There’s a new world order in the National League West. The San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers are still included, but count the Arizona Diamondbacks among the party crashers. And while I can barely type the words without laughing, the Colorado Rockies are pulling up to the valet as we speak.

The Padres have been busy recently, with among other things, a flurry of activity in the personnel department. In the last four days alone, the club has placed NL ERA leader Chris Young on the disabled list, promoted pitchers Clay Hensley and Tim Stauffer from the minors, sent outfielder Terrmel Sledge down, waived Russell Branyan, and in a pair of less-than inspiring moves, added outfielder Scott Hairston and infielder Shea Hillenbrand to the bench.

The Pads, who find themselves in third place today, are 7-10 since the All-Star break, and have lost seven of their last 10. Oh, and there’s this small note: Tony Gwynn is officially a Hall of Famer.

Meanwhile, L.A. is slightly better at 8-8 since the break, but has also lost seven out of its last ten. Before falling to the Braves yesterday, Arizona had just won eight straight, and has moved into a tie with the Dodgers. The Rockies just beat the Los Angeles twice, which represents the two games they’ve picked up on .500 in the second half. I still think they’re pretenders, who will ultimately lose considerably more than they’ll win, but I’ve been wrong before.

The Giants have Barry Bonds, which is about all we can say about them. That, and they’ll be bringing the circus to town next weekend, for three at Petco. If Bonds is still pursuing either home run numbers 755 or 756, look out San Diego. It’s going to be another barn burner. Get your tickets while you can, if you can.

Back to T. Gwynn for just a second. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said a hundred times recently, about what Mr. Gwynn means to the history of the Padres, and to the community. But I would like to complement the Padres on the way they celebrated Gwynn’s enshrinement. Perhaps that hasn’t been done enough.

From the night in Gwynn’s honor at the ballpark, to the building and promoting of the beautiful new statue, to the way they encouraged fan participation, the Padres organization absolutely nailed it. There’s not a single thing that could’ve been executed better. A big win for Gwynn, for the baseball club, and the city of San Diego.

— HOWARD COLE

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