No pity party in San Diego

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

PEORIA, Ariz. – Brian Giles, his hair ablaze in bleached glory, stood patiently through a list of San Diego Padres ailments Monday morning.

You know, as if this was the first he'd heard of them.

The owner is selling, the CEO is stepping down, the payroll is $45 million and remains $5 million heavy. The manager is a lame duck. The starting rotation has deep holes and the bullpen is worse. The GM spent the winter trying to trade the club's ace and former Cy Young winner, and did trade the shortstop. The plan is to shop Giles himself at the trading deadline, but, then, is there going to be a lot of action on a $9 million corner outfielder who doesn't hit home runs (anymore) in a market that just awarded Bobby Abreu $5 million?

Not only that, but it looks as though the club is going to be leaning on Chase Headley in left and Nick Hundley at catcher, which had to happen eventually, and Luis Rodriguez at short, which probably didn't.

This all follows a 99-loss season, some kind of feat in the National League West, where they were served dozens of games against poor-to-average teams.

Giles grinned.

"You want us to feel sorry for ourselves?"

Maybe a little.

It's entirely possible a bad team got worse, and just as possible GM Kevin Towers isn't done carving. Even Petco Park wasn't enough to save the Padres pitching staff last season. And in a winter that seemed perfectly suited to the Padres – Randy Wolf for $5 million, Orlando Cabrera for $4 million, Joe Beimel can be had today – Towers was forced to pretty much sit it out, save the occasional Cliff Floyd and David Eckstein, neither of whom signed for as much as $1 million guaranteed.

So, a ballclub that won division titles in 2005 and 2006, and was within a few outs of the playoffs in 2007, is in full recovery mode. Unless it's rebuild mode. Recede mode?

"We're trying not to call it anything," manager Bud Black said.

He smiled.

The Padres understand the reality of their talent, which they have no choice but to believe has grown up and is ready to do something in the big leagues. They also know the gift that is the NL West, and the cushion that is Petco, and maybe the miracles that have come before them.

Regardless, it is remarkable how the Padres have fallen, and what a single unraveled relationship can do to a major league organization. Everyone now awaits Jeff Moorad, who, with his partners, will buy up the Padres from John Moores over five years. No one beneath Moores seems to know when the sale will be done, or if it will be done, or what it'll ultimately look like. CEO Sandy Alderson, who holds the title Moorad will assume, continues to report to work. Black's future in the dugout continues to be vague. The only major contracts that extend beyond this season are Jake Peavy's, Chris Young's and Adrian Gonzalez's, and while the Peavy trade discussions are quiet today, there's a good chance he'll become quite popular with the likes of the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves again in July.

That seems like a lot up in the air, even with still a month to go before the real games start. If it's any indication what the fans think of their ballclub's new direction, barely 2,000 people showed up to watch the Padres play the Brewers on Monday afternoon.

As Giles said, "It is what is is," and then somebody says play ball.

"We expect to win," he said. "Whatever happens, we've got these guys in this clubhouse. And there's a lot of optimism."

If it seems like a lot to lean up against, it is. Nobody's job is safe, not anywhere in the place. And the season has a way of exposing all the issues.

"On the baseball side," Black said, "we feel as though anything can happen any given year. We do think that nationally the expectations are not where they have been, based on how we played last year and where the payroll is going. Nationally, there are some doubts about us."

Nationally, it's them and the Washington Nationals, it would seem, another franchise with a touch of turmoil in its life.

So, the Padres will hold to Peavy and Young at the front of the rotation, Gonzalez and Giles in the middle of the order and Heath Bell at the back. The rest, well, you want 'em to feel sorry for themselves?

"What's swirling around up today isn't really affecting us down in the clubhouse," Black said. "Players are concerned about their performance. They're concerned about the team. They're not distracted."

Give them a job. Give them a paycheck. Give them a little spring hope.

"All of the rest," Black said, "will play itself out."

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