Dan Hayes was good enough to take some time to answer Padres-related questions for Chicken Friars readers. Dan covers the Padres for the North County Times. Check him out at Twitter (@NCTPadres) and online at NCT.
How long have you been a Padres fan, and what’s your fondest memory?
I’m actually not a fan. The idea is that we’re supposed to be able to separate ourselves from the emotions of fans. It’s impossible to avoid building relationships with the players, coaches and people throughout the organization. But I would never allow that to get in the way of my first job, to report pertinent news when it pops up.
Can the Padres rebound in 2012 after last season’s disappointment?
To make a turnaround in one season is going to be difficult. It can be done because the Padres have very good starting pitching. The bullpen situation could be dicey based on where Heath Bell winds up. And they’re going to need a lot of position players come together and have career years. Not saying it can’t be done, but a lot must go right in order for it to happen.
I’ve suggested that Jesus Guzman‘s defensive inequities really don’t matter, and the Padres should play him wherever they can as long as he keeps hitting. What’s your take on Guzman?
Guzman was a great find last season. He showed that his bat is a valuable weapon. I agree he should be in the lineup as much as possible. He always seemed to come through with runners on and finished with an OPS of .847.
Another interesting player the Friar faithful got a look at last season was Anthony Rizzo. What’s it going to take for him to be successful in the big leagues?
Rizzo has a lot of power potential and could be a nice long-term solution at first base. For him to be successful, he’s going to have to cut down on the strikeouts and not miss the pitches he’s supposed to hit. His eye is obviously very discerning. His glove is better than I believed it would be. He just needs to make more contact.
Heath Bell: In a Padre uniform on opening day or no?
No, and that’s unfortunate. Bell has done everything and more the Padres have asked of him since he arrived in 2007. He’s a good quote. He has matured a lot the last few years. And he always has a team/organization-first approach.
If no, where does he end up?
Wherever a team offers him three years. Maybe Boston, but I’m not sure.
Aside from Mat Latos, which of the Padres pitchers should we be watching, and why?
Cory Luebke developed significantly last season and finished with 154 strikeouts in 139 2/3 innings pitched. I think starting the season in the bullpen helped him become a much more aggressive pitcher and it should make him that much better.
Is Cameron Maybin THE player the Padres should build around?
I think he’s a perfect player to build around. His defense is superb, his power will improve, and I think we saw a great improvement in his eye as he learned to lay off bad pitches. That resulted in fewer strikeouts and more ground balls, which means more times on base and more stolen bases. He’s a great fit for Petco Park.
What other pieces would be a nice compliment to his skills in the outfield and at the plate?
Obviously the Padres need a legitimate power hitter to place in the middle of the lineup. That would be the biggest help, someone to build their offense around. In the outfield, I think they have the right compliment in Will Venable although Venable just turned 29.
Has Chase Headley peaked, or is there still room for improvement?
I believe if you took Chase Headley and put him in Arizona he’d be a 15-20 homer guy with a .300 average. Petco Park is not kind to his game. He’s improved a lot as a hitter and I think we’re just not seeing it because of Petco. Look at Adrian Gonzalez. He raised his average by 40 points and his OPS increased from 904 to 958. Chase had little around him last year and raised his OPS from 702 to 773.
What do you really think of the new uniforms?
I think they’re fine. I’m of the school that they didn’t produce the ugliest things ever and things could be worse. I didn’t see a significant difference in the new ones and apparently am one of the few people that really likes the alternative (navy blue) uni.
If the Swingin’ Friar and the San Diego Chicken got into a fight, who’d win?
The Friar has the bat, but the Chicken has guile. I’d go with the Chicken just because you know he’d use every trick he has to win.
Special thanks, again, to Dan Hayes for agreeing to this interview.