Here's a quick quiz for all you students wondering what line of work to go into: What specific occupation presents the best ratio of dollars earned to actual time spent in the workplace?
Answer: Being a starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres, affectionately known as "The Bombed Squad."
An ode to The Bombed Squad: Whitson and Show/Thurmond and Lollar/Soon as they start/Give the bullpen a holler.
These guys have about as much staying power as an ice cream cone in a microwave. They get pulled sooner than a fire alarm in an Irwin Allen disaster movie. They have been here and gone quicker than "Glitter."
Not to put too fine a point on it, but these guys are brutal. They go out there to throw as hard as they can for as long as they can. And then, about 15 minutes later, they do what they do best -- take a shower. They're like mermen, too much time on dry land and they wither away. They spend more time toweling off than John Thompson. They're not out there long enough to need to ice down their arms after they come out of the game; they just put a cold can of soda on those babies and get ready for the next game.
Through four games of this World Series they have given up about a zillion runs in less time than it takes to recite the alphabet. After Friday night's game, Dick Williams, the Padres' manager, said this about his starters: "Our entire starting pitching in the postseason has been very, very bad." Not just very bad, mind you, but very, very bad. What could he say after today, when Eric Show -- obviously an abbreviated version of "shower," his home away from home -- made it all the way into the third inning before getting yanked? That it's very, very worse?
As a group, the starters have worked a total of 10 innings in four games and sport a collective World Series earned run average of 11.70. There are players in the NBA who could make $1 million a year for scoring that high. Memo to the Padres' starters: When the ERA gets to 15, sell.
Show was today's designated target. Going into the game his postseason ERA, after two starts against the Cubs in the playoffs, was a mere 13.59. After giving up three earned runs in less than three innings, he actually lowered it to 12.38. That's the good news. The bad news is, by giving up two home runs to Alan Trammell, Show has now served up seven postseason homers in eight innings pitched. "He doesn't usually give up home runs like this," Williams said after the game. Outside of slo-pitch softball, who does? It's probably poetic justice that Show pitches for Team McDonalds. His uniform should read: "Homers. Billions and billions served."
In the bullpen before the game Show was warming up with a catcher and a coach pretending to be a batter. The coach, though, didn't actually have a bat in his hands. If he had, he might have hit Show's pitches so far that NASA couldn't track them. How could you blame Williams if when he removed Show from the game he wished him all the best next year -- wherever it is that Show ends up.
Have you heard about the San Diego starting pitcher doll? You wind it up and the batteries go dead. But if this is a joke, the Padres aren't laughing. Mark Thurmond, who lasted an amazing five innings in Game 1, Ed Whitson, who couldn't get out of the first inning in Game 2, Tim Lollar, who threw 55 pitches and racked up four walks in less than two innings Friday night, and Show have been less than effective. How much less? Does the word "Duck!" mean anything to you?
If it wasn't for the Padres' bullpen -- 24 innings pitched, six hits and one earned run allowed for a truly remarkable 0.38 ERA -- this Series would be over. As it stands now, unless San Diego comes up with a stopper overnight, this Series has about as much chance of going back to the left coast as Billy Martin does of being elected Miss Congeniality.
Why does Sparky Anderson bother to play the percentages with a starting lineup that takes advantage of the pitching matchup? Why go lefty-righty, or righty-lefty when the Padres' starter figures to be in the game only through the first commercial? Dick Williams has made so many trips to the mound that if he was enrolled in a frequent walkers plan, he'd have enough miles for a free trip to Hawaii.
This pace surely can't continue much longer. "I know we're going back to San Diego," Williams said. "But I sure would like it if the Tigers came with us."
What are the Padres' starters thinking out there? Have they got a cab waiting somewhere with the meter running? Are they booked on a downtown sightseeing bus? Are they waiting for the surf to come up on the Detroit River? It doesn't seem to affect the relievers. The rumor is that the relievers refused to switch places with the starters -- they were afraid this thing was contagious.
The Padres are lucky that the Tigers can't score. The Tigers have left so many men on base that they're thinking of buying first and second and turning them into condominiums.
So what kind of matchup are we seeing? A team with a starting pitching corps patterned after Venus de Milo against a team with the kind of productivity that would have stopped the Industrial Revolution dead in its tracks.
Fortunately for the Tigers, they're winning. Poor Padres. Their starters have them bailing water from the get-go. The classic picture came the other night in San Diego, when the camera zeroed in on Ed Whitson after Williams pulled him midway through the first. Whitson had been strafed so badly, his Series ERA topped out at 40.50 (not celsius). Whitson was so angry he took a wad of gum from his mouth and threw it onto the dugout floor with alarming fury. The irony was, that was the best stuff he threw all night.