SAN DIEGO — Tony Gwynn didn't even take batting practice Monday, the Padres' first day off in three weeks. And when Tony Gwynn stays away from the batting cage, you know the walls are closing in on the Padres.
Today, the fifth-place Padres open a 12-game home stand against the four teams in the division ahead of them--three of which manhandled the Padres over the last week and a half. Cincinnati is in town for three games beginning tonight, Houston arrives for three on Friday and then the Dodgers and San Francisco visit for three games each next week. If the victories don't start appearing soon, the Padres could find themselves in for a long summer.
If the haunting come-from-ahead losses, the harrowing lack of hitting and the horrifying defensive play during the last 11 days has your head spinning, don't read this statistic: The Padres' record this morning is just three games better than it was at this time last year.
The Padres are 30-34, eight games behind the first-place Houston Astros. After 64 games in 1988, the Padres were 27-37, nine games out of first place.
"That's a great comparison," Gwynn said. "It shows how this club is not doing what it needs to do. We were 27-37 last year, and you look at last year's team and this year's and you've got to say this year's club is better. That's another thing you need to look at.
"Sure, people expect us to do better and they're down on us, but I don't look at the negatives. There weren't too many positives on the last road trip, but at least we hit the ball more consistently than we have."
In 1984, the Padres were 38-26 at this point. That was good enough to put them in first place with a 1 1/2-game lead.
Ah, memories. When the Padres left home at the beginning of June, they were 29-25, 1 1/2 games behind first-place San Francisco. But then the schedule sent them east to Cincinnati to start a 10-game trip. Somewhere along the way, they went south.
This morning, the Padres rest in fifth place. It's an unpleasant surprise for a team that was picked by many to contend for the National League West title after the off-season acquisitions of Bruce Hurst, Jack Clark and Walt Terrell.
The Padres were predicted to chart new territory this season, and during the last trip, they did, losing nine of the 10 games. They navigated their way to four games under .500 for the first time all season. They are farther out of first place than they have been all season.
"It will be almost impossible to forget a road trip like that," Gwynn said. "I hope it's not the kind of trip that will haunt us, but when you look at how we lost some of those games, you won't be able to help looking back at the end of the year and thinking about it."
Still, Gwynn said this isn't a make-or-break home stand.
"I'm hoping we play well from the standpoint that the road trip wasn't the greatest and the same teams that kicked our behind on the road are coming here," said Gwynn. "But it's not drastic-measures time. We've just got to start playing good baseball. I'd settle for us to do the things we should be doing."
"Execution," Gwynn said. "Playing better fundamental baseball than we did on the road. We gave away two games in Houston--good teams can't afford to give games away. We just need to do the little things we did during spring training and last season."
That's what everyone with the Padres keeps saying. But how did they get away from doing those "little things" in the first place?
"I don't know if there's an answer to that," Gwynn said. "Everyone has to look within themselves and ask if they're doing things to help the club win or if they're doing things for themselves. What's important is that we start doing the things we should be doing."