What’s gotten into the Padres?

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The Padres last night started their fourth options at first base and catcher, their third options at third base and in left field and their backup second baseman, yet scored nine more runs in a win over the Mets.

Their batting lines by month to date:

April: .211/.293/.308, 14 HR in 27 G
May: .249/.303/.363, 19 HR in 28 G
June: .249/.325/.351, 12 HR in 27 G
July: .223/.290/.316, 11 HR in 27 G
Aug: .292/.349/.454, 7 HR in 11 G

By month, they’ve averaged the following number of runs per game:

April: 2.85
May: 3.93
June: 3.63
July: 3.63
Aug: 6.50

And they’re doing it even though their best hitters from the months of April (Nick Hundley), May (Brad Hawpe) and June (Chase Headley) are all on the disabled list.  They’re also absent team home run and RBI leader Ryan Ludwick, who was sent to the Pirates prior to the trade deadline.

Ludwick may even finish the season as the Padres’ leader in homers and RBI.  He had 11 and 64 before being dealt.  Cameron Maybin is second on the team with six homers, one more than Chris Denorfia and Jesus Guzman.  Headley is second in RBI with 43, but now that he’s on the DL, he’s something of a long shot to overtake Ludwick.  Next best on the team is shortstop Jason Bartlett’s 32.

The Padres, though, are breaking in newcomers with increasingly impressive results.  Guzman has been a revalation at first base after taking over for struggling top prospect Anthony Rizzo.  Kyle Blanks, back from Tommy John surgery, has been red-hot in the outfield.  Luis Martinez, the aforementioned fourth catcher, has driven in nine runs in 11 appearances.  Aaron Cunningham also seems poised to make an impact in a limited role.

None of those guys are locks to turn into quality regulars for the Padres, but Blanks and Cunningham are still young enough to do so and Guzman could at least contribute against lefties going forward.  Maybin and Headley will also be back next year as the foundation of the San Diego lineup.  The team won’t keep scoring runs like this, but the future is looking brighter than it did a month ago.

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

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The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.