I’m sure San Diego Padres fans feel so much better as Monday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals commences.

You see, outfielder Will Venable has been identified as the person responsible for all the pathetic offensive performances.

Now that the Padres have demoted their leadoff hitter, perhaps they can also banish their second through eight hitters to the minors.

As you may know, Venable has plenty of company when it comes to underachieving players with San Diego hitters already striking out an alarming 391 times this seasons.

While Felix Hernandez was moving down 13 Padres via strikes on Sunday, Seattle Mariners television announcer Dave Sims said “San Diego leads the known universe in strikeouts.”

Why stop there? Throw in a few unknown galactic cultures and past ones like the Mayans, Incas and Leif Ericson’s Vikings while you’re at it.

I was intending to wait until mid-June to chime in on just how bad the 2011 Padres are but this past weekend’s series against the Mariners makes it clear that the same three words I say today will still apply in two-plus weeks.

Bad baseball team.

Could throw in another three – players can’t hit – after the horrendous showing through 47 games. The Padres entered Monday’s game tied for 28th in batting average (.232), 27th in runs scored (165) and 26th in home runs (29).

Getting swept at home by the Mariners would be stunning at any time but particularly so with how bad Seattle has played most of the season. The Mariners have a great one-two pitching punch in Hernandez and rookie Michael Pineda but they have an offense just as poor as San Diego’s attack.

You may have heard Padres’ batters whining about how hard is it to hit at Petco Park? But here they were getting outscored 14-2 by Seattle, out-hit 32-14 and striking out an eye-popping 35 times in the three-game series.

When you can’t make contact, it doesn’t matter what ballpark you’re playing in. The Padres could be playing at Allied Gardens Little League – Aaron Harang’s former stomping grounds – and San Diego would still have trouble pushing across runs.

Somehow the Mariners racked up runs and hits at Petco and they have a horrible offense too. Seattle has been using players such as Jack Cust (.224 average, no homers), Miguel Olivo (three homers) and singles hitter Adam Kennedy in the clean-up spot.

The Padres are somehow worse and part of the blame has to go to general manager Jed Hoyer, who traded All-Star slugger Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox but did nothing of any substance to replace Gonzalez’s production.

Hoyer spent money on the double-play combination – acquiring second baseman Orlando Hudson and shortstop Jason Bartlett – but brought in journeymen like Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu to fill the mammoth hole left by Gonzalez.

That is like asking for change for a $100 bill but only allowing the clerk to give you $5 back.

You can call that insanity.

Hoyer was banking on guys like Venable and third baseman Chase Headley finally putting things together and Ryan Ludwick rediscovering his former prowess from his stint with the Cardinals.

There was nothing about Venable’s 2010 production — .245 average, 13 homers, 58 RBIs – that would prompt most organizations to view him as anything better than a fourth outfielder. As for Headley, he’s settling in as a .260 hitter with no power, not exactly the type of production most clubs expect from someone manning the hot corner.

Ludwick is in the midst of a hot streak and that has lifted his average to .241 but was hitting below .200 as recently as May 11. That 37-homer, 113-RBI season from 2008 seems like it occurred back when Interstate 15 was a two-lane paved road.

There’s a reason why many Padres’ fans have been referring to Ludwick as “Dudwick.”

The season is nearly a third of a way done so it’s reaching that time when the Padres either need to start hitting or start facing reality that it is going to be one long summer of bad baseball.

Prospect Anthony Rizzo is tearing it up at Triple-A Tucson – Hoyer landed him in the deal for Gonzalez – but there’s no reason to rush him to the majors. The left-handed first baseman doesn’t turn 22 until August and keeping him there for another two months or so is much better for his development.

Besides, what if Rizzo really can hit major-league pitchers?

If so, he doesn’t fit in with the current Padres. These guys can’t hit and could become the second team in major-league history to strike out more than 1,400 times in a season. The Arizona Diamondbacks were the first last season when they struck out a record 1,529 times.

No matter what happens Monday night, the Padres can’t hit that white ball with red seams.

And it has nothing to do with the home ballpark or which player has been leading off games.


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