One of the first memories I have of my wife was on Valentine's Day, eight years ago. She was as yet unaware of the romantic appeal of the one they call "Grant", and we were both grumbling about how much Valentine's Day sucks. You know how it is; just a couple of platonic friends of the opposite sex making fun of people in relationships, except the guy has a desperate crush on the girl. Just for the occasion, she was wearing a shirt with a drawing of a black widow on it; the caption read, "We could mate, but then I'd have to kill you." My chances of scoring that night were as low as the Giants' opening day lineup this year.
Ahem. Alright, you try something baseball-related and Valentine's Day-related that's funny. Difficulty: You have to include Bruce Bochy in some way.
Bochy keeps springing to mind for a couple of reasons. First, I drove by a Pep Boys recently. Second, it's the Padres' turn in the carousel of NL West fun, and the Giants did pilfer Bochy from the Padres. And Dave Roberts. And Ryan Klesko. Perhaps Alan Wiggins; I haven't looked into this too carefully yet. What a haul! Take that, Padres! Have fun rebuilding your franchise after that surgical strike!
Uh, yeah. The Padres are the team to beat in the division, and it's starting to seem like less of a question every day. Everyone in the infield can hit; everyone in the outfield can hit, depending on your appreciation of Termel Sledge. The rotation is the best in the National League, as is the bullpen. I'm afeared.
Adrian Gonzalez is only going to get better. Khalil Greene is going to stop breaking things. Vinny Castilla isn't around anymore, and he was replaced with Kevin Kouzmanoff. I was ready to laugh the Kouzmanoff deal off as some sort of desperate Graham Koonce-grab from the Padres. Yeah, Kouzmanoff had a fantastic year in AAA, but look at the strikeout numbers. If he has trouble making contact with AAA pitching, how is h...what the...he hardly struck out at all last year. Great. So he's a third baseman with power and a little patience, and he also makes excellent contact. Wonderful. If there is a saving grace, it's that he's supposed to field like a hungover Russ Davis.
Marcus Giles isn't what he was, which can happen to small-statured 42nd-round picks who have sudden power spikes in their minor league career only to lose the power even though they are entering their supposed "peak" years and the decline just happens to coincide with increased testing for performance-enhancing drugs. But it would be irresponsible to speculate, and he's still a decent player. Kouzmanoff/Giles is a definite improvement over Castilla/Branyan/Barfield.
Jake Peavy is better than his ERA, and Chris Young is just as good as his ERA. Greg Maddux is old, but there's no reason he can't be above-average for the next ten years. It isn't like he has a fastball to lose. David Wells is even older, but he's still a good bet to be at least average. As long as there are impatient hitters willing to swing at fastballs three inches off the outside or patient hitters who think they can get ahead in the count by taking a pitch, Wells will be there. You're welcome for the free Clay Hensley, San Diego, but I'm not sold on him yet. Will he have a better season than Russ Ortiz? Only time will tell. But, yes. Yes, he will.
The Padres also have some interesting arms in the bullpen, and some hard-throwing youngster from deep in their system could surprise the league. Some of the veteran arms could come through as well. Even though I've been writing the same thing in protest of the unpredictability of bullpens, it doesn't make sense to just gloss over the Padres' bullpen. Trevor Hoffman, Scott Linebrink, Cla Meredith...brrrr.
Lineup rank in the NL West: 2nd
Rotation rank in the NL West: 1st
Bullpen rank in the NL West: No idea...but probably 1st
Comment starter: Something Padres-related...or maybe some sort of baseball-related pickup line.
"You made my heart go one-flap down, baby."