Friday, February 03, 2012

Blogging Elsewhere

Link for new San Diego Sports Blog site.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kawhi Leaves, Worry About Padres is Legit

The announcement that Kawhi Leonard is leaving San Diego State is no shock, that he plans to hire an agent next week is a bit of a surprise, as it closes off all chances that he can remain an Aztec.

Coach Steve Fisher said all the research places Leonard comfortably within the first round of the NBA draft, so perhaps it is a moot point. He has an NBA game and, even with his mid-range offensive skills in need of improvement, the pros will covet his rebounding and defense.

SDSU's mediocre performance in the NCAA Tournament did not cause prized recruits to swarm to the Mesa, but placing an underclassman in the first round of the NBA draft might turn some heads in a prized 2012 high school class. That's where Leonard's departure might pay off.


Nick Canepa of the Union-Tribune is exactly right that it's not too early to be concerned about the lack of hitting in the first couple of weeks by the Padres. It probably doesn't matter much, because no team starts making serious changes until it becomes summer, but you can start making some judgments about this team.

1. It is true that there are no easy outs in the lineup, but there aren't any superstars, either. The problem is that every opponent, especially in Petco Park, goes up against the Padres knowing they have to keep scoring down. So the pitchers really bear down against the Friars, who have been unable to respond in kind.

2. Channel 4's Bob Scanlan, whose "Scanalysis" is excellent, made one point Wednesday evening I think is incorrect: that you know Ryan Ludwick and Brad Hawpe won't go all season hitting under .200 because they've always hit in the past. While that is probably true in the literal sense, can you really say they'll hit much above .200 with power? Not really. Ludwick had two good years but is coming off a rotten 2010. This season is just a continuation of his struggles, going 0-for-14 this season with runners in scoring position. He looks so bad at the plate that he might not get picked up by another team when the Padres release him this summer. Hawpe is also coming off a rough season last year. The difference in whether they can do it again because they always do is that both were beat up physically in 2010.

3. Will Venable, Chris Denorfia and offseason pickup Jorge Cantu are all scuffling, while Chase Headley's batting has been mediocre.

So what to do? Here's some suggestions:

1. I couldn't have disagreed more at the time with GM Jed Hoyer's re-signing of Ludwick and think the earlier the Padres cut ties with him, the better. He is not going to improve too much. Give Eric Patterson a shot in left and call up either Cedric Hunter or Aaron Cunningham from Tucson.

2. There are no serious options at first base. Kyle Blanks probably needs a couple of months in the minors, although he's preparing to play again. Anthony Rizzo is in his first year at AAA. It looks like you have to sink or swim with Hawpe until at least the All-Star break.

There really are no other options. I think Venable will come around, but frankly, the front office is biding its time until Rizzo and the other minor leaguers are ready to contribute, and that won't be until mid-2012 at the earliest.


If you need something to get you through a long summer, here are two thoughts.

1. GAB is still great to watch even if there aren't many leads to protect.

2. SDSU preseason football practice begins in less than four months.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fallout From USD Point-Shaving Will Be Long and Difficult

There is hardly anyone associated with the University of San Diego who wouldn't immediately trade their landmark NCAA Tournament upset of UConn a few years ago in exchange for Monday not happening. Or, more specifically, for former G Brandon Johnson having never become involved with alleged marijuana traffickers who the FBI accuses of getting him to shave points -- and attempt to persuade members of this year's team to do the same.

Men's basketball has been an absolute nightmare since the UConn win had coach Bill Grier and the Toreros momentarily on top of the world of college hoops. The message of the federal indictment released Monday is that the nightmare will not end soon, because the consequences could be severe.

The problem is that there are a lot of unanswered questions:

1. The indictment suggests that investigators have spoken to someone connected to the program in order to obtain the last couple of listed overt acts against Johnson -- that's my interpretation. Yet, the school issued a statement saying it only learned of the problem Monday morning. So did a player talk to the FBI and not notify his coach? Did the player talk to Grier, who in turn did not talk to athletic director Ky Snyder? Did Snyder know and not inform school President Mary Lyon, who issued the statement? Was Lyon not forthcoming?

2. The indictment says Johnson spoke to someone on Feb. 23 about influencing the result of a game. The next night, USD inexplicably upset St. Mary's. Did the Toreros come out aggressively that night in an emphatic "no!" to him, or did he find new clients on the other bench? Two nights later, USD lost 68-31 in one of the worst beatdowns in school history. Coincidence, or will the feds amend their complaint with other names at an upcoming court hearing?

3. Do you hold Grier responsible? Everything that happens in the men's basketball program occurs under his watch, whether he knows about it or not. Grier probably had no idea of what was taking place, but is he responsible for an atmosphere in which this horrible stain on the national reputation was able to happen? Even if the answer is no, is it the last straw based on how bad the program is right now?

4. Do you hold Snyder accountable? Under his watch, the Toreros athletic program has gone into a free fall. No one expected the high times experienced by football to continue once former coach Jim Harbaugh departed for Stanford, but the baseball team is off to its worst start in memory, the soccer programs are not doing much and the women's hoops team is middlin' at best. Now this.

A lot of good names, good people, are being dragged through the mud right now because of this episode. Believe me, before this is over, there are going to be serious people associated with the school who will question whether membership in Division I athletics is worth it. That could be the ultimate fallout.

Let's take this a step further. Let's say you're an official at UC San Diego, currently with athletics in Division II and, in recent months, frothing at the idea of moving up to Division I. Does this give you pause?

A lot of questions remain. And to think this might never have been discovered if the other defendants didn't allegedly dabble in marijuana trafficking.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Notes From Opening Day, Disconnect on Fisher

If the Padres can get more starts from P Aaron Harang like today's 3-1 victory over the Giants in the home opener, the rotation suddenly will look a whole heck of a lot better -- and raise my confidence in this squad's ability to compete in the National League West. As pointed out in a previous post, the lineup is not far behind the competition, so if the five starters can make things work, this season might look more like 2010 after all...Key point in the win came in the top of the sixth inning after Harang struck out Aubrey Huff with a nasty breaking ball for the second out. Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval followed with singles, and a southpaw started warming up in the Padres pen. Harang faced Pat Burrell, the Giants' Mr. Clutch from last year -- and with left-handed rookie 1B Brandon Belt on deck and him due up second in the bottom of the inning -- you knew this was Harang's last batter, no matter what. He went to a 3-2 count, but struck out Burrell swinging as the fans roared in approval. That allowed the Padres to then go with GAP in the 7th-8th-9th to seal the win.

Difference between the Padres and a defending World Series champion -- SS Miguel Tejada was brought to San Diego to bat third last summer. Now he's in San Francisco, batting eighth. He's already committed a number of miscues in the field of the sort he made occasionally last season. My bet is unless he cleans up his act real fast, his time with the Giants will be short-lived...Confirmation that we were indeed watching the Padres -- the top four batters in the lineup ended the game with batting averages under .200. The next two were at .214 and .222. Then another sub-Mendoza line hitter. Only C Nick Hundley is swinging the bat well with a 3-for-4 performance in the home opener.

Nice opening ceremony emceed by Dick Enberg, himself an icon, and Trevor Hoffman jogging in from the bullpen with "Hell's Bells" playing on the loudspeaker...Attention scoreboard, the aircraft in the flyover were fighter jets, not helicopters...The acquisition of Cameron Maybin is growing on me. He runs down anything hit to center field. Now if they can just hide his bat low in the order and get production elsewhere in the lineup.


We journalists think we know everything, but clearly we don't. Here's a local sports example of a disconnect between the media and the real world. Of the five major national Coach of the Year awards in college basketball, San Diego State's Steve Fisher won three. Those came from two organizations of his colleagues and a private athletic club of the sort that awards the Heisman Trophy. The two other awards are from writers, and they chose Mike Brey of Notre Dame. Brey had a fine year, but if you don't vote for Fisher, you pick Dave Rose of BYU. Or Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth. Or Steve Lavin of St. John's. Then maybe you think of Brey.

I used to blame the BCS and the six so-called power conferences for the current state of collegiate athletics. Now I'm starting to blame my sports media colleagues for perpetuating such stereotypical and obsolete terms like "mid-major."

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Padres Lineup Not Far off NL West Talent Level

So, I remain skeptical of the Padres ability to win baseball games over the long haul of the 2011 season, mainly because of a shaky starting rotation and a powerless lineup. Opponents will adjust to small ball, particularly within the division.

That said, the lineup is hardly overwhelmed by National League West opponents. Sure, we know what's missing in departed 1B Adrian Gonzalez, so we can look at the Friars on the field and wonder where the home runs are going to come from. But another way to judge them is by stacking them up against the other clubs.

When you compare the Padres position-by-position with their NL West counterparts, you only get clear advantages by Colorado SS Troy Tulowitzki and LF Carlos Gonzalez over Jason Bartlett and Ryan Ludwick; Los Angeles 1B James Loney, CF Matt Kemp and RF Andre Ethier over Brad Hawpe, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable; and San Francisco C Buster Posey over Nick Hundley.

The Padres have no clear advantages among position players over their counterparts, but the paragraph above shows clearly that they're not completely outclassed, either.


A lot of people are lamenting UConn making the NCAA Tournament championship game and how close San Diego State came to knocking them off. Fact is, the Huskies are making the plays they need to win, and the Aztecs could not raise their game another notch. While it doesn't show woulda-coulda-shoulda, it is a reminder of just how good this SDSU basketball team really was.


SDSU and USD are a combined 15-36 in baseball so far this season.


Nice to see a local rowing team make the final of the Copley Cup of the San Diego Crew Classic, as UCSD finished fifth. Cal won its third straight title, while the USC women took the Jessop-Whittier Cup.