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August 2 - NL Worst

As of June 1st










On June 1st, the NL West looked like it was the Padres’ to lose. Even though San Diego led the
division by a three game margin, the Friars had just come off a month of May where they set a
franchise record with 22 wins. Not even the biggest pessimist could have seen this coming.

Since June 1st










As of August 1st










It's not so much the standings on the right that have Padres fans more worried than a Dad letting his
daughter go out on her first date, it is the performance since June 1st. San Diego’s 18-34 record over
the past two months is the worst in Major League Baseball. Worse than Kansas City, worse than the
Rockies, worse than even the Devil Rays.

Can anyone out there remember a pennant race quite like this one?

“This has been unbelievable,” said Padres television broadcaster Matt Vasgersian. “No team wants
to take the division and run.”

Since divisional play began in 1969, 18 teams have won their division with fewer than 90 wins in full
seasons of play. The worst division winner was the 1973 Mets with an 82-79 record. Still, this isn’t the
first time in recent years that teams seem determined to make a run at the Mets’ mark.

Vasgersian spoke of the AL West in the strike shortened 1994 season where the Rangers were
leading the division with a mark of 52-62 when the season was called.

Former Padre, current television analyst and San Diego State baseball coach Tony Gwynn mentioned
last season’s NL East race. In the middle of July, the Braves, Phillies, Mets and Marlins were within a
game of first place and none of them were more than 4 games over .500. Finally the Braves took
control of the division to win it by 10 games, something the NL West is screaming for.

The poor play of the division has affected the teams of the NL West in a number of ways. First of all,
the division has become the laughingstock of Major League Baseball. A team like the New York Mets,
last in the NL East, would be leading the West right now by  several games. More importantly, no one,
except the Rockies, thinks they are out of the race. That has changed the mindsets of front offices
around the division.

“The poor play has really made the NL West general managers think twice about dumping veteran
players before the trade deadline,” said Joe Castellano, the host of XM Radio’s MLB Live Late Edition.
“Usually teams that are this far below .500 are ready to grab some younger players, but not in this
division this year.”

The only moves of note in the division were the Padres’ trades of pitching prospects to the Reds for
Joe Randa, and Phil Nevin to Texas for Chan Ho Park. Right before the deadline the Giants traded of
Yorvit Torrealba and Jesse Foppert for Randy Winn. The Diamondbacks added only Buddy Groom
and the Dodgers made no deals at the non-waiver deadline. But one quick look at the standings tells
you why teams didn’t feel they had to do anything drastic to win the division.  

“With the miserable season the Giants have had, only being five and a half out is remarkable,” said
Castellano. “If you win a few games a week you pick up ground.”

How does a horrible division like this happen anyway? Injuries and loss of talent are the main
culprits. Every team in the division has suffered major injuries as the chart below indicates.

Games Lost Due to Injury – As of August 1st









Four of the five teams in the division have lost their closer with the Padres being the only exception.
Four of the five teams in the division have lost at least one hitter from the middle of the lineup to the
DL with Arizona still suffering from Troy Glaus’ bad knee. On top of all those players going down, the
NL West has seen a lot of talent leave the division in the past few seasons.

Whether it be big names trades like the deals involving Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, free agent
defections by players like Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson, or younger players like Lyle Overbay or
Joe Nathan who have blossomed elsewhere, the talent level of the West simply isn’t what is was.  
While that might explain why the division has performed so poorly this year, no one can really tell what
will happen over the rest of this season.

“It’s really anyone’s game,” said Gwynn. “The Padres had a big lead and we all thought they would
run away with it, but they let everyone back in it. The Giants are five and a half back and they think they
are in it.”

So who is going to end up taking this thing? Opinions seem to focus on the front runners for most of
the race.

“I honestly think the Padres will the division,” said Vasgersian. “Maybe this is the optimist in me, but if
they get a couple of guys hot and the bullpen back in order, they could win a short series.”
Gwynn agreed saying “I picked the Padres at the beginning of the year and I’m sticking with it.”

Castellano had a different selection, but one that has a big caveat to it. “Believe it or not the Giants. If,
and this is a big if, they get both Benitez and Bonds back in August. It seems unlikely to me that
Bonds will come back at all this year, but if he does it will give the Giants enough life to win it. If not the
Giants, then the Padres, but this better be their last losing streak.”

Castellano’s pick sums up the way that the top four in the division feel about their chances. San
Diego can win if they get healthy and start scoring again. Arizona can win if the middle of their lineup
catches fire. Los Angeles can win if their get healthy as they  can.  The Giants can win  if Bonds and
Benitez come back to strengthen the bullpen and lineup. All four of these teams are very much alive
and have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, which are a whole different ballgame.

“I say this all the time, you get in the playoffs and it’s 0-0,” said Gwynn. “Who cares how you got there?
You just gotta get in.”
  W
L
PCT
GB
S.D.
33
20
.623
--
Ariz.
30
23
.566
3
L.A.
26
26
.500
6.5
S.F.
23
18
.451
9
Colo.
15
36
.294
17
  W
L
PCT
GB
Ariz.
52
55
.486
--
S.D.
51
54
.486
--
L.A.
47
58
.448
4
S.F.
45
59
.433
5.5
Colo.
37
67
.356
13.5
  W
L
PCT
S.F.
22
31
.415
Colo.
22
31
.415
Ariz.
22
32
.407
L.A.
21
32
.396
S.D.
18
34
.346
L.A.
725
Colo.
630
S.D.
462
Ariz.
428
S.F.
357