This Is How You Lose Her

Or, "how the various shady owners of the San Diego Padres gaslighted a generation of fans and got rich doing it."
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Originally published September 27, 2013.

The girl on my shoulders is getting tall. Six, she stretches for lampposts and low-hanging branches as we march through downtown. I’m hoping the flux of Pedi-cab barkers and neon bar signs will distract her from the fact that we’re running late to the ballpark. Punctuality is one of this child’s pet peeves, part of a global anxiety born of getting bigger and bigger while remaining subject to the letdowns and incompetences of whoever’s holding the keys. In this case, that's me.

On our way, we skirt the boondoggle of a Convention Center and then navigate the Gaslamp Quarter’s boozy crawl of hotels and nightspots; neither a financial nor geographic center, San Diego’s gentrified downtown is now purely a tourist destination. First pitch between our (then) last place Padres and the visiting Giants remains more than an hour away, but a gathering of teams from the area’s youth softball leagues, including my daughter’s six-and-under squad, are wrapping up their season with a parade around the Petco Park infield—a waving beaming photo-op available only to those who arrive at the designated time.

For their part, the 2013 Padres came out of the gate going nowhere—hardly breaking news for a team that musters a stray playoff run each decade while mostly working the south side of .500. Nor would be there anything unusual about another acrimonious spike in the custody battle between team ownership and the local fan base. It's practically a tradition, going back to when the Friars failed to hang on to Dave Winfield and traded Ozzie Smith, bleak passivities the organization mastered long before losing five-tool studs and shipping out future Hall Of Famers became small-market SOP.

What had been new in San Diego this spring was the wholesale lack of seasonal renewal, that glorious, unguarded, unfounded optimism that anything’s possible. WE ALL START 0-0! A PUNCHER’S CHANCE! THAT’S WHY THEY PLAY THE GAMES!

You didn’t hear that familiar bullshit we all love, still plugging loose coins into the slot because even though the machine does nothing but swallow cash you just never fucking know, and all those old hopes are still stuck in there, maybe. Only for the Padres this season we pretty much did know—other than promoting Jedd Gyorko and his promising bat to replace the gimpy, whipped O-Dog at second, the new O’Malley ownership group spent the off-season flopping-out their collectively bare pockets, making aw-shucks claims to poverty and holding pat on the same overmatched lineup and bottom-of-the-rotation rotation that slogged through an also-ran bump along the bottom of the league in 2012.

What is entirely new in San Diego this spring and summer is the fatalistic sense of resignation, the feeling that we’ve lost something we’ll never get back. After the city invested over $300 million in public money to build Petco Park, the home team has been dismantled and retooled—not as one of those boom and bust “rebuilding” projects where blooming stars are perpetually sold off, but rather as a streamlined private enterprise built to correct for the one variable outside organizational control: winning.

***

Approaching the industrial façade of the Western Metal Building, we hurry across Tony Gwynn Boulevard and pass beneath the sky bridge connecting the Omni Hotel to Petco’s upper concourse. We haven’t sunk all the way into the no-chance gulch of late, but are far enough on the downslope of on-time that our spot in the parade remains very much in question.

There are, however, hundreds and hundreds of young girls still clustered off the sidewalk, separated from the passing traffic by a strip of crime scene tape. We slip into the crowd of parents and players and join the wait. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes pass—God only knows how long the girls who showed up early have been standing in the street. A voice from a loudspeaker occasionally thanks everyone for their patience, promising that the youth players will be directed to the entrance as soon as possible. Meanwhile, traffic cops whistle and gesture at the close-passing cars, blue-jacketed security personnel mill around the taped barrier, and from time to time the girls look overhead as fans decked out in SF regalia stroll from the sky bridge into the stadium.

The story truly begins here at the ballpark, a sandstone hitch of public and private interests. Or, to quote what was once a ubiquitous campaign slogan, More than a ballpark. This was 1998: then team president (and current Red Sox CEO and part-owner) Larry Lucchino relentlessly worked the local airwaves and buffet circuits, stumping for a city-funded, baseball-only stadium. Owner John Moores had a legitimate gripe with the team’s lease at Qualcomm Stadium—as the site’s “senior” tenant, Alex Spanos and the Chargers pocketed an undue percentage of the revenue from concession rights, luxury boxes, and in-stadium advertising. But a dispute between two outrageously wealthy men over the profit share of a $9 Miller Lite doesn’t exactly fire up grassroots support. So Lucchino stressed the emotional angle, branding the Padres as a priceless community asset.

A Big League source of local pride and identity. A countywide economic force, providing a recognizable logo for the selling of merchandise and the soliciting of business sponsorships. Free entertainment to enjoy on the radio or the big screen, downstream revenues resulting from residents opening their wallets for summer barbecues and happy hours while gathered to cheer the home team.

Buzzing with World Series endorphins and smitten with a badass roster—Gwynn, Caminiti, Hoffman, Vaughn, Finley, Brown, a collection of flat-out ballplayers—the county’s voters responded with a resounding 'yes' vote. If there had been a “hell yeah!” on the ballot, it would've carried easily. In line outside the stadium, in a city with problems beyond a team not letting a bunch of youth players in for their photo-ops when it had said it would, there was also inescapably that: we chose this, and paid for it.

***

A few quick words about America’s Finest City. Yes, Sea World and Legoland are slick and profitable operations; neither is locally owned. Yes, wildly successful individuals from all over the world maintain homes in our beach communities. But as a whole, the city of San Diego very rarely has its shit together. We’re never quite sure if we’re bankrupt or not; though dubbed “Enron-By-The Sea,” the answer is—by a hair, and for the moment—either no or not yet. We struggle with basic road maintenance. We’ve been shamed by a regular cycle of corruption scandals—conspiracies that tend to be shocking not for their betrayals but for how remarkably cheaply our politicians peddle their favors.

But even its missteps reveal San Diego as a city of American Dreamers. This is not the gaudy Hollywood fairy tale or the incomprehensible bit-wealth of Silicon Valley, just the common dream that a commitment to dogged hustle might tip the scales from failure to success. This is a military city, where families across multiple branches deal with the risk of death as a path to upward mobility. We’re a border town, too, where even the prospect of the sweatiest, most repetitive jobs—and we have those—is enough to motivate a desperate canyon dash. We’re a city that celebrates Ray Kroc and Robert O. Peterson and Ralph Rubio, men who built empires out of rolled-sleeves and humble ingredients, founding fathers of towering achievement but a certain obvious distance.

So we’re a city that doesn’t demand NL West dominance—in fact, a homegrown team striving like hell for .500 has typically fit well enough.

Which doesn’t mean the town doesn’t go absolute Beatlemania-bonkers when the Padres do win. During the ‘98 NLDS I broke my couch jumping like a caffeinated orangutan after Jimmy Leyritz hooked a tiebreaking homer off a filthy, locked-in Big Unit, and throughout those same playoffs my (future) wife was part of a whooping collective swoon every time the Jumbotron played a montage of Ken Caminiti slugging shirtless BP to the tune of “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone.”

Though voters may have cast their ballots on emotion, the city, to its credit, played it cool. In a clearheaded and practical bit of maneuvering, San Diego named John Moores and the Padres an “Agent of The City,” tying the ballpark construction to a major downtown redevelopment project. Targeting a dead-end, hot piss section of urban blight, the city required Moores and the Padres to build new hotels surrounding the stadium, with the projected occupancy tax earmarked to pay off the bonds the city would issue to fund its share of the construction. On paper, this was an uncharacteristically savvy legal move: hedging bets and guaranteeing a collateral improvement while insuring that Moores had a vested interest in both the team’s future and the future of the team’s downtown home.

So it was foolproof, provided nothing changed. Or, in other words, something much less than foolproof.

***

“Why do all those signs say keep off the grass?” my daughter asks.

Whether coming to home games at Qualcomm and Petco or visiting Anaheim, L.A., Oakland—any other ballpark—I still experience that oasis moment of awe after leaving behind the concrete hustle and catching first sight of the ballfield. I can’t imagine a more ideal expression of form and content. But though you can pass on your memories and associations, you can’t pass on their significance, and as we’re herded around the dirt inside the foul lines my daughter fingers the crowd control rope and focuses on the signs forbidding anyone from touching the infield.

Like most in the procession, my daughter wears her uniform top – bright Bad News Bears yellow, sponsored by “Healii’s Polynesian Review” (sic) – and the stream of children is notable for both the polychromatic burst of color and the notable absence of Padres blue or brown: no team caps, no SD visors, no Swinging Friar pennants. Some of the girls skip and smile for family in the stands while others kick at the dirt, just as some love to play the game while others have had it forced on them; regardless, all are quickly shuttled from a tunnel in left field to another tunnel in right. More blue-jacketed security guards semaphore the girls up and around a disorienting ramp system, guiding them through an exit that leads outside the opposite wall of the stadium. Dispersing individually, the parade’s participants then line up once again, waiting to re-enter the ballpark through the regular ticket line.

It’s a Saturday, traditionally a night when harried ushers would be elbow-deep in cardboard boxes, handing out the goods for Floppy Hat Night or Friar Clock Night or Eric Owens Dirty Tee-Shirt Night. Even if you missed the premium weekend promotions, throughout the rest of the week there was an equally good chance young ticketholders would walk away with a team freebie: a Timry Flanster button or a Phil Nevin poster or a set of trading cards, the cheap trinkets that buy years of loyalty from younger fans and that fans from the opposing team leave under their seats with their shells and crumple.

As the Padres have increasingly catered to visiting fans, the promotional schedule has skewed accordingly: this season there’s both a Beerfest and a Wine Fest, multiple fireworks nights and retro nights, but only one promotion tied to an individual player–Chase Headley Bobblehead Night, prudently scheduled for April. On this particular Saturday, we hand over our tickets and get back the stubs.

What changed?

Though clear-headed and practical, San Diego’s arrangement with Moores and the Padres failed to account for the inevitability of change. As the ballpark initiative underwent routine judicial scrutiny, Moores became embroiled in the sort of brazen, craven, totally artless scandal that has defined San Diego politics. Even if you're not up on it, you can probably sing along: he was found to have provided gifts, airline tickets, and stock tips to a family friend who was also an influential city council member. The grand total at play amounted to roughly the blue book value of a low-mileage Passat, but the resulting legal mess led to years of court challenges and construction delays that – according to Moores, and more Shades Of San Diego here in a rich man's weepy victimhood – cost the Padres $52 million in lost ballpark and hotel revenue. Not only did that ungrateful blindside permanently sour Moores’ view of his partner city, Moores’ wife then filed for divorce, changing the way he viewed his own assets (contentiously).

And then, worldwide, the economic shit hit the fan. As tourist dollars vaporized and occupancy rates plummeted, all of a sudden San Diego was tied to a development partner with a complicated financial interest in the Omni Hotel, the Hotel Solamar, and several projects still waiting to get off the ground. That, and pretty much no interest whatsoever in the money-sucking, litigious community asset grounding into inning-ending double plays next door.

***

Before taking our seats, I buy my daughter a slice of cheese pizza and for a treat she chooses a tub of popcorn that looks like it’ll last forever. One of her teammates goes to the souvenir stand and comes back with a balloon penguin. They all dance when the sound-system pumps that one Taio Cruz song that ought to be scheduled as a controlled substance. Only four (of ten) girls from her team came to Petco for their parade, and those four attend three different elementary schools. Though there are over 100 first-graders at my daughter’s school, just two other girls signed up for softball.

In the top of the second, the crowd leaps to its feet with an electric roar after Brandon Crawford deposits a three-run bomb a few rows from us in the right field bleachers. My daughter’s perplexed: having grown up in my lap through the highs and lows of Oregon Duck and Chargers football, even when she doesn’t understand the action on the field she knows how to read the crowd and react in kind. She wants to clap and make noise too, but she also knows without a doubt that Crawford’s on the wrong team.

The glut of San Francisco supporters isn’t a post-World Series bandwagon – within the division, the Rockies are the only team whose fans don’t regularly overtake Petco's home crowd as a partisan majority. And it’s not just neighboring or division clubs: the Cardinals, Reds, and Phillies turn the Petco stands into a sea of red, and during a Cubs series the concourse becomes a virtual Waveland of Banks and Sandberg jerseys.

And if the road team doesn’t deliver fans, Petco doesn’t draw. An April home stand with the Brewers brought a paid attendance of just over 18,000 per game, while a May series with the Marlins averaged fewer than 16,000 tickets sold.

Giants fans, however, travel in numbers and that burnt-orange percentage of the Petco crowd groans when – for the second time that game – Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso ranges deep behind the bag and makes a timely throw back to the pitcher covering. My daughter shoots another confused look – she has no idea whether or not Alonso made a good play.

Alonso is a solid ballplayer and an enthusiastic clubhouse presence and it’s difficult to explain the conflicted feelings he inspires: he’s both a model of how to play the game and the byproduct of a model that treats fans like fucking chumps. Ralph Rubio didn’t charge his customers for sushi-grade Ahi and then say try this fish taco, you’ll like it.

This is San Diego. We still talk about the time all-hustle/no-bat Eric Owens stole home. We made a cult hero out of Bip Roberts. Even today, you could walk into a Mission Valley bar with career utilityman Archi Cianfrocco and get more free beers sent your way than if you were traveling with the Hawaiian Tropic girls. Yes we’re down for fish tacos, but we know what they are and don't like being told otherwise. No one likes being taken for a sucker.

The issue isn’t simply that Yonder Alonso will never fill Adrian Gonzalez’s shoes: though tough to swallow, from a fan’s perspective the Gonzalez trade was as grudgingly unavoidable as the breakup of the 1998 team. (I wouldn’t have given Brownie $105 mil and keys to the corporate jet either.) Rather than a straight fire-sale dump, the Gonzalez trade brought a high-ceiling, power prospect in Anthony Rizzo; it was a depressing deal in many ways, but a smart one. Subordinately, however, the Padres also traded ace-in-the-making Mat Latos for an erratic fourth starter in Edinson Volquez (finally, mercifully, released early in September), a part-time catcher, and old steady-Eddie modest upside Alonso. Penciling Alonso in as the future at first, the Padres then traded Rizzo – the jewel of the Gonzalez deal – for Andrew Cashner, who has 100-mph giddyup on his fastball, but is a year older and significantly less accomplished than Latos.

The shell game of these deals perfectly represents “The Jeff Moorad Way” – value is taken off the field and siphoned by ownership, future contractual risk is minimized, and the remaining solid scrap are used to fill key positions. This leaves a lineup of journeymen whose contracts are predictable, controllable, and – when the time and numbers are right – expendable. All in the service of starting the cycle again. Which, yes: let's meet Jeff Moorad.

***

So, to properly introduce Jeff Moorad: he is a former player agent, and essentially the guy Jason Alexander played in Pretty Woman.

By 2009 John Moores was so eager to offload the Padres he accepted an offer from Moorad and a bunch of guys who couldn’t actually afford to buy a ballclub. Moorad’s group was cash poor but willing to take the daily operations off Moores’ hands; both parties cooked-up a five-year “Layaway Plan” to purchase a majority share. Moores retained his downtown real estate holdings, severing the “what’s good for the team is good for San Diego” arrangement.

It got worse, and more complicated, than that. Lacking the liquidity to buy the ballclub outright, the Moorad group needed to turn Luchinno’s priceless community asset into a crude source of private profit: if the group could make enough money owning the Padres, they might one day have enough money to own the Padres.

To pull this off, Moorad slashed payroll: from 2009-2012 the Padres spent less on players than any team in baseball. Rather than build for the future, Moorad’s Padres also invested less in the amateur draft than even the Pirates; midway through 2011, they sold their leading home run hitter to Pittsburgh for cash. With their draft selections, the Padres consistently passed over higher-rated prospects in favor of players who commanded smaller bonuses and posed less risk of becoming high-contract burdens. They hauled aboard washed-up cogs like Brad Hawpe, Jason Bartlett, and the aforementioned O-Dog, locking money into players whose value lay not in their potential performance but rather as fixed costs: those vets would never wield a bargaining advantage over the club, while their contracts provided an excuse not to pursue players whose market value might rise, and concealed the team's inability to develop players who might otherwise fill those roles inexpensively.

All the while Moorad oozed unctuous smugness, talking an ethos of pure market capitalism while sitting in a publicly funded stadium and holding his hand out for revenue-sharing welfare. Gaming the system worked: in 2010, Forbes listed the Padres as having the highest operating income of any team in baseball at $37 million. The team was solid that year, but had won 75 games the year before, and would win 71 the next.

I can’t remember if Julia Roberts ends up kicking Costanza in the nuts in Pretty Woman – it’s been a while – but Padre fans weren’t the only ones who wanted to stick a boot in Moorad’s groin. When Moorad finally squeezed enough dough out of the team to make the final layaway payment, MLB owners announced that he could grub up all the cash in the world and they’d still never let him in their club. It was suggested by some that the sale was blocked because Moorad burned one too many bridges during his agenting career, but there are sore feelings and there’s billion-dollar business and if you own a Big Three sports franchise you’ve probably figured out how to separate the two. More likely, MLB owners realized that there's no playing tug-of-war against an asshole who’s decided to drop the rope. More likely, MLB owners recognized that Moorad’s only game was one designed to keep his hands in their pockets forever. This was not a long or a short con. The man was a remora.

***

Close to the harbor, the marine air takes on a cold heft as the night wears on and by the bottom of the ninth my daughter has moved out of her seat and into my lap. It’s long past her bedtime and she’s exhausted, but I promised we’d stay the full nine innings. The game is something we share – she’s old enough now to realize I was never as interested in The Little Mermaid as I pretended to be, so she’ll ask me to pitch to her or to go out and play catch. The kid can rake, but I’m far more proud of the way she’s learned to stick it out through painful caroms and frustration.

With two outs and the score tied 7-7, Chase Headley takes too wide of a lead and gets picked off first – an inexcusable gaffe, but I don’t belabor the point. Headley’s one of our guys: paying his dues at each level of the system; struggling to learn left field in the Bigs just to get in the lineup; turning himself into a capable base-stealer while his power numbers lagged; putting in the dogged hustle and hard work to come through with a Caminiti-esque 2012, complete with consecutive NL Player of the Month awards, the Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove at third base.

That MVP-caliber season also made Headley the bellwether for the incoming ownership group led by longtime Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley.

Following in footsteps paved by Garvey and Piazza, O’Malley (along with his sons and nephews) came south from Chavez Ravine appearing slower and stiffer but still representing a significant upgrade at their position. If shoring the rift with home fans and restoring the franchise’s credibility were part of O’Malley’s plan, signing Headley was easy BP cheese; fail to do so, there’s no way the Padres can continue the charade that developing homegrown talent is part of their program, or indeed that there was any program at all.

Under Moorad’s old cost-benefit model, however, Headley represents a traitorous anomaly: ensconced at a power position as an ideal fit of predictable, modest numbers (statistical and contractual), only to shoot the formula to hell with the kind of monster year no one saw coming. The Moorad Padres would've traded him.

The new guys were even more fatuous. Rather than make Headley a competitive long-term offer, the O’Malley group’s major off-season move was to strike a sponsorship deal with Jack Daniel's to bring in the fences. For a franchise that’s payroll-reliant on middle relief and outfield speed, limiting home runs has been one of the Padres’ few competitive advantages – but all those visiting Giants, Dodgers, and D-Backs fans were getting sick of watching their high-priced sluggers crush Big Flies that died at the warning track. Under the dynamic pricing model introduced by Moorad, that out-of-town demand sets the value of Petco’s seats – not only do certain teams bring more fans to the gates, but tickets for those heavy-demand games are then priced higher across the board.

The hope that Peter O’Malley and his family might ride south as saviors quickly took a despairing turn as local beer mogul Ron Fowler assumed the role of Executive Chairman and public face of the new ownership group. Rather than embody The Dodger Way – which is loathsome enough, but has produced results – Fowler speaks the language of the previous regime. This is no small coincidence, as he was a minority partner in Moorad’s investment group.

Fed up with a decade of duplicity and doubletalk, die-hard Padres fan David Marver compiled a rigorously researched documentary exposing the team’s pattern of broken promises and wild bullshit. Focused largely on press appearances by Jeff Moorad and (now-former) Team President Tom Garfinkel, “Padres: The Sad Truth” reveals both men as devotees of the Romney-esque sound-byte, offering boldfaced statements completely divorced from past action or future intention.

Marver’s video and the “Change The Padres” social media campaign spurred talk that spread from local sports radio and the independent SD Reader all the way to Grantland and, finally, the Padres' own boardroom. Conceding that he’d watched the documentary, rather than rebut any of the damning evidence or accept some measure of accountability, Fowler patted Marver on the head for his passion and told a radio interviewer: “I’m hoping that as we go forward he (Marver) feels more comfortable about what we’re doing than he did about what happened in the past.”

Enriched by that disingenuous past, eight investors from the Moorad group rolled over with the O’Malley purchase, and when Fox made a 2012 upfront payment of $200 million for the team’s broadcast rights, not only did Moores and Moorad pocket a whopping severance, but Fowler and those roll-over investors used a significant share of that cash infusion to increase their own stake in the ballclub. And with each new revelation, as Fowler took further hold of the reins and Garfinkel retained his front office position, an off-season that promised change quickly took the exact shape of the dismal status quo.

***

The tenth inning gets underway and the girl is back on my shoulders, her chin snug to my head and both arms locked around my neck. The outcome of the game wasn’t the point for either of us – having logged a full nine innings, we walk through well-lit streets, passing both the Omni Hotel and the Hotel Solamar. Because we built the ballpark, we have a significantly safer route to walk back from the ballpark.

The Padres, for their part, managed to hang around long enough to win in the twelfth, beginning their climb from the NL West cellar. Not exactly cause for champagne – unlike those “play the kids before they’re ready” seasons, the journeyman model most lends itself to the chase for mediocrity. Struggling like hell for .500 is one thing; plugging coins into a slot machine with the jackpot disabled is something else. Independent of the team’s successes and failures, a 2008 Stanford Case Study analyzed the conjoined ballpark/redevelopment project and rated it an unqualified success. That study, though, used the immediate area for its parameters, zeroing in on the blocks that were turned from a crime-ridden, heavily subsidized drain into a tax-generating boon.

The bigger picture remains. Though Larry Lucchino emphasized truths that suited his angle, unlike Moorad and Garfinkel, he was also selling actual truths. There’s no easy way to quantify the impact of the Padres' descent in the city from a source of excitement to a source of bitterness, no easy way to quantify how the Padres’ divestment model negatively impacts youth leagues, equipment and merchandise sales, bar and grocery revenues, and local radio and TV advertising. The last bit seems especially rich; the new broadcast deal with Fox leaves an estimated 40% of the county’s cable-viewers without access to the games.

The principal benefits from having a home team are now localized in the tourist district. The Gaslamp Quarter swells on game nights, while hotels like the Omni and the Solamar prominently feature Petco Packages and ballpark specials in their marketing.

“We want people to buy tickets,” Fowler recently told the San Diego Union Tribune. “And if people buy tickets from out of town and behave themselves, we’re fine with that.”

David Marver’s proactive solution has been to spearhead an economic boycott, hoping to use Facebook and Twitter to encourage San Diego fans to show their clout by not spending money at Petco. By all appearances, however, Padres ownership has already written off the home contingent as an acceptable loss. Why engage in the correlated effort to sign talent and compete for the pennant when those speculative risks threaten the guaranteed stream of revenue sharing? Why invest in promoting the home team when the visiting team has already developed its own stable brand and those road fans will pay whatever the market will bear?

If anything, though, the debacles with Padres ownership testify to the certainty of change. Rather than a reaction to community outcry, more likely the next seismic shift will be wrought by someone with a bigger stick: while other MLB franchises promote the game and create the type of fans who travel to competing ballparks, Padre owners have banked their revenue sharing checks and driven fans to competing sports. Something will have to give.

In the meantime, while the Fowlers and Garfinkels may run the team, they’ll never own the game. Much as I choke when Garfinkel describes Padre ownership as “stewards of a public trust,” as part of that public I have to get my own shit together. I didn’t root for Trevor Hoffman because he had the all-time greatest entrance music or because he set records for saves. I rooted for Trevor Hoffman because after giving up a walk-off homer he’d come right back out the next night and hold his hand out for the ball. The lesson – for my daughter and me and everyone else –is to dust off and get back at it.

So I may not be able to pass on the significance of my memories, but I can do more to cultivate new ones. There are times I willfully set aside the darker stories involving Ken Caminiti and Jimmy Leyritz – and they are dark, there is death there – and there are times the backstories of John Moores, Jeff Moorad, and Ron Fowler would be better ignored.

But none of that means a damn thing to a six year-old. It’s on me to suggest crackerjacks instead of buttered popcorn, to make “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” more vital than Taio Cruz, to tell the kid to cheer like mad for Chris Denorfia, an all-hustle, flat-out ballplayer who keyed the Padres’ furious comeback rally with a clutch double, and should have a spot on the next Padres team worth cheering for, whenever it arrives. It’s on me to be on time.

Regardless of how the stewards manipulate the “public trust,” there are other ways to take back the things we value. The trinkets that buy years of loyalty don’t cost much – I already have more than I’ll ever need boxed in the rafters in my garage. There’s a 1975 Dave Winfield Topps mini-card, a child-sized “Cub-Busters” tee-shirt from the ’84 playoffs, generations of hats and pennants, probably even a Timry Flanster button and a Phil Nevin poster.

Plenty to dig through before our next game – kids love that kind of stuff. That and all the lessons – grind it out, hang around, don't give up and do things the right way. Clichés, but beloved ones, necessary ones. Another season will come and I want to be ready.


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