The Padres 2014 Season (Mercifully) Ends

The Padres 2014 season has mercifully come to an end. Of course, the season was marred by the deaths of two team staples: first, longtime announcer Jerry Coleman passed on at age 91. But then, team legend Tony Gwynn (i.e., “Mr. Padre”) lost his battle with cancer. For those reasons alone, 2014 is a year the Padres would like to forget.

On the field, their final record was 77-85. On the one hand, it’s a one-game improvement over the previous two seasons and hence a (very small) step in the right direction.

On the other hand, fans were expecting much more fireworks, especially from the offense. However, the team’s bats–especially in the first half of the season–fell short by near-historic proportions: in the month of June, the team batting average was a disastrously low .140 (!!!), a new major league record for a single month. For the year, they were last in nearly every offensive category: batting average, on base percentage, runs, and slugging percentage.

For that reason alone, someone needed to take the fall, and it was general manager Josh Byrnes. While he is apparently a decent fellow, it is inexcusable to put that kind of a team onto a major league field, even if it is pitching-friendly Petco Park.

New general manager A.J. Preller has his work cut out for him, and among the questions he will have to answer include:

Who’s on first? There’s no getting around it: Yonder Alonso was awful. His final average of .240 is somewhat deceptive: it came only after batting .552 (12-for-23) in August before a season-ending injury, and batting under .200 in two different months (April and June), all of which are inexcusable for a first baseman–a position which demands offensive production. So, do the Padres give him one last chance, or go with someone else? Installing Yasmani Grandal there while splitting time with Rene Rivera behind home plate is an intriguing option if a trade is not made.

Where do you put Jedd Gyorko? Sadly, his season was damaged by a bad first half, and missing time due to plantar fascilitis. But a decent second half (with a .260/.347/.398 slash) should give fans hope. But, where to put him? If you keep him at second base, you then need to find a third baseman. If you move him back to third, his natural position, that opens up the door for either Cory Spangenberg or Yongervis Solarte to man second.

Is the Will Venable experiment finally over? Outside of six weeks in 2013 where Venable played way above his head, this outfielder has been the epitome of meh. And after being awarded a two-year, $8 million contract, Venable responded with his worst season: .224 batting average, .288 OBP, a paltry .325 slugging average, and a mere .613 OPS. Bottom line: he turns 32 on October 29, San Diego has given him countless opportunities over eight seasons, and he’s proven that he’s not going to get any better. It’s time to cut him loose, and give someone else a chance.

Cut or keep Everth Cabrera? “Cabbie” may be the Padres’ biggest disappointment this year. Coming off a decent ’13 season cut short by his “Biogenesis” suspension, the team was counting on him bouncing back with a .350 OBP and 50-plus stolen bases. Instead, they got a .272 OBP and 18 SB’s. And then, while he was supposed to be recovering from a stint on the disabled list, he got caught on a drug-induced DUI. If Preller keeps him, he might bounce back with a decent year, he is controllable for two more seasons, and good shortstops don’t exactly grow on trees–plus, top draft pick Trey Turner is likely 2-3 years away. On the down side, the old saying speaks for itself: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Who’s the Stopper? After trading Huston Street, Joaquin Benoit inherited the role, and performed quite well. But when he missed a few weeks, rookie Kevin Quackenbush stepped in, and performed quite well, converting six saves in seven opportunities. Overall, he limited hitters to a .212 batting average, struck out 56 in 54.1 innings, and sported a decent 1.10 WHIP. The Padres could trade Benoit and his $8 million salary, which would free up room for another good hitter. But is Quackenbush ready? This is one question that general managers love to have, and that make baseball so much fun.

Certainly, there are other questions, such as what to do with the often-injured Carlos Quentin, and whether to trade or keep Ian Kennedy. But those are the main off-season questions that need to be addressed.

That said, Preller already answered his first question correctly the day after the season ended: he is bringing Bud Black back to manage the Padres. For a team to hit as poorly as they did and still be just four games under .500 speaks to the quality of a manager the Padres have.

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