Following Trevor Hoffman’s departure from last night’s 3-1 loss to the Twins, boos rained down from the bleachers. Boos, it would seem, intended for the future Hall of Famer after surrendering back-to-back home runs, including the game winner. This didn’t sit well with the Padres clubhouse.
“I didn’t like it,” said manager Bud Black. “This city should be very proud of a player like that for everything he’s done on the field and in the community. I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s fair.”
“It’s disheartening, knowing what Trevor has meant not only to the organization but the city, and his level of accomplishment is unmatched in our game,” (Tony) Clark said.
Jake Peavy, who started the game, said he heard the boos in the clubhouse. “I could not believe that,” he said. “That is as disheartening as it gets. I don’t understand it. When you look at all of his achievements, what he has meant, it’s ridiculous.”
Said teammate Shawn Estes: “How soon they forget.”
(Heath) Bell didn’t hear the boos that came after Hoffman gave up two home runs in an inning for the eighth time in his career. “If the fans were booing him, shame on them,” he said.
While we here at The Sacrifice Bunt don’t condone booing, we don’t condemn it either. There is a time and place to boo, although we couldn’t say if that time was following Hoffman’s poor performance. While there are shades of grey when discussing the merits of booing, the merit of the Padres post game conversation seems a bit more black and white.
The Padres lost last night 3-1. They again squandered a great performance by Peavy. In the bottom of the eighth, they had runners on first and second with no out and neither runner made it to third. In the seventh, they had runners on first and third with no out and two ground balls ended the inning with only one run scoring. Jody Gerut was caught stealing on what appeared to be a botched hit-and-run attempt when Edgar Gonzalez flailed futilely at what would’ve been ball four. In back-to-back at-bats, Gerut and Craig Stansberry were unable to get down sacrifice bunts. Oh, and the team’s increasingly unreliable closer came in and jumped his ERA up half a run.
It was an ugly game.
The fact that the Padres find it shocking that the fans could boo their performance seems naive or arrogant, or maybe a little bit of both. The team has fallen back into last place, setting themselves up for a potential rematch of the worsts this weekend when the pitiful Mariners come to town. The offense and pitching are below average. They let Milton Bradley slip through their fingers in the off-season and now he’s leading the A.L. They signed Jim Edmonds to man centerfield, then dumped him after a month and now he’s caught fire with the Cubs.
Now, it should be said that this season is an aberration. The current Padres management has put together the best run in the team’s almost 40 years and we haven’t even begun to reap the benefits of the new farm system. But that doesn’t affect the team that is currently taking the field right now. And the responses of the players from last night suggests they are more concerned with something other than their performance.
Again, we want to be fair. We’re sure that the players are as concerned about their performance as we are. But when the topic on the tips of their tongues is the reaction they got from the crowd, red flags go up. Maybe the fans aren’t what the players should be concerned about. The boos from the stands are a reaction to what is taking place on the field.
More disconcerting is the reaction of manger Buddy Black. For starters, he’s called out the entire city, which seems disrespectful given everything this city has done for the team. At what point does protecting become coddling? A good manager should stand behind his players, but at what point do these players take responsibility? If they continually fail to put down a bunt, a skill practiced by children, does he simply give them a pat on the back? And this doesn’t even get into the idea that Black is asking players ill-equipped to handle a task attempt to perform it anyway.
It’s not like this kind of whining is anything new. Be sure that if the Padres decide to trade a player sometime between now and July 31st that the Union-Tribune will be filled with quotes from players, decrying the actions of the management. We’ll leave you with some past highlights.
“Incomprehensible,” was Trevor Hoffman’s reaction. “Four other teams in the National League West are awfully excited. I probably need to take a day before I say something about this because I’m going to say something stupid.”
“You have to trust your front office when you are in the middle of a playoff run,” Jake Peavy said. “But, man, to trade away your setup man . . . what kind of a message are we sending here?”