The Animal House

The Padres had not won the opening game of the season since 1998.  That was also the last time they won their home opener.  They have repeated that feat this year, despite the best attempts of their bullpen to make them 1-3.  I was very optimistic about the strength of their bullpen in spring training, and it's looking like I had overestimated their competence considerably.  Ohtsuka has been about as good as advertised, but everyone else has been shaky at best. 

For whatever reason, Kevin Walker was let go this spring in favor of Eddie Oropesa.  Only looking at their career numbers, one has to assume that Oropesa has pictures of Kevin Towers in some compromising position with a farm animal.  There doesn't appear to be anything in his 11-year history as a professional pitcher that 1) he's is better than Walker, and 2) would indicate that he's worth a roster spot.  Walker, for example, is younger, has a lower career ERA, has pitched more innings, walked fewer batters, given up fewer home runs and has struck out nearly a batter per inning for his career.  Although I must admit that after watching Antonio Osuna give up bombs to Marquis Grissom and Adrian Beltre, I'm beginning to think that Kevin Towers just loves to see the other team hit homers and Oropesa is better at making that happen than Walker.

I think Witasick and Linebrink will be ok, and I'm still waiting to see MIT-grad Jason Szuminski pitch, but the Padres are going to have to do some searching to fill the other two or three spots in the pen if they want to stay above the competition, because Osuna (who hasn't been good since 1998) and Oropesa (never) aren't gonna cut it.

And with the talent the Pads have on offense and their starting staff, it'd be a crime if they were undercut by a lousy bullpen

Both Adam Eaton and David Wells looked super in their outings.  Jake Peavy and Brian Lawrence did credible jobs in theirs.  Peavy will get better; I'm not so certain about Lawrence.  His tendencies the last two years lead me to believe that his run as a good pitcher might be coming to an end in the next year or two.  His strikeout rate has been falling, his walk rate has been increasing, as has his home run rate and batter's slugging has gone up 20 points in each of the last two years. 

The Padres had Ben Howard waiting in the wings until they decided they couldn't live without reliever Blaine Neal.  Why Neal?  Who knows.  His minor league numbers aren't impressive, nor was his performance this spring.  If they knew they were going to need a reliever, why not trade for a good one?  And who knows why in the world the Padres would give up a pitcher who struck out 678 batters in 712 minor league innings and who 2-hit the Dodgers for 7 innings in his last start in 2003.  Fortunately, they do have Sterling Hitchcock (who's always done well in the NL) and Dennis Tankersley (who really looked like he's turned the corner this spring) available to fill the 4th and 5th spots when necessary. 

It was fitting that the stadium for the next generation of Padres was christened with heroic efforts by the next generation of Padres (Sean Burroughs and Khalil Greene).  He's not young, but Miguel Ojeda could be around a while too.  If you're in a deep NL fantasy league and need a catcher, grab Ojeda.  The guy can flat out hit.  He didn't look that great overall last year, but when he got a reasonable number of at bats, he hit.  In July and August he totaled 87 at bats and hit .275 with an on base over .400.  Even with as durable as Ramon Hernandez is, Oakland back-ups got over 100 at bats last year.  Ojeda should get probably in the neighborhood of 150 with pinch hitting opportunities and the double switches that come with NL play. 

But the real star of the home opener was the ballpark.  What a strikingly beautiful example of sports architecture Petco Park is.  With part of the Western Metal Supply building in the field of play, the low set field and exposed structure, it channels Camden Yards, Chavez Ravine and Old Comiskey Park into it's modern mixture of amenities and elemental design.

Admittedly, something must be done about the name.  Some of the suggested nicknames for Petco are the Litterbox, Dog Run, the Bark Park and the Big Bone.  However, the best one, oddly enough, was suggested during the Giants' broadcast of the opener.  Playing home to a team that has David "Bluto" Wells, "D-Day" Nevin, "Otter" Klesko, "Chip" Peavy, and an assortment of other "Boons", "Flounders" and "Pintos", the ballpark really should be called the Animal House.  The Dodgers collectively would be Marmalard and the Giants, Niedermeyer.  And don't you think Bud Selig would make an excellent Dean Wormer?