Padres have come so far down so fast

There’s trouble in baseball paradise.

The San Diego Padres continue to fall, and every time they think they hit bottom, they slip into a deeper hole.

How things have changed in the less than three years since Buddy Black left the security of being the pitching coach of the Angels to become the managers of the Padres.

The Padres were cruising to the postseason in 2007, but then lost their final three games, including a wild-card tiebreaker at Colorado. All-time save leader Trevor Hoffman, two games removed from serving up a game-tying, two-out, two-strike, game-tying triple to Tony Gwynn in Milwaukee, couldn’t close out an 8-6, 13th-inning lead against the Rockies.

It’s been downhill since.

Black is a good company man.

“This is the part I like,” he said. “I enjoy young players. Anyone in this game will tell you that an enjoyable part of the game is teaching prospects. As a coach, it was hands on teaching. As a manager it is a little different, but it’s still about teaching and developing.”

And losing.

Since that final Saturday in September at Milwaukee, the Padres have stumbled to a 100-157 record. They barely avoided 100 losses last year — they finished 63-99 — but could well suffer their second 100-loss season since 1974 this year. Sunday, they suffered their 13th loss in 16 games, and fell 21 games back of the NL West-leading Dodgers. Only Washington — 26 games back of Philadelphia in the NL East — has a bigger deficit.

The Padres would like to think they are in a rebuilding process, but the players the Padres would like to unload to add prospects and free up payroll are on the disabled list, unable to create market interest.

The Padres balked at dealing Jake Peavy during the offseason, when teams might have still felt his contract was beneficial, and now are faced with the possibility that Peavy, who underwent ankle surgery, won’t pitch again this season. With $37 million guaranteed over the next two years — including a $4 million buyout on a $22 million salary for 2012 — teams will be hesitant to cough up the quality prospects the Padres want in return.

They gambled on the fading Brian Giles and exercised his $9 million option for this season with the hope he could create trading-deadline interest with a resurgent first half, but as if hitting .191 wasn’t bad enough, he’s been out for a month with a knee injury that eliminated any value he might have.

How bad are things in San Diego? Not only are Giles and Peavy on the disabled list, but so is opening day catcher Henry Blanco, and second baseman David Eckstein, No. 2 starter Chris Young, primary catcher Nick Hundley, veteran outfielder Cliff Floyd, and starting pitchers Cha Seung Baek, and Shawn Hill.

On Sunday, the Padres had a starting lineup that included four players who were assigned to Triple-A Portland out of spring training, and a fifth, Mat Latos, making his major-league debut as the starting pitcher, who was at Single-A on Opening Day.

“The challenge is different, but it is still something to embrace,” said Black. “That ’07 club, never lost more than four in a row. Peavy was on his way to a Cy Young. Hoffman was an All-Star. Chris Young was 9-1 out of the chute on his way to the All-Star team. Greg Maddux was steady. Boomer Wells pitched well until early August.”

And now?

The Padres jumped Latos from Double-A to the big leagues to start Sunday. Monday, they are calling on Tim Stauffer to make his second start, after being sidelined 14 months with shoulder surgery. Kevin Corriea, a released pitcher from San Francisco last December, has emerged as the rotation ace. The starting shortstop is Everth Cabrera, a winter draft pick from the Rockies who a year ago was playing for Low-A Asheville in the South Atlantic League.

The farm system remains a troubled area, having suffered from a three-headed monster in recent years, in which general manager Kevin Towers and his scouting director, Bill Gayton, were constantly overruled by the meddlesome ways of former president Sandy Alderson and his lieutenants, Grady Fuson and Paul DePodesta, and limited by departing owner John Moores’ financial struggles.

“As a competitor, you love a challenge,” said Black.

In that case, Black has plenty to love in San Diego.

Hot Seat

General manger Neal Huntington is going to look for some way to deflect attention from the lack of progress in Pittsburgh, which doesn’t bode well for manager John Russell, a scapegoat-in-waiting.

The Pirates have fallen to the bottom in the NL East and are headed to their record-setting 17th consecutive losing season. And the fans saw through the make-believe effort to sign multi-year extensions with shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who are being dangled for trade.

The big question is: Why are the Pirates so reluctant to give up Wilson or Sanchez? Something needs to be shaken up, and it’s not like they have a fan base that is going to suddenly disappear. The one salvation could be that 10 of the next 13 games the Pirates play are against Washington and Arizona.

Series stuff

With a weekend sweep of Florida, Philadelphia extended its winning streak to eight games, giving it 12 wins in the last 13, and allowing the Phillies to finally take command in the NL East.

They opened up a 6 1/2-game lead on second place Atlanta. Now the Phillies get to dabble in the NL Central race. They host the Cubs, second in the NL Central, for three games beginning Monday, and after a one-game makeup affair with the struggling Padres, the NL Central-leading Cardinals for three games.

It’s the first time the Phillies have seen the Cubs this year, but they did sweep both games of an early May visit to St. Louis. Ryan Howard, a St. Louis native, has enjoyed facing his boyhood team, tying the Phillies’ club record held by Mike Schmidt with his seventh career grand slam at St. Louis on May 5, and driving in 20 runs in the 11 games the two teams have played since the start of last season.

Milestone watch

Alex Rodriguez hit his 19th home run Sunday, giving him 572 for his career, one shy of Harmon Killebrew, who is ninth on the all-time list. Manny Ramirez has 536, leaving him tied with Mickey Mantle for 15th on the all-time list. … Atlanta OF Garret Anderson delivered his 505th double Sunday, tying him with Tony Perez for 44th all-time, one behind Babe Ruth. With 499 doubles, Todd Helton is tied with Rusty Staub at 48th, one shy of Goose Goslin and John Olerud, who are tied for 47th all-time.

Keep an eye on

Right-hander Tommy Hanson rejoined Atlanta on Monday to start against San Francisco. He was sent out after an early July start in Colorado, but it wasn’t a serious demotion. With the All-Star break, the Braves knew they could bring Hanson back before he missed a start, and it allowed them to have an extra reliever for the eight games in the interim.

Hanson, whose call up prompted the release of Tom Glavine, struggled in his debut, giving up seven runs, six earned, against Milwaukee on June 7. However, he is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in six starts since, reaffirming the Braves’ confidence.

FYI

For the second year in a row, Jim Riggleman is being asked to come to the managerial rescue. A year ago he replaced John McLaren in Seattle. This year it is Manny Acta in Washington. What about next year? Can he make it 3-for-3? Jim Dykes did. He was the mid-season replacement for the Reds in 1958, Tigers in 1959 and Cleveland in 1960.

Riggelman, who was 36-54 in Seattle, didn’t get off to a quick start. The Nationals were swept by the Cubs during the weekend in Riggleman’s first series filling out the lineup card.

In contrast, Dykes had some success in the midseason role. He was 24-17 with the Reds, but not rehired. He went 74-63 with the Tigers and then, afer a 44-52 start to 1960, he was involved in a managerial swap. General manager Frank Lane sent Joe Gordon to the Tigers in exchange for Dykes, who took over the Indiuans, and managed them to a 26-36 record. He was replaced as the Indians manager after going 77-83 in 1961.

Overheard

“You learn that every hitter is human, except for (Albert) Pujols,” Kansas City RHP Zack Grienke, who needed only 10 pitches, none of which went into fair territory, for his one inning of All-Star work.

Quickly

C Buster Posey, San Francisco’s first-round pick last season, made the jump from Hi-A San Jose to Triple-A Fresno at the All-Star Break. Posey, 22, hit .326 with 13 home runs, 58 RBI, 45 walks and 45 strikeouts at San Jose. … Ten years ago, Oakland turned the territorial rights of the San Jose area over to the Giants to help the Giants in a bid for a new stadium. Will the Giants return the favor? San Jose has approached the A’s about building a stadium, but talks are on hold because the Giants have the territorial rights. … With the return of Carlos Quentin, Scott Podsednik will move to center field for the White Sox, who tried five different players in center field during the first half. Podsednik, released by the Rockies during the spring, was the White Sox’s biggest positive in the first half. After signing a minor-league deal, he joined the Sox on May 1 and hit .300 in his first 66 games, stealing 14 bases. … Derek Jeter has joined Steve Garvey and Joe Morgan as the only players to play for at least nine All-Star Teams and never lose. Jeter’s record is 9-0-1. Garvey was 10-0 and Morgan 9-0. … The Dodgers have yet to lose three

consecutive games this season. The record for most games played before losing three in a row was set by the 2001 Mariners, who lost games 147, 148 and 149. They also lost game 150.