Peace through victory - the American way.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Straight From The Lips Of Padres' Management.

The Padres held their annual party for season ticket holders and shareholders at Petco Park this evening. The team's management shows up, talks about the team's moves, and fields questions from fans. Here's the breaking news.

Asked by a fan who the team plans to offer arbitration, General Manager Kevin Towers said the team was "leaning towards" offering arbitration to:

Chan Ho Park
Ryan Klesko
Alan Embree
Dave Roberts
Todd Walker.

The team is still deciding on whether to offer arbitration to Mike Piazza.

Towers also announced that Geoff Blum will be a Padre again in 2007. Judging from the applause of the fans, that is a popular move.

Towers also took the opportunity to dispel the bizarre rumors that Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez would be traded. He blamed that rumor on a local radio sports broadcaster known as Philly Billy. Towers said Philly Billy "has the best ideas that don't make sense." That drew a big laugh from the crowd.

Towers also suggested that a big part of the stories about the team going after Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez was intended to drive up the price that San Francisco or Los Angeles would have to pay for them.

Asked about Barry Zito, Towers pointed out that the left-hander is represented by Scott Boras. He also said that the left-handed pitcher is "atractive" but he couldn't make any promises about bringing Zito to San Diego. He acknowledged that the team should have gotten the San Diego native when he was still an amateur. He concluded by saying, "when all is said and done, we'll add pieces to our rotation." Doesn't sound like Zito will be one of those pieces.

Towers said his goal is to add more arms to the front-line starting rotation of Jake Peavy, Clay Hensley, and Chris Young. He wants more depth to join Scott Linebrink, Cla Meredith, and Trevor Hoffman. And he needs to get a second baseman to join Adrian Gonzalez, Khalil Greene, and new third baseman, Kevin Kouzmanoff, in the infield. Asked who was available for that, he said the team is looking at Ray Durham, local favorite Mark Loretta, Tony Grafanino, and Todd Walker.

As for the outfield and leadoff, he said fan favorite Dave Roberts "is not gone yet" but other than considering arbitration he didn't make it sound as if the team is pursuing Roberts. Perhaps because of something Padres CEO Sandy Alerson said about the team's need for improved hitting.

Alderson said the team "needs a couple of right-handed power hitters who can hit the ball out to left field" in Petco Park. Petco has a reputation of being a pitcher's park where homeruns are scarce. Right field and center are pretty far away. But left field is just sitting there, very close and well within reach of right-handed power hitters. Dave Roberts doesn't have that kind of power. Much as Padres fans wouldn't like it, the team would probably be better off finding a left-fielder who can hit the ball out to left field than bringing back Roberts.

The big question of the night for Padres fans involved the Josh Barfield trade. It was very clear from fan reactions that the Barfield trade wasn't popular. Finally asked a respectful question about that, Towers explained the reasoning this way.

Towers said that at every level in the minor leagues Kouzmanoff's offensive numbers were better than Barfield's. He predicted that given the same opportunity to play in the majors in 2007 that Barfield got in 2006, Kouzmanoff "will deliver." More important to the team, Kouzmanoff has the right-handed power the Padres need and he has hit homeruns at every level he's played. The team projects him to be the kind of 3, 4, or 5 hitter they need. Towers said the Padres have a future second baseman in the person of Luis Cruz and that for 2007 they will fill the void at second base with a free agent signing. His reasoning made sense and will be considered brilliant if the gamble pays off.

Which brings us back to something that Alderson said early in the evening when he confronted the issue of trades and change and fan loyalty head on. He said the team's bottom line goal is to put a better product on the field and improve over last year's performance. He said management wants to field a team the fans will love and he described how fans loved Mark Loretta and were upset to see him go, but then the fans came to love his replacement, Josh Barfield.

Alderson didn't come right out and say it this way, but in other words, sports fans, Loretta left and you got used to it. Barfield is gone and you'll get used to that too. That's true. But only if the team wins. Because winning is the only thing that matters in sports.

-tdr

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