Well, here we are, 50 games into the baseball season and it looks like everyone survived. The world didn’t end.

The Padres are in a first place tie with Los Angeles at 29-21, and it’s gone pretty much according to plan. Fine pitching, even better than anticipated, and weak hitting, even worse than anticipated. 29-21 is about right, don’t you think?

The team has worked its way through fantastic slumps by Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mike Cameron, gotten the expected contributions from Adrian Gonzalez and Marcus Giles, and come to think of it, gotten the expected results from the rest of the lineup too. Jose Cruz, Jr. has provided more hits in the first 50 games than can be counted on during the next 50. Perhaps someone else will pick up the slack. Who it will be is anyone’s guess.

Jake Peavy, after a down season in 2006, is his old self again. Actually, he’s better than his old self again. Considerably better (OK, God-like), and has a shot at starting the All-Star Game July 10 in San Francisco. Chris Young has been great, and Greg Maddux has turned out to be more of a workhorse than anyone had the right to expect. David Wells is a bit up and down, but I have a feeling his pre-season diabetes diagnosis has already turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He’s better conditioned for the long season than he might otherwise have been.

There’s no nice way to say it, but talk about your blessing in disguise. Clay Hensley’s injury was a huge break for San Diego. Justin Germano is a better pitcher. Period, exclamation point. He just is. Without Hensley’s getting hurt, the Padres wouldn’t have known what they had in Germano. They might’ve found out later in the season, but then again, Germano might just as well been traded to Oakland for who-knows-what.

The bullpen’s success has been talked to death, so let’s skip doing so one more time. This idea that the team needs “a bat” has been done to death too. The Pads don’t need a bat. They need bats, plural, but they’ll settle for one, singular, come the July 31 trading deadline.

As for Bud Black, he’s has been a fine rookie manager. So far. But this is the easy part. Fifty games do not a Manager of the Year make. So we’ll see.

There’s an old expression in baseball that goes something like this: “Every team wins 50 games and every team loses 50 games. It’s what you do with the other 62 that counts.” I’d offer a prediction, but to be perfectly honest, I have no idea. All I know is that the National League West will be won by the either the Padres or the Dodgers. Or the Giants or the Diamondbacks. One of those four.

— HOWARD COLE

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