Three Pieces: San Diego Padres

While the Padres did manage to 'win' the NL West, it was kind of like beating your younger sibling in a competition, unsatisfying and ultimately a victory that leaves more questions about your skills than answers. If the Padres had been in the NL East, they would have finished one game out of last place, and now they've made a trade for an aging slugger with that one team the would have beaten in the East. But can the Padres manage to win this season, after going only 82 and 80 last year? Will anyone hit a homerun to straightaway center? Will Bruce Bochy, dissatisfied by the play of any thirdbaseman for the second straight season, begin playing the San Diego Chicken?

1. Have fun

Team that develop a tradition of winning, and teams that have won in the playoffs over the last decade or so, have by in large, been teams that clearly enjoyed playing the game. The White Sox are clearly an example of this in 2005, as were the Astros. If you go back a year, the same thing was true of the Red Sox, and before them the Marlins, Angels, Diamondbacks, Yankees and the Marlins again. The division winners (or contenders) usually tend to be teams that enjoy themselves as well, the A's and Twins of recent years come to mind. Last year, no one in the NL West was having any fun. Everyone was worrying about not losing, and this isn't a great way to become inspired. The pressure is going to kill the Padres if they don't relax, especially with the possibility of a full season from Barry Bonds, a man who creates more offense than any other player in the majors. If they worry about the homeruns they're going to give up (away from PetCo), about the errors they're going to make, the games they're going to lose, they're going to 'Bill Buckner' themselves to death.

2. Bring in the fences

I spent far too long searching for this article on ESPN.com, only to find it on MLB.com. Thank you Business of Baseball report. It addresses the Padres' plan to bring in the fences in right center from 411 feet to about 395. The hitters in San Diego have been so flummoxed by the dimensions of the field, even a small change may give players a psychological boost. It's a gesture, sure, but it's something. Hopefully they get this into action soon enough to have it in place for the World Baseball Classic. I can't tell you how excited I am about this, and it's great to see how much this means to all the international players.

3. Start using/acquiring some speed

Cameron could help the Padres. He went .273/.342/.477 last year and is .249/.340/.442 for his career. Nady is .263/.320/.414 fo his career, so San Diego is picking up some power. I'm not even going to dignify the trade for Vinny Castilla with a response. Okay, that was harsh, but the man spent 8 seasons in Colorado and turns 38 this year. He's just very high risk. But to trying to bring in sluggers is not a great strategy for this team. Right now, there's little difference between this team and the Marlins: young, hard throwing starters who may turn out great, a huge outfield, and an identity crisis. The Marlins were a success when they built on their speed and pitching and stopped trying to hit balls out of the park. This apporach should be drilled into Padres hitters' heads, and the GM's office should make every attempt to move more speed into any position they can. With a few more manufactured runs, the Padres might be able to move to five games over .500, and repeat in the NL West.

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