Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Reason To Go To Petco...Ello, Apr. 2nd

I guess the easiest line of the week would be: "You better go see Stephen Strasburg pitch at Petco Park on Friday, because he'll be the best pitcher you see there all season!"

Ha, ha.

But, of course, true Padres' fans aren't laughing.

Friday is indeed the day for everybody to have a chance to come out and see the Aztecs' All-American, can't-miss, future Hall of Fame right-hander pitch for the first time in a big league ballpark. According to everyone who has ever seen a baseball game of any kind, it won't be the last time.

But after Strasburg pitches, there will be another game at Petco on Friday night, one that I have a feeling will be looked upon with far less fanfare and far more trepidation.

More on the season that nobody-seems-to-be-looking-forward-to later. But first, a bit more about our star.

Strasburg has been the subject of recent articles in Sports Illustrated (five pages, with pictures!), on ESPN (TV, website, magazine), at Yahoo Sports...and anywhere else anybody happens to be musing about the National Pastime these days.

One TV wag said that Strasburg -- who most certainly will be the No. 1-pick in this summer's MLB draft, and will most certainly command a salary in the neighborhood of $50-million -- is baseball's version of LeBron James.

With all of that fanfare, there's no doubt that curious eyes want to get a glimpse of this local phenomenon. So Friday at Petco (vs. UC Davis, 2:30 p.m.) will be your chance.

Personally, I have no idea how Strasburg's pro career is going to play out. At this point he's really nothing more than the latest great thing. Some of these guys (LeBron) live up to the expectations. But, frankly, most do not.

What I can tell you is that Strasburg has been fantastic so far. Coming out of West Hills High in Santee with little attention three seasons ago, Strasburg spent a year in a relief for SDSU before bursting onto the scene last spring with his amazing 23-strikeout game against Utah.

This season, radar guns have recorded him throwing fastballs at up to 102 mph (which really seems ludicrous, but hey, he does throw very hard)...And he's 5-0 with an ERA of a buck-fifty. He's also averaging a not-of-this-planet 19.2 strikeouts for every nine innings pitched.

He's good. Very good. And I'm happy to report, he's been just as good off the field. A down to earth kid who really just wants to be a good teammate more than anything else, Strasburg has not let any of the overwhelming attention go to his head.

He works his butt off between starts, and he works hard in the classroom as well. Though he's just finishing up his Junior season, he'll be just one class shorts of graduating by season's end.

Guided beautifully by a guy who's already a Hall of Famer, Aztecs' baseball coach Tony Gwynn, Strasburg seems to have all of his ducks in a row. He'd like to finish up this season by leading the 21st-ranked Aztecs (19-10) to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years.

Then it should be on to the big leagues -- which, of course, is where the Padres presumably reside. I say presumably because in this, the 40th-anniversary season of the Friars, I'm not so sure many of us feel as if the Padres really belong.

After Strasburg is done wowing us on Friday afteroon, the Padres will begin (embarrassing us?) Friday night in their first local exhibition game of the year against the Angels.

You tell me...but I don't think there's ever been a Padres' season looked upon with as much dread as this one. In the early days of the '60's, you still had a bit of a novelty...In the '70's enough progress was made from time-to-time that fans held out at least a glimmer of hope.

The brilliance of Gwynn (along with a couple of World Series appearances) took care of the '80's and '90's...And for most of this decade, win or lose, we could at least hang around until Trevor Time.

Now it's as if there is no hope at all. Not a single preseason publication picked the Padres anywhere but 5th this year in the NL West, and the Friars were only that high because there is no 6th....Following last year's 99-loss debacle, not a single player of any substance has been added to the roster....And those that have some substance, the Padres spent the entire off-season trying to get rid of (see Jake Peavy while you still can!).

There are no dreams this chance...and really nothing at all to look forward to.

Unless, that is, Strasburg takes the mound again at Petco Park on August 31st when the Nationals -- the team that figures to draft him -- come to town.


  1. Real Baseball Intelligence (RBI), a leading resource in the evaluation of amateur baseball talent and draft coverage, has ranked Stephen Strasburg the #1 prospect for the 2009 MLB Draft. View his free scouting report (with video) at

  2. I saw the Padres projected Line-up on ESPN last night and Tim Kukjian was discussing where he thought they would finish. My thoughts were as follows: the line-up doesn't look as bad as I think they will be in 2009...Hmmm....

    With a suspect bullpen and only two quality starters (who are often injured) I know that this season could be painfully long. But when we evaluate each position you have to like that we have some guys who should make some strides this year. Kouz, Headly and Hundly should all get better and if they improve is it conceivable to think that Adrian's numbers could improve even more?

    It's gonna be a long season. But if we get to see young guys play and see the gains they make it'll be a more palatable summer.

  3. Chris, is this the only place I can 'hear' you?
    OMGosh, I cannot listen to sports talk in this town-it is awful! No one is worth listening to. Come back!