Padres ignore distractions, keep focus on field
After Byrnes' dismissal, players sticking to what they can control
SAN FRANCISCO -- OK, so it was back to business for the San Diego Padres on Monday night. Yeah, there's still that part of the deal. Even with the dismissal of general manager Josh Byrnes on Sunday and uncertainty swirling around the club, it's business as usual for the players.
At least, that's how it's supposed to be, and Padres manager Bud Black had no doubt that's exactly what would happen. In the end, his guys would shut out the noise and do the right thing.
Team meeting? Nope. Individual chats? Not a chance.
"They come to play every night," Black said. "We're very proud of that. In the locker room, the coaches, myself, are very proud of our guys and how we play."
That's probably one of the reasons Black was so pleased with a 6-0 victory over the Giants on Monday night at AT&T Park. Not only had the Padres gotten seven shutout innings from Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne in his Major League debut, San Diego scored six times off San Francisco starter Matt Cain.
Despaigne did a nice imitation of fellow countryman El Duque Hernandez by throwing an assortment of pitches at different speeds and arm angles. His velocity ranged from 65 mph to 93 mph, and no two pitches looked the same.
In the end, it simply felt like another day at the office for a team that has every reason to not be totally engaged. As the Padres begin the search for a new general manager, players have no idea what will happen leading up to the July 31 Non-Waiver Trade Deadline. Is everyone available? No one?
Will the new boss stay the course? Or will he tear up the blueprint, strip down the roster and trade half the club? It would be natural for players to feel the winds of change, or at least to be distracted by them. On Monday night, the Padres said they would focus on controlling the things they can control.
"It can be a distraction for those who think about it," closer Huston Street said. "I know that's a weird way to say it. What I've learned in 10 years in professional baseball at the big league level is management wants to win. And management is going to do what they think is best to win. Players are best served when they just go play."
There were similar words from every corner of the clubhouse. While the team's management plots a new course for the franchise, the players can only do the thing they know how to do.
"I don't think anything changes," catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "You've got to do your job. We understand it's a business. Obviously, the team made some moves. We've got to keep on going. It's like somebody getting traded. The way I see it is you've got to go out every day and give 100 percent no matter what happens. I don't think it's hard at all."
The Padres also know it was their poor record that got Byrnes dismissed. This was the club he constructed, and thanks to a slew of injuries and poor performances, San Diego was 32-43 when he was let go.
"As a player, you never like to see anybody lose their job because you feel responsible," Street said. "Josh wouldn't have lost his job if we were 44-32. I think players should take that very seriously. In the wake of moves, you can't worry about it. I sent Josh a text and wished him well and said I enjoyed working for him. He'll land on his feet somewhere, and you hope for that. For us, management wants us to focus on playing."
Right-hander Andrew Cashner said the players can only influence what happens on the field.
"It's disappointing," he said. "Obviously, we're not getting the job done in here. I don't think it's such a distraction. They said no more changes were coming. Our job is to win ballgames and to improve and play better as a team. We can't really control any of those things anyway. All that stuff is out of our control. We can only focus on the task at hand."
Black said he had zero doubt his guys would do exactly that.
"Players are resilient," he said. "Players are conditioned for these types of things. Our guys play. You've seen it every game so far. I can sense that. I see it. They're focused."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.