Padres end season with loss to Bucs
Baek leaves with calf injury; replacement LeBlanc takes loss
SAN DIEGO -- It's not like the Padres needed some great symbolic gesture as a reminder of one of their prime shortcomings in a lost season, though they were served one anyway in their season-ending, 6-1 loss to the Pirates on Sunday at PETCO Park.
The bullpen that was statistically the tops in the Major Leagues in 2007 allowed all six Pirates runs, as the Padres finished the season with 99 losses, the most they have absorbed since losing 101 games in 1993.
"When you have a losing season, you can point to many facets of the game," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "Last year, we led all of baseball in bullpen work. This year we thought we had the pieces in places.
"But we could never really find those seven guys to get those last nine outs or 12 outs."
Shoddy bullpen work was just one of the team's shortcomings in 2008, as the Padres went from a team that won 89 games in 2007 and missed the playoffs by one victory to taking up residence in the cellar of the National League West early on.
The Padres' bullpen ERA in 2007 was 3.06. This season it ballooned to 4.44.
San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who finished with a career-high 36 home runs and 119 RBIs, was asked after the game what his thoughts were on the season. Suddenly, a look of incredulity washed over his face.
"We lost 99 games ... it's a bad season," Gonzalez said, flatly.
After the game, Padres players offered differing opinions on what the team needs to get back to being competitive. Reliever Heath Bell said the Padres needed a team leader "to get in people's heads. We need some hard-nosed guys."
Jake Peavy, a year removed from winning the National League Cy Young Award, pinned his hopes for 2009 on a better-constructed bullpen, which makes perfect sense because he finished with a 2.85 ERA but a sub-.500 record (10-11), a victim of poor run support.
Then there was an underachieving offense that ranked last in the league in runs, was shut out 13 times and dropped 28 games by one run. Hitting coach Wally Joyner resigned last week, and at least one more change to the coaching staff is to come, perhaps on Monday.
Black said the Padres "have to do some things in our pitching staff to bolster it back up," as well as building a better bench than the one he was handed out of Spring Training that included Tony Clark and Callix Crabbe, both of whom were gone by August.
By in large, it was a number of negative aspects that led the Padres from contenders in a contentious division, where 85 victories can and often will win you the title, to the other end of the spectrum, where no team wants to fall.
"As a group, collectively, we fell short of what we needed to do," Black said.
Black, who had his 2009 option picked up in Spring Training, hasn't been given a full endorsement if he's coming back or not, though reliever Heath Bell said the manager simply wasn't the issue this season.
"I don't think there's anyone who has a problem with Bud," Bell said. "It's our fault ... it's not the manager's fault."
The Padres head to the offseason with the unresolved futures of two iconic figures -- closer Trevor Hoffman and right fielder Brian Giles -- left to be determined.
Giles is set to earn $9 million next season, though the club has a $3 million buyout. He led the team with a .306 batting average and 40 doubles. The Padres have said the 37-year-old is the kind of high-on-base-percentage player they want.
"I don't see why I wouldn't be picked up. But it's changed so many times. I'm confused on the whole situation. It's really what our payroll is going to be and if I'm going to fit under the payroll."
Hoffman, who eared his 30th save on Saturday, will be a free agent, though he has said he wants to return, and the Padres have indicated they would like to have him back, though a deal has yet to be worked out.
"I like playing here in San Diego," Hoffman said.
Sunday wasn't much of a swan song for Padres pitcher Cha Seung Baek, who was coming off one of his best starts of the season against Washington a week ago when he allowed one run in seven innings in earning his sixth victory.
There's no telling how long Baek might have pitched against the Pirates, as he suffered a strained left calf muscle as he covered first base on a ground ball hit to Adrian Gonzalez by Pittsburgh leadoff hitter Nate McLouth in the third.
Baek, along with the pitcher who followed him -- rookie left-hander Wade LeBlanc -- are two pitchers the Padres will take a look at during Spring Training as they attempt to fill out the rotation behind Peavy and Chris Young.
LeBlanc allowed consecutive home runs in the fourth inning to Adam LaRoche and Steve Pearce over 2 2/3 innings in taking the loss. LeBlanc posted an 8.02 ERA over his 21 1/3 innings, with seven home runs allowed, since being promoted from Triple-A Portland.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.