LOS ANGELES – The day before, Jonathan Papelbon had set the bar for honesty by a closer who may or may not wish to be traded.
Papelbon seemed to be all for it.
A "no-brainer" is what he said.
Definitely all for it.
"Some guys want to stay on a losing team?" he asked, presumably hypothetically.
Yeah, somebody call a cab.
"I read that," Huston Street said.
"I think it's hard to argue with anybody who says they want to win," he said.
See, Papelbon and Street aren't in such different places. Papelbon's Phillies are in last place. Street's Padres might as well be. Papelbon has 22 saves and a 1.24 ERA. Street, 23 saves and a 1.13 ERA. Papelbon is enjoying a nice bounce-back season. Street believes he's never pitched better. The separator: Papelbon will make $13 million per season through, if a final-year option vests, 2016. Street, three years younger, is paid $7 million this season and, with a club option, could be had for another $7 million in 2015.
Street is a bright man. The standings are the standings. The Padres are, so far, the Padres. And they have two relievers – himself and Joaquin Benoit – who would be viewed by contending teams as closer material. The trading deadline nears. The Padres oh so need to acquire better offensive players.
Street loves San Diego and believes in the Padres. He understands the situation. He'd like to win. And here we are.
"I lean heavily toward the want-to-win side of the equation," he said. "When I signed in San Diego [after the 2011 season] I signed 100 percent because I believed we could win."
The Padres are 32 games under .500 since.
"Even though we haven't won yet," he said, "I hold onto that 'yet.' I still believe in that 'yet.'"
The question is whether Street will be around to see it. The Angels, Orioles and Tigers must improve the back ends of their bullpens. Bullpens have struggled in Toronto, Cincinnati and L.A. At a price, perhaps a steep price, apparent solutions could be found in Street, Benoit, LaTroy Hawkins, Joakim Soria and Grant Balfour. And, of course, Papelbon.
Street waits. He's blown a single save chance. In 2014, he's bettered nearly all of his career numbers. And the Padres, between general managers and therefore between organizational plans, flounder.
Yes, he'd miss Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley and bullpen coach Willie Blair, and the near daily conversations he has with Trevor Hoffman, and the pitching culture that gives the Padres some stability. There's also a whole world out there, and pennant races, and more immediate hope.
So he talks to his wife about the possibility of being traded, and he checks in with assistant general manager A.J. Hinch about what might be bubbling, and he reads the paper, and then he takes the ball and wonders if he's pitching himself into a new bullpen.
"I've allowed myself to be open to whatever happens, happens," he said. "Last year I definitely did not want to be traded. Now, my plan is to play for whatever uniform they put me in."
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