Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
So far as the San Diego Padres are concerned, it's a good bet that 2012 couldn't come fast enough. Last season was full of disappointments. After surprising most of baseball in 2010 by missing the playoffs by only one game on the last day of the regular season, the 2011 squad was never close. They finished 71-91, last in the National League West division, which included below-average seasons from some of the veteran free agents signed to bolster the club's roster of young and unproven talent. Second baseman Orlando Hudson and shortstop Jason Bartlett underperformed in comparison with previous years, first baseman Brad Hawpe couldn't get going at all before an injury sidelined him for the season, and Jorge Cantu, who was signed to play a role coming off of the bench, couldn't hit a lick and was summarily released by June.
But there were certainly some bright spots. The Pythagorean for the Padres, who gave up 611 and scored 593 runs, puts them at a more respectable 79-83 (Pythagorean is a metric, based on equal exponential progression of the difference between runs given up and runs scored, it is often used by MLB scouts and managers in evaluating a truer performance of a team). While Anthony Rizzo - once considered as the 1st baseman of the future - came up from a stellar showing in AAA Tucson and proceeded to flail helplessly at major league sliders, Jesus Guzman filled in nicely and wound up leading the team with a .312 batting average. The downside on Guzman is his glove; he doesn't field a position adequately at the major league level to this point.
But one of the brighter spots in 2011 may have been center fielder Cameron Maybin.
The Padres celebrated Dinner On The Diamond Friday evening, the proceeds going to the Padres Foundation for Children. The 2011 awards were handed out and it's no surprise that Cameron Maybin was voted the Padres team most valuable player by the San Diego area Baseball Writer's Association of America. Maybin, who was drafted out of high school in his native North Carolina, was drafted in the 1st round (10th overall pick) by the Detroit Tigers in 2005. In 2007 he was traded to the Florida Marlins, and in 2010 the Padres traded pitchers Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb to the Marlins for Maybin, who played in 137 games last season.
While batting a somewhat respectable .264 in his first full season in the major leagues, Maybin was 2nd in the National League in stolen bases with 40. Cameron also covers a lot of ground in center field, which bodes well in a spacious outfield like Petco Park and also while playing in large stadium outfields of division rivals Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The Padres had been involved in talks with Maybin's previous agent, Robert Baratta, when talks were eventually shelved toward the end of last year. Recently, Maybin has switched agents and is now represented once again by Brian Goldberg, his original agent when signing his first major league contract. It is widely thought that the Padres and Goldberg may revisit contract extension talks during spring training.
Other team awards were handed out Friday evening, including the Chairman's Award for community service going to Luke Gregerson. Both Pitcher of the Year and Fireman of the Year Awards (best overall team pitcher and best overall team relief pitcher) was handed to now ex-Padre Heath Bell (Bell signed a 3-year contract with the Florida Marlins as a free agent after the end of last season). Organization awards went to Tom Tornincasa as the Jack Krol Hitting Coach of the Year, while Tim Holt was named as the Denny Galehouse Scout of the Year.
Minor League players are also honored during Dinner on the Diamond. Keyvius Sampson with the Low Class-A Ft. Wayne Tincaps was named Padres Minor League Pitcher of the Year after a season where he posted a 12-3 mark with a 2.9 earned run average. Jedd Gyorko took the Padres Minor League Offensive Player of the Year award, with a nice .333 batting average and 25 home runs along with 114 RBI's splitting time between High Class-A Lake Elsinore and the Class-AA San Antonio Missions. Rico Noel, an outfielder splitting time between Ft. Wayne and Lake Elsinore earned Padres Minor League Defensive Player of the Year honors, and highly touted prospect Rymer Liriano was named Padres Minor League Baserunner of the Year playing mostly in Ft. Wayne, stealing 66 total bases.
This morning on local sports-talk radio station XX-1090, Padres President and COO Tom Garfinkel denied a report by USA Today's Bob Nightengale, that the Padres were negotiating a 20-year contract with Fox Sports for television broadcasting rights that would amount to some $75 million dollars per year. Garfinkel hinted that the contract would be approximately double what the Padres received yearly from their last contract which was with Cox. That deal is estimated to have been in the neighborhood of between $12 and $15 million per year, meaning that Garfinkel is talking about the new contract in terms of $25 to $30 million per year. Nightengale, however, insists that his sources are accurate. There is a rumor that such a deal may be realized as early as the middle of next week, but all media contracts are subject to approval by Major League Baseball, so it's anyone's guess as to what happens next. Except that whatever happens will have to happen sooner rather than later.
While Saturday's Padres Fan Fest opens to the general public at 10:00 AM, gates will open at 8:30 AM for season ticket holders in order to get first dibs on items sold at the Padres Garage Sale. The garage sale is an annual event where the organization offers various items, including new and used Padres gear, at discount prices. This is a very popular event, so expect long lines for it. Proceeds go toward the Padres Foundation for Children.
(Photograph courtesy of HyunYoung Alexis Oh)