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December 11, 2012

Western Front

Padres Break Bank, Won't Pay to Have it Fixed

by Geoff Young

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The Padres have been huge players so far this offseason, acquiring Brandon Kloess, A.J. Kirby-Jones, Tyson Ross, and Wilfredo Boscan in trades, and signing free agents Travis Buck and Jason Marquis. This has the potential to upset the balance of power in the National League West.

Such are the problems when a new ownership group comes in and starts flinging money like there's an endless supply of the green stuff. Drop enough Lincolns and other teams reflexively recoil in fear. It is impossible to deny the intimidation factor that accompanies such brash spending. Opponents feel deflated and stop trying to compete. This is great for the Padres, but think of the poor Dodgers and Giants to the north. What will become of them?

Jason Marquis
The marquee (pardon the pun) signing was Marquis, who starred for San Diego last summer after being discarded by the pitching-rich Minnesota Twins. The Padres coaxed the 34-year-old right-hander to return on a one-year, $3 million deal, proving that San Diego not only is the gateway to Tijuana but also is serious about winning.

Marquis' résumé overwhelms:

  • Owner of a .507 career winning percentage, highest among pitchers who have thrown between 1,803 and 1,804 innings (Herm Wehmeier is currently second at .460)
  • Former All-Star who pitched in the playoffs for four different teams
  • NL leader with 35 homers (allowed, but still) in 2006
  • League leader in losses and earned runs that year; more is better
  • Co-leader (Livan Hernandez, Greg Maddux) among NL pitchers with 21 putouts in 2004
  • Silver Slugger winner in 2005 thanks to a .310 batting average and 10 RBI
  • Taken 11 picks ahead of former MVP Jimmy Rollins in the 1996 draft; so on one level you have the MVP, and on a whole other level you have Marquis

I could go on, but you get the idea. This is a unique talent. Literally no one else can make all of the above claims. To get these seven bullet points for $3 million—that's less than $500,000 per bullet point. In this market? Crazy!

If the Padres can spend $3 million on Marquis, what else might they do? The mind boggles. Marquis, though, isn't the whole story. Fans have myriad other reasons to be excited about this team.

The Trades
The benefits of adding Kloess, Kirby-Jones, Ross, and Boscan are obvious. Their qualifications are included solely for the sake of completeness.

Brandon Kloess

A.J. Kirby-Jones

  • Attended Tennessee Tech, whose alumni include country singer Dottie West
  • Was not a candidate for Upper Class Twit of the Year; you're thinking of Nigel Incubator-Jones, an easy mistake to make
  • Hit 21 homers at Stockton in 2012 (sorry, not all of these facts can be relevant)

Tyson Ross

Wilfredo Boscan

  • Is an anagram for Carbonised Wolf, Bifocal Wonders, Boldface Is Worn, Bacon Word Files, and countless others (actually, 107,143—enough to keep you amused and/or annoyed for a while)
  • Shares a birthday (October 26) with Bob Hoskins, Pat Conroy, Pat Sajak, Toby Harrah, Steve Rogers, Bootsy Collins, David Was, Cary Elwes, Jon Heder, and a host of other people mentioned on Wikipedia, as well as many more not mentioned there or anywhere else
  • Hails from the city of Maracaibo, Venezuela, which was attacked by pirates in 1667 (François l'Olonnais was not a nice man) and 1669 (Henry Morgan was no saint either)

* * *

But enough about Pirates, we were talking about the Padres. The real difference-maker is Travis Buck. In Buck, the Padres are getting someone who:

  • Attended the same high school as jazz guitarist Larry Coryell (he's kind of great)
  • Once homered off Chris Jakubauskas, whose surname gets you 28 points in Scrabble
  • Has a nifty surname of his own, which can mean:
    • A male deer or antelope
    • A dashing fellow (also known as a “dandy”; Travis Dandy is a cool name, although a ballplayer using it might get his ass kicked, which then again could make him tough like a boy named Sue)
    • A dollar (“That Travis Buck sure is money”)
    • A supporting rack or frame (“That Travis Buck sure has a nice...”)

Buck is primarily a corner outfielder these days, but he did play 28 errorless innings in center for Oakland as a rookie in 2007 and eight more for Cleveland in 2011, so there's every reason to believe that his presence signals the end of Cameron Maybin's tenure in San Diego.

The cruel irony is that Buck was taken just 26 picks after Maybin in the 2005 draft. And by irony it is understood that we mean coincidence. Let us not split hairs over such trivialities. Nobody loves a pedantic semanticist.

The point is that with Buck in center, flanked on the corners by Mark Kotsay and that guy who tried to wipe your windshield with a newspaper while you were stopped at a red light this morning, the Padres will be tough in 2013. And the scary part is, they're only going to get better in the future.

* * *

Notice has been served. The Dodgers may have traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Zack Greinke (the latter being an obvious and—if we are to be brutally honest—desperate response to San Diego's inking of Marquis). The Giants may have won two so-called world championships in three years. But the Padres' time is now and they know it.

The rest of the baseball universe is about to suffer the wrath of a franchise that finally, after decades of theriomorphic threats (there was talk of changing the team name to Skunks or Platypi) and incomprehensible innuendo, has the necessary resources at its disposal and the gumption to act with shameless bravado. Things are going to change in San Diego. Thing are going to...

Oh wait, that Jason Marquis and Travis Buck? Never mind.

22 comments have been left for this article.

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