Spring Training is upon us. Pitchers and catchers have reported and the smell of Spring is in the air. Having recently started this sports blog out of San Diego, we feel that we’ve gotta give you readers a little something to get to know us. Get to your know our writing style, our attitude, our sports knowledge, our sarcasm, etc. So, I’ll throw down some Padres knowledge…errr, some Padres *opinions*. If you’re too dumb to figure this out by the title, this list will include the best players to ever wear a Padres uniform, which means they could’ve sucked as a Padre but been good elsewhere (think Jim Edmonds). The best Padres as Padres of all time… that’s a blog for another time. I was gonna make this blog the Top Ten Players to Ever Wear a Padres Uniform. But, since there are 9 current MLB HOFers who were on the Padres at one time as players (Dick Williams in HOF as Manager), that’s pretty much only picking 1 dude not already in the HOF. Too easy. Any jerk could do that. So, I’ll pick the Top Five only…only some jerks could do that, and I think I’m one of ‘em. You certainly won’t ever hear me quoting you Sabermetics, but I will give you a couple of my reasons (avoiding tons of stats) and as a bonus, I’ll throw in a picture of my favorite baseball card of them, as a Padre, of course… as another bonus to you, the reader, is this: not only will I provide my top 5, which you’ll argue about, I’ll provide them in order, starting with no. 5 and counting down to the best player of all time to ever wear a Padres uniform. (*Point of clarification: This list starts when the Padres joined MLB, 1969, so the obvious #1 Ted Williams will not be on this list*) Let the arguments begin.
#5: Willie McCovey
Damnit. Right off the bat, a San Francisco Giant. From the beginning, you knew he’d be great… dude only played 52 games in his 1959 rookie season, but he hit .354 and got the Rookie of the Year award. He went on to become an all time great with the Giants, racking up over 500 home runs. 6 All Star appearances and with an MVP in both the regular season and an All Star game. When he left the Giants for the Padres, the Giants went from a decent team to sucking. Hell, he has a cove named after him in SF… not too shabby. Btw, if you don’t know the story behind this above card and the Padres potentially moving to Washington before Ray Kroc swooped in to save the day, read about it here.
#4: Ozzie Smith
I kinda feel like if your name is “The Wizard”, you should be on most any Top 5 list. This one might generate some controversy. Ozzie was not a power hitter and that’s what fans love to see. He had something they also loved to see… skills at shortstop. 13 Gold Gloves, 15 All Star Games, he electrified crowds by getting hits, scoring runs, and stealing bases. Even more so, Ozzie was a walking, talking, back flipping highlight real. It was his rookie year in San Diego, in April, when Jeff Burroughs from the Braves hit a grounder up the middle…Ozzie sprang to his left diving for the ball, horizontal to the ground, left handed glove fully extended out, when at the last second the ball took a bizarre hop, bouncing back toward SS and over his leg…reacting, Ozzie pulled his right hand back across his body and snatched it barehanded, got to his knees and threw out Burroughs. I’ve watched it dozens of times and my eyes still don’t believe it happened. See for yourself.
#3: Rickey Henderson
He was a feared leadoff hitter, racking up a few Silver Slugger awards, 10 All Star games, a Gold Glove, and oh… that’s right… more stolen bases than anyone in the history of baseball. Rickey was a game changer. Even though he was with the Padres on two different occasions, and he bounced around like a pinball throughout the major leagues, er, and minor leagues, *cough* San Diego Surf Dawgs…I know I’ll always think of him on the A’s, stealin’ bases like they were his to begin with. I have to throw a quote in here, and there are so many it’s hard to pick one, but here goes. A reporter asked Henderson once if former Padre Ken Caminiti’s estimate that 50% of MLB players were taking steroids was accurate. His response was, “Well, Rickey’s not one of them, so that’s 49 percent right there.” Rickey being Rickey.
#2: Tony Gwynn
A collective GASP falls over the San Diego based readers!! I know, I know… Mr. Padre isn’t number 1 on my list, apologies. Check him out in that card though. So pimp. The ‘stache, the flipup stunners. Guy just spilled confidence on and off the field. He was amazing, yes. There is no denying it. His consistency over the years is insane, topping 3,000 hits from the plate, 7 Silver Sluggers, a few Gold Gloves and 15 All Star games. There’s a reason he’s called Mr. Padre…no baseball player will ever mean more to San Diego than Tony Gwynn did. Oh, he also has 8 batting titles under his belt… tied for the most in major league history…with Honus Wagner. Yes, that Honus Wagner.
#1: Greg Maddux
Somebody had to be #1. If Tony Gwynn is the model of consistency at the plate… well, Mad Dog brings that same quality to the mound. I know that when he was wearing a Padres uniform, he looked more like a coach than Buddy Black did, or a college professor. Hence, his other nickname, The Professor. Nonetheless, the Padres saw him plenty throughout the 90′s as he went out to the mound day after day, making grown men that made millions of dollars to hit a baseball, look like they’d never picked up a bat in their life. Seriously… he just made fools of people. Watching him paint the corners was pure joy and appreciation for an incredible art form that he had mastered. He won 355 games over his career… nobody will ever win that many again… and he won 4 straight Cy Young awards. Also, he’s probably the greatest fielding pitcher to ever play the game…18 Gold Gloves. No, that wasn’t a typo. 18. Maddux was an amazing athlete on the field and leader in the clubhouse.
Okay, so, there’s my list. Here are a few notable players that are missing that many of you will argue should have been in the Top 5 over Ozzie and McCovey. But, I just don’t see how you can argue Rickey, Gwynn, and Maddux. They belong there, period.
- Dave Winfield – I struggled a lot between Winfield and McCovey, but in the end… I had to pick one, only dude wearing an SD on his hat in Cooperstown, aside from Gwynn.
- Rollie Fingers – Fantastic pitcher. He’s Top 5 on every MLB mustache list.
- Gaylord Perry – Stud at the mound…just not studly enough for my top 5.
- Goose Gossage – One of the most feared pitchers in history. Also Top 5 on every MLB mustache list.
- Roberto Alomar – Just made the HOF, but again, no where close to the Top 5.
- Mike Piazza – Greatest hitting catcher of all time. Only 5 spots though.
- Adrian Gonzalez – Too young. By the end of his career, he will crack the Top 5 to ever wear a Padres jersey. Boom, write it down.
- Jake Peavy – Loved Jake as a Padre, but injuries and youth have kept him no where near this Top 5 list. Hoping for a rebound season for Jake.
- Trevor Hoffman – A true San Diego hero. Greatest closer of all time…until Mariano passes his all time mark.
- Randy Jones – he’d be way up there on the list of Padres as Padres…just not this list.
Here are some other notables, great players, that some of you might argue should be Top 5, and you would be dead wrong in your argument.
- Fernando Valenzuela
- Gary Sheffield
- Steve Garvey
- David Wells
- Ken Caminiti
- Derrek Lee
- Nate Colbert
- Benito Santiago
- Garry Templeton
- Wally Joyner
- Kevin Brown
- Greg Vaughn
- Phil Nevin
- Ryan Klesko
Hope you enjoyed. Bring on the debates.