The Man Who Would Be Ace


Back in 2009 the Padres made a very unpopular trade with the Chicago White Sox. It was a trade that was going to happen and no one could stop it. It was only a matter of time and getting the right deal so we’d come out with something in return. So, in July Jake Peavy was dealt to said White Sox for what seamed like pennies on the dollar. There was little to get excited about when you heard the names of the players we got back: Adam Russell, Clayton Richard, Dexter Carter and Aaron Poreda. In fact, I bet all the money I’ve ever made that if we were face to face right now, besides Richard, you couldn’t tell me where any of those other guys ended up. Well, because the Internet exists I can give you that information so on the off chance that in the future you actually make this bet, you will now be able to win it:

Dexter Carter now plays for the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Independent League, and has yet to make it to the Majors.

Adam Russell was shipped to Tampa Bay in the Bartlett deal where he had an okay season in 2010. He signed as a free agent with the Braves in 2011 and has yet to return to the Majors.

Aaron Poreda hasn’t played professional Baseball since 2009.

So, it quickly boiled down to swapping Jake Peavy for Clayton Richard and in 2010 it looked like the trade actually worked in our favor. Richard, who was already a touted prospect, had a breakout season with 14 wins, 153 strikeouts and a respectable 3.75 ERA. Meanwhile, Peavy’s 2010 was less than stellar with only 7 wins, more injuries, and his highest ERA since his rookie season at 4.63. The Padres seemed to have stumbled into a solid trade, and perhaps a pitcher who could be a dominant lefty or possibly the Ace of our shaky pitching staff.

Then, as most things do for the Padres, hopes are destroyed and things fall apart. It became pretty apparent early in 2011 that something wasn’t right with Richard. His velocity was down and he seemed to have lost his location a bit. People began to rumble that maybe he wasn’t as good as we thought. Maybe 2010 was a fluke? Then, in July of 2011 the Padres placed Richard on the 15-day DL, which quickly turned into shoulder surgery; and just like that, the Man Who Would Be Ace was done for the season.

Cory Luebke took his spot in the rotation and was so dominate so quickly that most Padres fans all but forgot about Clayton Richard.

Before the start of the 2012 season every fantasy Baseball stat geek was now talking about Luebke and he was unofficially dubbed the Padres Ace by the simplicity of deduction. Meanwhile, Clayton Richard was planning his return and just hoping to regain his spot in the rotation. Of course he had the upper hand, but with Tim Stauffer returning and the addition of Edinson Volquez nothing was guaranteed. Richard did manage to make the staff and in his first start of 2012, pitched seven innings of shutout baseball earning his first win against the hated Dodgers. Richard promptly celebrated that win by unraveling and losing his next five starts. Over that span his ERA shot up from 0.00 to 5.32. He threw 16 of his 17 BB’s this season during those losses and gave up a few too many homeruns. But, if you’re a sabermetrics geek (and I hope you know everyone hates you if you are), then you know that those stats only tell a portion of the story. Over those five starts he actually threw pretty well, averaging 6.5 innings and five K’s a start. Sure, he gave up 26 runs during that span, but his team only managed to score 18 runs in support, averaging 2.6 a game. You might be looking at these numbers saying, “You’re talking about a guy who seems to be having a pretty average year that’s facing downward”, and for the most part you’d be right. But on May 16th Richard seemed to have turned it around throwing another 7-inning/6 K/0 BB gem against the Dodgers. He followed that up by hurling a 7.1-inning/3 K/1 BB start against the Cardinals in which he walked away with a no decision. Sure, these aren’t Cy Young numbers and he isn’t mowing down batters at a break-neck pace, but what he does seem to be doing is righting the ship. Amidst the chaos that is the 2012 Padres rotation, Richard leads the team with nine starts. After missing almost half a season, it takes a little while to get the mechanics working again and at this point Richard seems to be doing just that. And really, what else can we expect? He’s working his way back to 2010 while trying to keep his ever-changing team of triple-A fielders and patchwork starters afloat. I’m sure it doesn’t help that Jake Peavy has seemed to put it together in the AL; having a monster season and igniting a deadbeat White Sox team. What a dick. Kidding. Kind of.

Will Clayton Richard ever be the Ace of the San Diego Padres? It’s not likely, but as the team prepares to trade Volquez and deals with Luebke’s season-ending surgery, Richard might just get his chance. And maybe that’s what a guy like Richard needs: The challenge of rising to the occasion. With the possible hurdles cleared and knowing that Tim Stauffer is one inning away from another DL stint, maybe this is his time – and maybe – just maybe he knows it. The fans are looking for someone to rally behind and a strong turnaround from Richard could do the trick.

‘In any place where they fight, a man who knows how to drill men can always be a King. We shall go to those parts and say to any King we find – “D’you want to vanquish your foes?’ and we will show him how to drill men; for that we know better than anything else. Then we will subvert that King and seize his Throne and establish a Dynasty.’

Seize the Throne, Clayton.

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