't have to make a deal, they generally don't. This is true in the greater world outside of baseball as well. People need to have a reason to act now, which is why the bulk of activity often happens in the last 24 hours before a deadline, any deadline. How many times did anyone here actually turn in a term paper early?

So, as it pertains to our younger players, we would need to be compelled to move any of them. That could certainly happen, but it's not commonplace at the trading deadline for a club that is "selling" to move a bunch of players who could be with the team in future years. Even though some of our players have had a disappointing few months, we still believe many (if not all) of them can play important roles in our future as we try to return to where we've been the last few years and beyond. We will always entertain offers and actively pursue opportunities that we think can make us better, but we won't sell just to sell (or even because we're disappointed in recent performance).

The Volume Myth
I have to address this one, because we always joke about it internally. Overwhelming teams with volume is not a recipe for bringing back quality players. Every team out there is smart enough to know that four times zero is still zero: "But what if we add this 4A guy AND this marginal prospect? No? Well then... what if we were to add this long reliever as well?" :-) It takes quality, not quantity, to get quality.

Specific Free Agents
For the purposes of this conversation, let's stick to our healthy potential free agents: Greg Maddux, Randy Wolf, Tony Clark and Trevor Hoffman. The first three, realistically, will create the most buzz due to their contractual status.

Greg Maddux - The first thing to mention here is that Greg has a complete no-trade clause, so if he chooses to finish the year in San Diego, he will. There is no doubt, though, that the interest in Greg is strong. Regardless of his fastball velocity, Greg is still a very effective pitcher (3.90 ERA) who gives innings (at least 198 innings in 20 consecutive seasons - jaw-dropping), and provides a veteran playoff presence. In fact, the last time Greg was traded at the deadline to a contender, which was in 2006, he went 6-3 with a 3.30 ERA over 74 innings down the stretch. Previous to the trade he had posted a 4.69 ERA. He's Greg Maddux, he's a winner, and every team that he's on is better because he is there. There is no doubt that the rest of our pitchers have benefited from his counsel.

Randy Wolf
- Randy has a limited no-trade provision in his contract, so there are a number of designated teams to which Randy does not have to accept an assignment. Randy is another guy who is on the collective radar of the buyers at this point and for good reason. After having a shoulder cleanup in the middle of last season, Randy has had a very good year to date. His average fastball velocity is the highest it has been in any of the past six years (which is the timeframe of the data set) and his strikeout rate is as high as it has been since 2001. His ERA currently stands at 4.38, though almost a full run of that is due to two starts in Colorado and Chicago during which he gave up 14 runs in eight innings. His collective line of 109 innings, 109 hits, 42 walks, and 100 k's is one of the better lines you'll find during this deadline, but his line of 101 innings, 95 hits, 33 walks, and 94 k's (3.48 ERA) without those two starts is even more indicative of the pitcher he has been. In fact, his 12 quality starts ranks 7th in the NL behind Haren, Lincecum, Hudson, Santana, Webb, and Volquez.

Tony Clark - Tony is the type of player that you'll often see moved at the deadline. He's a veteran player who has been very successful coming off the bench in recent years, can change the game with one swing of the bat from either side of the plate, and is known in the industry as one of the finest clubhouse leaders in the game. A player with all of those attributes can be hard to find, which is precisely why we signed Tony in the first place, but it's also why a contending club will look to add him to their mix. Though his power production has been down this year, his power is still there and he's still a threat every time he steps in the box. He can truly be a "finishing piece" on any good club.

OK, this post is much longer that I originally intended, and I still haven't covered everything I would have liked. I'm sure as the days and weeks of July pass I'll have more opportunities to post on this subject.

In conclusion, I'll say that Clubs are generally looking to add just a piece or two to finish their puzzle, so they'll really looking for winners, or as John Hart used to call them: "pile-jumpers". That is why the three guys I've mentioned above are already drawing interest from around the league. I don't know if we'll end up trading any of them, but I certainly understand the sentiment contained in the overwhelming majority of the comments. Thanks so much for your passion and participation.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Wanna Play GM?

Ok, this is your chance. Well, not really, but I am interested in hearing your opinions.

Today we saw a blockbuster transaction with CC Sabathia moving to the Brewers. I'm not looking for your take on the trade (sorry) - these are actually two of the best GM's in the game making bold, yet solid, moves for their respective organizations. It should be a win-win, which is what you'd expect with these types of players and organizations involved. What I'm curious about is this: what would you do this month if you were the GM of the Padres?

As I've written before, this year has been frustrating on two fronts: 1) we've played well below our expectations, and 2) we were a timely hit away yesterday from being just seven games out of an underachieving division. Given the state of our current team, our organization as a whole, and the entire division, what would you do?

I've posted a poll to the right that will run for the next three days - no dillydallying or waiting to see how things unfold. I'd like your vote in the poll and your comments below this posting. This should be interesting...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Enjoy, Padres Fans, Enjoy

Your Padres made a statement today.

Before noon eastern time, the Padres had locked up five of the top international prospects from around the globe for a total of nearly $5,000,000. Those commas are in the proper places.

Let's allow that to sink in for a second...

Feels good, doesn't it?

Today we completed the signings of highly coveted players Adis Portillo (RHP), Alvaro Aristy (SS), Luis Domoromo (OF), Corey Adamson (INF/OF), and Elvin Tavarez (RHP). ESPN has comments on each of the Latin American players, but I'll go ahead and offer my own as well.

Adis Portillo is a 16-year old RHP who stand 6'2" (for now). Ranked as the top amateur pitcher in Venezuela, and the 2nd best overall pitching prospect internationally, Portillo already throws his fastball in the low 90's with good command. Adis also has an advanced feel for both a curveball and a changeup, especially for someone with his age and size. Portillo is a premium pitching prospect and would have been a top ten pick in the amateur draft in the US.

Alvaro Aristy is a 16-year old SS who draws comparisons to a young Tony Fernandez. A slick fielder with a strong arm and vacuum-like hands, Aristy projects as a true shortstop. His superior hand-eye coordination also serves him well at the plate where he has the ability to consistently put the barrel on the ball. With the inevitable increase in size and strength, we believe his skills will play offensively as well as defensively. ESPN ranked Aristy as the #2 overall position player prospect in the Dominican. He is easily the best defensive middle infielder among the amateur ranks that I saw this year.

Luis Domoromo is a 16-year old OF from Venezuela who has an advanced approach at the plate. Luis has a strong arm and is a good athlete, so we expect him to be a solid corner outfielder, but his bat is what has the chance to be special. He can hit the ball to all fields and projects to have legitimate power. Luis was ranked as the #2 position player prospect in Venezuela.

Corey Adamson is a 16-year old infielder/outfielder from Perth, Australia. Known as a 5-tool athlete (runs a 6.6 60), Corey has already produced with those tools. In the National Championship Tournament in January, Corey hit .520 with a .618 obp and a 1.040 slugging percentage. Due to his athleticism, Corey was also projected as a top 10 selection in the Australian Rules Football draft, however he has chosen baseball. This choice wasn't terribly surprising given the fact that Corey's father, Tony, is in Australia's Baseball Hall of Fame.

Elvin Tavarez is another 6'2" 16 year old RHP, though unlike Portillo he is from the Dominican Republic. Tavarez's fastball already reaches 90 mph, and he shows the makings of a very good curveball. ESPN ranked him as the #4 pitching prospect in the Dominican this year.

Deep breath. This isn't April 1st, it's July 2nd.

Kidding aside, today is a monumental day for the Padres. A number of years ago, John Moores and Sandy Alderson had a vision for the Padres internationally. Their collective aggressiveness in this area has led to many things: hosting the inaugural World Baseball Classic, playing the first ever exhibition games in China, and building the Taj Mahal of baseball academies in the Dominican Republic. However, they knew that the vision would not be complete without high-caliber talent.

Somewhat under the radar, the Padres have ramped up their efforts (and their budget) internationally over the past couple of years under the guidance of Randy Smith. As a consequence, our lower minor league levels now host a large group of high quality prospects from Latin America. We just added to that group in a monumental way.

July 2nd

Today is July 2nd, so the International Signing Period opens. I have a feeling it's going to be an unusually big day for the Padres.

I'll post again when we have official news.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tiger Stadium

I admit it - I'm a sucker for old stadiums.

When I was very young, I used to play a game with my dad called Big League Manager. The game was similar to APBA in that each player had a card, you set the lineup, and managed your team. One year as a gift my dad bought a number of the great teams... or at least the great teams in HIS estimation as a Pirates fan so both the '27 and '60 Pirates accompanied the '27 and '60 Yankees. In order to block out my dad's sound effects that accompanied every strikeout (gee, I wonder why I'm competitive), I used to imagine the teams playing in their old ballparks. So, when I started working in Cleveland in the mid-90's, I couldn't help but pause in the hallway outside of the press box that had big pictures of old stadiums all along the walls. It was a gallery into baseball's past.

Ever since I've had the opportunity to work in this game, I've tried to make it a point to experience some of these great yards, and Tiger Stadium was one of them. I have some great memories of that stadium and only one regret. My one regret was that on my last trip in there as a member of the Oakland A's, I spent one afternoon with a disposable camera taking pictures from all over the ballpark: coming up out the concourse into the lower seating bowl right by the dugout which made you feel like you were on deck, sitting in the overhanging press box, standing in deep centerfield with the flag pole in the way, sitting in the first row of the upper deck in right field than hung out over the outfield, and even crouching in the bunker for the bullpen pitchers. The intimacy was really remarkable. My regret? I lost the stinkin' camera.

Nevertheless, I still have those memories, and they are very clear. I have other memories, too. The visiting clubhouse was about the size of a shower room in any of the new clubhouses. It was about as private as Mardi Gras. In fact, the first time I ever had to tell a player that he was going to AAA was in Tiger Stadium. I had to do it while literally sitting in the player's locker.

The runway from the clubhouse to the dugout was small and dark. Near the dugout entrance but attached to the runway wall was a porcelain trough. Again, privacy must not have been a central concern of Detroit in 1912. Our clubhouse manager in Oakland, Steve Vucinich, came around the corner, saw me paused next to the trough, and quickly said, "Babe Ruth probably p#%%ed there". That's still one of my all-time favorite lines since I've worked in this game.

I'm sad to see Tiger Stadium go, and I was there just a few times and near the end of its days. Don't get me wrong, the new ballparks are tremendous for both the fans and the players, and we're all busy creating these special moments in the new venues. That said, I'm glad I'll always have those images of Tiger Stadium in my mind.