Please let me begin by stating that I could not be more pleased with the effort that the San Diego Padres have put forth thus far. Here we are, almost at the All-Star break, and my Padres are in first place by 3.5 games in the NL West.

If that isn’t amazing enough for you, how about this? The Padres have the best record in the National League!

Still need more? The Padres have, by far, the lowest ERA of any pitching staff in baseball, even though they do not have a single pitcher on the All-Star team.

How about this? The Padres lead baseball with 12 shutouts!

Still not convinced? This should help…the San Diego Padres have the best record in the National League since last July! If you think they are doing it with mirrors, you are wrong.

So, how are they doing it? Pitching, defense, hustle, and heart.

Just look at the recent series with Houston as an example. In game one, the Padres fell behind early and fought back to tie it up at three runs apiece. Uncharacteristically , Luke Gregerson could not find the plate, walked three guys, and gave up a bases clearing double to blow the game open and they lost 6-3.

Game two: scoreless tie into the eighth inning. The Padres scratch and claw for three runs and win 3-0.

Game three: scoreless tie into the eighth inning and the Padres manage to score one run and win 1-0.

Are you seeing a trend here? Every game was tied in the eighth inning and the Padres had the heart, and pitching to win three out of four.

Game four: The Padres were clinging to a 2-1 lead in the eighth and looked to be blowing the game. A leadoff double, followed by a rare triple from Lance Berkman ,  made it a 2-2 tie with a runner on third and no one out. With the Padres’ bats lacking pop, this could have spelled disaster. Sure enough, a strikeout, a ground out, and a fly out, ended the inning with the 2-2 tie in place. Move to the bottom of the ninth, the Padres scratch and claw their way for one run and win the game 3-2 and the series 3-1.

That about sums up how the year has gone for the San Diego Padres. Close games, great pitching, great hustle on the bases, and solid defense. The question is, will that be enough to hang on to first place?

Well, my short answer is, yes! I do think the Padres have what it takes to win the NL West.

By the way, don’t give me this “The West is a weak division” garbage. Four of the five teams in the West are over .500, so they must be okay.

My problem is, if and when the Padres make the playoffs, they are going to need to score a couple more runs a game if they want to challenge the big bopping teams like St. Louis or Philly in the NL and New York and Boston in the AL.

So, what to do? I say the Padres need to become buyers, not sellers and go after a bat! Local radio personalities ask San Diego listeners, “When will San Diegans believe in their Padres?” The answer is, when the Padres management believes in them! When Jed Hoyer , the Padres GM says, “If we are contending at the trade deadline, we will look to become buyers.”

What kind of GM says that? If the GM doesn’t believe yet, why should the fans? As far as we know, they still may be looking to get rid of Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell! If they do that, you may as well plan your vacation trips for October because the Padres will not be playing.

I understand that the Padres do not have a lot of money to spend. They are going through an ownership change and the new owner did not plan to spend too much too early. His problem is that the Padres are forcing his hand early by showing that they truly are a contender, not a pretender. The Padres must buy, and the sooner the better.

Here is my suggestion, and I can’t believe I’m saying this: Bring in Milton Bradley to play left field and bat behind Gonzalez. Bradley has all the tools to play well at the spacious Petco Park and has a strong enough bat to give some protection to Gonzo. Even Bradley says that he was happiest when he was a Padre and the limited pressure from the San Diego media is a nice environment for him. He would just have to get over the fact that his last game as a Padre was ended when his manager, Bud Black, beat him up at first base and blew out his knee.

From the Padres end, Bradley will come cheap. Any other big named bopper will cost them someone out of their very talented bullpen. With runs being at a premium, they cannot afford to lose Gregerson , Adams, or Bell, their top three relievers. Also, there were no negative comments from the Padres regarding Bradley’s earlier tenure with the club. “Model Citizen” was the most frequent comment made about Bradley in those days.

Will the Padres pull the trigger and show that they want to win? Will the new management act like the old management and say, “Hey, we’re in first, we don’t need to make changes?” I say, buy now!

Read more MLB news on