In one of my favorite movies of all time, My Blue Heaven, there’s a line that makes me, and probably two other people in the entire world, laugh. If you’re not familiar with the movie, then do yourself a favor and become familiar with it. It’s a fantastic film set in San Diego and stars Steve Martin and Rick Moranis when it was important to be Rick Moranis. Anyway, Moranis’ character is listening to the radio and the DJ is talking about the Padres losing as a result of the continued poor pitching of fictional reliever Wally Bunting. The line goes like this, “Fans what are we gonna do about Wally Bunting?”
I actually giggled a little while typing that. And, yes I just wrote the word giggled. It’s with this I ask all of my dear Padres fans:
Fans, what are we gonna do about Nick Hundley?
I know it was a pretty elaborate setup just to get to that line, but get over it. I get the chance to reference My Blue Heaven about two times a decade, so I’ll take my time.
Based on the title of this article alone you probably thought I was going to refer to the famous “Mendoza Line”, but Hundley hasn’t been close to that since April and that rule has long since been ushered out by the ever declining role players corroding the sport of Baseball, I chose another path.
After deciding not to sign with the Marlins out of the 2002 amateur draft, Hundley re-entered the draft in 2005 and signed with the Padres. He wasn’t extremely celebrated in the farm system, but people expected good things out of Hundley and it seemed likely we’d see him in the Bigs very soon. So, in 2008 Nick Hundley technically became our starting catcher. He played in 60 games and shared time with Josh Bard and the once almost interesting Michael Barrett. He showed promise with a respectable fielding percentage for a rookie catcher (.990) and it seemed like his bat would progress as well. In 2009 he again shared time with the scariest man to ever wear the Padres blue and sand (?), Henry Blanco, and some guy named Eliezer Alfonso. And, as a result Hundley had almost identical stats offensively and defensively. Maybe it was time to give him a few more starts so he could stretch his legs and get into a groove.
During the off-season between the 2009 and 2010 seasons I actually got to meet Nick Hundley. I was at a season ticket holder event and he handed me some peanuts. I actually told him, “I think you’re a good player and I hope to see you get in more games this season.” He said thanks and then added, “I hope we win a few more games this season.” I laughed, he smiled, and then we stood there for a few seconds not knowing what to do. Our interaction time was clearly over, but neither knew how to end it. I finally said, “Thanks for the peanuts and good luck this year.” He again thanked me and I walked on. Weird interaction and it got even weirder when 2010 turned out to be a season of improbabilities and peanuts. It was also another year of shared games behind the plate for Hundley. Yet, it seemed to work to his advantage. In the wake of splitting half the season with Yorvit Torreabla, Nick Hundley raised his offensive and defensive stats once again and it appeared this was going to be the strategy moving forward. Hundley and Torreabla each pushing the other to another level. However, Torrealba wanted a full time gig and took off. He got one, kind of.
This brings us to the miserable 2011 season that seem to plague everyone – except Nick Hundley! His average shot up to a career-high .288 and his defense held steady. It seemed as if finally the talk of Hundley’s offense catching up to his defense (or vice versa in some circles) could finally tail off and we could celebrate the catcher we thought we had all along.
Then the current 2012 season began.
Hundley has started 53 games so far this season and is batting a whopping .172! There’s not a starting catcher in Baseball hitting that poorly while simultaneously looking so clearly confused as to their own results. His defense has struggled at times and he looks confused, even uninterested at the plate. If this were anytime before 1997, Nick Hundley would have lost his job. He’d be on the bench or sitting in Triple-A trying to figure out his swing and wondering where all the Tucson co-eds hang out. But, since this is the Padres and our backup is John Baker, Hundley will just have to do. However, none of this makes sense. Why? Because we have a perfectly good prospect in Yasmani Grandal who so far has been called up to ride the bench. What the hell is going on? I know a few reasons have been given, but that’s just smoke being blown up the already blackened tailpipes of every coughing Padres fan. As of today Grandal is not on any disabled list or Mitchell report or in jail trading cigarettes with Matt Bush. He’s just hanging out and waiting. If the Padres have decided to wait and see if Hundley can turn things around then they better change up the attitude soon. If they’re waiting for new ownership to take hold before they do anything major they better let somebody know.
In the meantime lets be honest with ourselves, Hundley is not going to turn things around. He’s 28-years old and as a catcher should be entering his prime. If his prime is .172, then give me Optimus. It’s clear he needs to be in a position to share the at-bats, which for the most part he’s been doing this season, but not with the same strategy that made his 2010 such a dramatic shift and bled over into his apparent anomaly of a 2011. The front office can’t just keep hoping these players reach their potential by giving them three and four chances. Will Venable is just now starting to show signs of something and he’s 30!
There are many people out there who will claim Nick Hundley can do something and start hitting again, and I agree – he can do it – from the bench while mentoring Yasmani Grandal who is kneeling behind the plate. I’m sick of waiting five years for a prospect to pan out. And, if we are waiting to make a move because of ownership, then hooray! We’ve alienated even more fans in the process. You know, I wonder how long it will be before the fans just stop coming? Me? I’ll give this group of clowns one more season and then I’ll be spending my money on year pass to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and burning Nick Hundley jerseys for warmth.
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