Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Big winners

You don't have to be Tony La Russa smart about baseball to know who the big winners were in the Mike Adams trade. The big winners were the two Rangers pitching prospects obtained by the Padres. Take that to the bank, people. Those two pitchers could do just that.

If there's a better way for a pitcher to get a toehold on a major league career than to go to the Padres, one doesn't come to mind. The difference between pitching in Petco National Park and Texas helium park, of course, is extreme. Weak offenses in the NL West seem to be the norm, too, and in the National League, a quaint notion prevails that pitchers should be allowed to hit.

For the two former Rangers prospects, this trade can only help to fatten their wallets. Consider, for instance, how Padres employment may have inflated the earning power of Clayton Richard and Wade LeBlanc. The White Sox doubted Richard would survive a heavy dose of their ballpark and the American League. Many scouts with AL clubs rejected LeBlanc as a high draft pick for similar reasons (the Padres used a second-round pick on him). Maybe Richard and LeBlanc would've cashed more than a year's worth of major league paychecks without coming to the Padres. But the pitching cocoon here seems to have helped them quite a bit, judging by the canyon between their career home and road ERAs.

Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin. the former Rangers prospects, should be giddy about this trade. The Padres may already be there.

"We're really happy," assistant general manager Jason McLeod said. "These are two guys we like a lot. They're not electric stuff guys. But they're also not touch and feel guys. Wieland dominated (in Double-A) with a 90 miles per hour fastball because he commands it so damn good. Mike Adams is dominant. If you get two kids who have a really good chance to be in your rotation within the next two years, it's a win-win."

McLeod said the Padres are "stacking a lot of guys that are legitimate starting pitching prospects." Beyond the Tattoed One and Tim Stauffer, he mentioned big leaguer Cory Luebke, and minor leaguers Casey Kelly, Wieland, Erlin and Juan Oramas. McLeod would've kept going if this blog had a longer attention span.

Adams, meanwhile, reaps the windfall of going to a club with an actual offense and a chance at the playoffs. The new gig will excite his thrill seeker within, which may not always be a great thing. At some point -- and we hope it doesn't happen for a long time -- Adams will find out firshand that his new home ballpark doesn't laugh at bids for opposite-field home runs by righties. Quite the opposite, in fact. This can be a rude discovery. In his first game with the White Sox, former Padres ace Jake Peavy quickly learned that he wasn't in Petco anymore. Royals righty Billy Butler -- a first baseman/DH -- rocketed a ball into the right-field seats at the Sox ballpark. Peavy was shocked.

How a pitcher will respond when a safety net is removed isn't easy to predict. One pitcher who didn't seem to mind it was David Wells. More than once, the Boomer told this blog that pitching in Petco wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. It wore on him to have little run support. None of this jazz from Wells about "I kept my team in the game." The idea is to win the game. Rings too. By the time he came to the Padres, Wells had been on some big winners, including the Yankees team that won 114 games and swept the Padres in the 1998 World Series. He didn't need a toehold for his career.

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