Monday, December 21, 2009

The Murph

My job as a photographer's assistant put me in the dugout at Jack Murphy Stadium when the Padres beat the Cubs in the 1984 National League Championship Series and for Games 1 and 2 of the World Series against the Tigers. The crowds were incredibly loud, and when the NLCS returned to The Murph in 1998, San Diegans again were unusually boisterous. Greg Maddux, who was with the visiting Braves at the time, said he'd never heard so much crowd noise. I've covered a lot of postseason baseball, including a memorable Yankees-Mariners series in the Kingdome and five World Series at Yankee Stadium. San Diego's crowds in the 1984 and 1998 NLCS were as loud as any I heard. Part of it was size. The Murph was expanded for football by 1998. The increased capacity and more circular acoustics added to the din.

Sunday's Chargers game at The Murph took me back to those days. Without any prompting from "game entertainment" puppeteers, the crowd went bananas in the third quarter. The Murph was as loud as it was in 1984 or 1998 -- maybe louder. "That's the loudest crowd I've ever heard," Chargers coach Norv Turner told me afterward. The Bengals probably would agree. Their offense fell apart, drawing two flags for delay of game penalties and another for illegal substitution. "Golly, it was unreal," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers told me today.

Petco Park is a gem. The Murph, though, is still a special place. I'd like to see the Padres play a game or two in The Murph every year. Slash prices for concessions, give away Tony Gwynn throwback jerseys and fill the place up with 60,000. Maybe it's not practical. But I think the strategic thinkers would be impressed by how loud San Diegans can be.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Job search

The Padres interviewed Cardinals assistant scouting director Jaron Madison and others for their director of scouting job. A former outfielder for Long Beach State, Madison scouted for the Pirates and worked two seasons as San Diego's assistant scouting director before joining St. Louis in 2007. UPDATE: The Padres announced on Dec. 18 that they have hired Madison as their scouting director.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pinstriped Towers

What next for the Gunslinger?

"I expect to probably make a decision after the first of the year," he told me today via e-mail.

Towers is a West Coast guy, loves Seattle, and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is a friend. But all I've heard is that he'll end up with the Yankees. He's close to Yankees GM Brian Cashman and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer. "Yankees are certainly a possibility," Towers said.

Kind of funny, isn't it? After all those years of stretching dollars for the Padres, the Gunslinger ends up with the filthy rich Yankees, while collecting at least $1 million in remaining salary from the Padres. A job inside the Death Star will teach him the American League and the ways of a big-market club. Several of his buddies are in the East Coast media. My guess is he'll return to the GM game someday, but not if it means supplanting a GM. The Mets reportedly aren't happy with his friend Omar Minaya, who's under contract through 2012. If the Mets decide next year that Minaya isn't the answer, by then the Gunslinger should have a feel for whether the New York life is for him or not.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A look back at a look ahead

Who were the top 10 Padres prospects entering 2009? Here is my list from last January:

Looking back, it's a decent list. The evaluators I interviewed led me to rank Will Venable and Simon Castro high enough that readers asked if I was sniffing glue, but each player followed with a promising season. The biggest disappointments were outfielders Kellen Kulbacki and Cedric Hunter. Kulbacki sustained a hamstring injury in which muscle was torn from bone. Hunter regressed, leaving the Padres bewildered and frustrated. Looks like I over-ranked Adys Portillo. Some of his wild spells this year were troubling. He's still younger than most of the players who will be drafted this year. Nor did I see Edinson Rincon emerging to the extent he did in 2009. Before I started talking to scouts, I figured that Allan Dykstra would be on the list. I heard enough skepticism to go with James Darnell instead. Judging by the last 15 years, maybe any player drafted by the Padres in the first round should be downgraded just as a matter of course. On a personal note, it was fun to interview Jaff Decker. His love for baseball comes through.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday notes

Baseball America had me take a look at the Doogster and what the Padres have been doing with their farm system. Here's the story:

Congratulations to Jason McLeod, who is joining the Doogster's staff as assistant GM in charge of scouting and development. A former Padres scout mentioned in this blog last month, McLeod drafted well in his time inside The Matrix. He's also known for having great people skills. Skeptics will note that Boston's wealth allowed McLeod to attack the draft more aggressively than most other clubs could. Isn't it about properly valuing talent? I doubt the Padres would regret it if they had drafted Casey Kelly and paid him above slot money instead of drafting Allan Dykstra with their first pick in 2008. The Padres have shown an increased willingness to invest strongly in their farm system. Despite his love for San Diego, I strongly doubt McLeod would've left the Matrix without getting assurances from the Padres that they will spend competitively in the draft and internationally. My guess is he'll hire a scouting director, while retaining input into the draft. Score this one as a coup for the Doogster. In weeks and months ahead, I doubt Sox GM Theo Epstein, a close friend of McLeod's dating to their time together in San Diego, will allow the Padres to hire more than one or two others from Boston, if anyone at all. While with Boston, McLeod tried to hire Padres scout Chris Gwynn, so look for Gwynn to have more say-so.