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The problems with the Padres

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Here's the argument I was having with Jonny Dub last night while watching the Padres again score three runs early and then forget that baseball games aren't played best out of five. I was trying to explain what's fundamentally wrong with the way baseball players are paid and why it's ruining the sport. I was also trying to use the Padres as the ultimate example of my argument. The argument is this:

Baseball players (the Padres) are the laziest "athletes" in the world.

You know how athletes and sports fans like to deride poker and claim that it isn't a sport? Well I have news for you, Padres fans. That thing that the Padres do isn't a sport either.

Cruising through drills making limp wristed throws and fancy Willy Mays catches behind the back and one handed. Using BP as an opportunity for your pitchers to swing for the fences. Staying warm between pitches by adjusting your jock and checking the laces on your mitt.

These things are what beer league softball teams do. And the Padres are a beer league softball team.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still a fan. But if the Padres were my kids, I'd smack them all upside the head and take away their XBoxes.

The bigger picture argument I was trying to make is that guaranteed contracts in baseball make the players lazy. As we were watching the Padres muff ball after ball, I turned to Jon and said, "You gotta get rid of the coaches. Look how sloppy this team is playing."

Jon said, "You can't coach that. These are pros."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

Jon said, "They learned the fundamentals in little league."

You're telling me that it's impossible to coach a professional baseball team? You mean to say that there's nothing to practice once you become a major leaguer? There's no way to improve after little league?

Imagine a professional football practice. Fifty guys all in workout gear. Militant coaches barking out orders while players run patterns or do drills as quickly and perfectly as they can. Quick feet are required of everybody. Sure there may be laughs and horsing around, but when a play is being run, the guys who need to be fast look like sprinters with sprinter form. The quarterbacks throw the ball with precision. Linebackers hands move quickly trying slap and shove their opponents. The whole thing would make you think of a well oiled machine.

Now imagine a professional baseball practice. A lot of standing around, right? A lot of guys wearing jackets and just kinda jogging. A lot of soft toss.

Could you imagine the Padres running quick feet drills with tires so that Chan Ho Park doesn't look like a damn fool tripping out of the batter's box? Can you imagine working on fly balls with outfielders actually playing their positions? Actually working on getting to a ball in the gap and practicing calling one another off? Why does it have to be and adventure any time the ball is hit between two people? Aren't we talking about a team? Why not field ground balls for an hour so that your all-star second baseman doesn't muff them late in the game? What else do you have to do?

How do basketball players play almost every day, in much more physically demanding circumstances, and still find a way to complete a season without getting worn out? Why are baseball players always so tired? If the players really were driven by the competitive spirit, then wouldn't it make sense to intensely train in the offseason? Why not get stronger and faster? Why not get your endurance and flexibility up?

Steve Finley, Ichiro, Albert Pujols... People talk about their workout regiments like these guys are freaks. "Pilates! Are we talking about baseball players?" And yet, they're a few of the most consistent guys in the game. So why don't more players adopt the same routines and habits and diets?

The answer to all of those questions:

Because baseball players are already getting paid.

Football players, even under contract, aren't guaranteed anything. They're constantly working to improve their game. Pay for performance athletes like tennis players are on the bleeding edge as far as training goes. Even poker players study tape and read books filled with analysis of the game.

Maybe if the Padres would pretend for the next month that they actually weren't baseball players. Maybe if the Padres could pretend for a minute that they weren't getting paid no matter what and they actually are athletes. Maybe then they'll find a way to get into the post season without their tails between their legs.