Simply put, it was a tragic opening week for baseball fans.
The baseball world was shocked and rattled by the tragic death of 22-year-old Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart. After tossing six scoreless innings in his 2009 season debut, Adenhart and three others were struck by a drunk driver early last Thursday morning with the Angels righty and two others being killed.
Then followed the subsequent losses of both the inimitable voice of the Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas and the once-wondrous, always eccentric pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych
Emerging through the clouds of sorrow is the surprising feel-good story in the first week of the big league season that is the 6-2, National League West-leading San Diego Padres.
Yes, you read that right. The San Diego Padres are in first place.
One can't help but feel a bit fuzzy within, knowing that the New York Yankees' payroll more than triples that of the Friars.
Sure, the statistics have the Padres in the bottom portion of the league in batting average (.238), on-base percentage (.330), and OPS (.749), but the Friars are actually in the top half in runs scored (36) and slugging percentage (.419).
On the flip side, the Padres pitching has been superb, posting a third-best team ERA (2.88) and top third in several categories, including strikeouts (58), hits allowed (60), and opponents batting average (.229)
But who needs statistics when you’re getting tallies in the win column?
The team has reeled off five-straight wins, sweeping the San Francisco Giants, taken a pair from NL West preseason favorite Los Angeles Dodgers, and, after a cross-country flight, spoiled the New York Mets' first game at new Citi Field.
Not bad for a team that was written off by most, including myself, before a pitch was thrown or a sunflower seed shell hit the surface at PETCO Park.