If they win it,will they come?
The San Diego Padres may be leading the National League West in wins, but they're trailing 10 of the league's 15 teams in attendance, averaging fewer than 26,000 fans at home despite playing in one of baseball's best ballparks.
And they didn't even do that well in the 12 games that preceded this weekend's crucial four-game showdown with the second-place Giants, drawing an average of 25,086 against Philadelphia, Colorado and the Dodgers.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, after consulting with a sports marketing professor and executives from other teams, blamed the sparse turnouts on the struggling economy — unemployment in San Diego County is 10.8%, the highest figure since World War II — competition from other entertainment options and the lack of a passionate fan base.
A team official, who declined to discuss the issue on the record, went even further.
"A weird year," he said. "I could name you a million reasons. It's just typical San Diego. [Fans] just won't buy in unless the guys can advance to the NLCS."
The Padres reached the postseason three times from 2005-07, but won just one game. And when a front office in transition got rid of fan favorites Trevor Hoffman and Jake Peavy over the next year and a half, the season-ticket base dropped dramatically.
Things could pick up Sunday, though, when the overachieving Padres send Mat Latos, baseball's leader in earned-run average, to the Petco Park mound to face two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.
Thome has hadHall of a career
With homers in three consecutive games last week, Jim Thome moved into a tie with Frank Robinson for eighth place on baseball's all-time home run list with 586.
All of the Hall of Fame-eligible players ahead of him have been enshrined in Cooperstown. So is Thome also deserving of a place in the Hall of Fame?
Working against Thome is the fact he's never won a World Series or a most-valuable-player award, just once led a league in a major batting category, has a .277 career average and has played just 28 innings in the field since 2005.
Working for the 40-year-old slugger is the fact he's never been tied to performance-enhancing drugs, has hit as least 22 homers in 15 of the last 16 seasons, ranks ahead of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez and Mike Schmidt in career OPS — on-base percentage plus slugging percentage — and is far and away one of the nicest guys in the game, something that can't help but influence voting members of the Baseball Writers Assn.
"A perusal of Thome's career accolades lends credence to the notion that he's an all-time great," writes Brandon Warne of Baseball Prospectus, who says Thome's numbers should win him induction in his first year of eligibility.
Manny being Manny
When last we saw him, Manny Ramirez was having trouble both staying off the disabled list and staying in games for the Dodgers, getting thrown out for arguing after seeing just one pitch in his final National League at-bat.
He's made a miraculous recovery since joining the White Sox, reaching base in his first seven games and hitting .292 for Chicago heading into the weekend.
But at least Ramirez right now isn't costing the Dodgers anything, which isn't the case with a couple of other White Sox outfielders. The Dodgers paid Juan Pierre $7 million this season and owe him another $3.5 million next summer. Andruw Jones will get $3.2 million a year from the Dodgers through 2014.
— Kevin Baxter