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Monday, May 29, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #83 Willie McCovey

The following is a guest article by Rich Campbell of San Diego Spotlight, a San Diego Padres blog.



WILLIE LEE MCCOVEY | 1B | 1974-1976 | CAREER
STATS




Back in the early 70’s, I made a deal with my grandmother. If my favorite Padre hit a home run while we were at the game, she would give me a hundred dollar bill. We shook on it and everything. Overhearing this, my little brother requested the same deal. My grandmother cracked up, then counter-offered a single dollar.

See, my favorite Padre was Enzo Hernandez. My little brother’s favorite?

Willie McCovey.

Even in the fading twilight of his career, Willie McCovey meant something to San Diego. He was the first genuine star to come here, and to many fans he was the first real indication that the Padres played in the major leagues.

Willie didn’t do much by his own standards in his three years as a Friar. His highest average was .253, and he hit only 52 homers in the three years. But to people who hadn’t been paying attention to Nate Colbert and Clay Kirby, McCovey’s presence meant that we really were “big league”. To my lil’ brother, Willie McCovey was better than a ride to the community swimming pool at Gillespie Field.

Willie had swagger, Willie had muscle, and when Willie hit the ball it went a long way. McCovey wasn’t quite the great player he had been in San Francisco, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t like the team was actually going to win. But McCovey commanded respect.

Having Willie here affected the way the Padres were treated by the rest of the league, and especially by the east coast media. It meant that they would actually cover our games. Kirby and Colbert should have warranted that, but they didn’t.

Because we had Willie McCovey, Randy Jones and Dave Winfield got noticed more quickly.

Oh, there were other things going on in the year McCovey became a Padre. Ray Kroc was the new owner and he was behind the trade to acquire a name-ballplayer. The ballclub had already been packed to move to Washington D.C. But in McCovey’s first year the Padres drew a million fans for the first time, despite a 60-102 record.

Willie shouldn’t get all the credit for that. Indeed, the majority of it should go to Ray Kroc. Promising rookies Randy Jones and Dave Winfield didn’t hurt, either. Nor did established veterans Matty Alou and Bobby Tolan. The Padres looked like a major league team, on paper anyway.

But there was no doubt who the big name in the mix was. Although Jones and Winfield by 1976 had eclipsed McCovey’s star enough that he was traded to the Oakland A’s, Willie McCovey was the first big name acquisition that let this town know we had a major league team.

By the way, I never did collect any money from my grandmother. My brother ended up with about ten bucks over the next few years. Guess he got the best of that deal.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #84 Fred Norman

The following is a guest article by Dex of Gas Lamp Ball, a San Diego Padres blog.



FREDIE HUBERT NORMAN | SP | 1971-1973 | CAREER
STATS




Fred Norman was really not a good pitcher for a solid 7 or 8 years to start his career. He may not have been horrible, but nobody would blame you for trying to make that argument… except for the fact that it’d be a little bit prickish to do.

He was not good (and arguably he was a little horrible) for those years and then he came to the Padres in 1971. The 1971 Padres, of course were terrible. Terribly horrible. The 1971 Padres were one of five Padres teams that managed to lose 100 or more games. Terribly, horribly horrendous team. Somebody get me a thesaurus. Abominable. Execrable. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. Their Pythagorean win/loss was 64-97. So they sucked and they were unlucky.

Norman wasn’t even a shining star on that ’71 team. A 3-11 record kept him out of Cy Young contention, but a respectable (and career best) 3.32 ERA endeared him to management and they kept him around. Maybe out of pity.

Also, he was kinda short. A little guy.

At this point, you should probably be asking yourself why Li’l Fred Norman even gets a whiff of the Top 100. After 1971, Norman would only pitch one more full year with the Padres. And the ’72 Padres weren’t a heckuva lot better than the ’71 Pads. I’ll tell you why. Something crazy happened to Fred Norman.

Me, personally? I think he lost it. Something clicked in his little head and he decided that he was seriously effing sick of these bad teams screwing up his shot at the Hall of Fame. He was sick of his friends laughing at him and his dog peeing on his shoes. He was sick of being short. Something made him decide that he was going to start getting wins no matter what.

Norman started the ’72 season off pitching a complete game against the Dodgers, giving up one run, and still the Padres managed to lose the game. That only made his rage grow.

On May 2, he picked up his first win. Another complete game. Another game with only one run surrendered. At this point, maybe he realized that he couldn’t leave anything to chance because he went on that season to pitch ten complete games with six shutouts in the mix. That’s a Padres record that only Randy Jones has since matched.

Score one for shorty.

You heard of the Big Red Machine? Big Red Pansies to Fred Norman. Three of his complete game wins came against the Big Red Machine and two of those were shut outs. In one game against them, he struck out 15, a Padres record at the time. That’s the Big Red Machine that would go on to the World Series that year. If you wanted to see a Big Red Machine when the Reds were in town in ‘71, you had to know a pretty good surgeon because the only big red machine on the diamond in those days was the one in Fred Norman’s chest.

And after all was said and done, he still only went 9-11 for the Padres.

And then they traded him away… To the Reds who were probably sick of this little guy schooling them so much on the mound.

But for a few brief moments in time, Fred Norman wasn’t just any little guy. He was our little guy. And when he was pitching, it wasn’t his height that carried the team. It was that big heart of his.

The Littlest Padre with the Biggest Heart.

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #85 Enzo Hernandez



ENZO OCTAVIO HERNANDEZ | SS | 1971-1977 | CAREER STATS



Last week I wrote about a mediocrity named Bob Barton. Today I find myself trying to summon something positive to say about Enzo Hernandez. And on Tuesday, I shall wax poetic on the sub-par baseball skills of Rudi Stein of the Bad News Bears.

The presence in our Top 100 of players of Enzo’s ilk makes me wonder if perhaps this list should have been limited to the top 50 Padres. Go to the Baseball-Reference.com page of Enzo Octavio Hernandez, and you’ll find this quip from page sponsor Stephen Rodrick: “A tip of the cap [to] one of baseball’s least productive hitters in history.”

Stephen Rodrick is correct. At the plate, Hernandez was not merely bad. He was historically bad. In his rookie season with the Padres, he drove in just twelve runs despite accumulating 549 at-bats. He barely missed being the first regular in history to commit three errors for every RBI, as he finished with 33 miscues. Enzo’s slugging percentages in his first three seasons- .250, .249, and .239- would be an outstanding series in bowling, but stand as a testament to his impotence in baseball.

The tiny Venezuelan with the tinier OPS managed to compile a slugging or on-base percentage in excess of .300 just once in his career, posting a .319 OBP as well as slugging .321 in 1976, his finest offensive performance by a significant margin.

His career BA/OBP/SLG line of .224/.283/.266 looks like a joke, but is in fact the line of a man who was a regular/semi-regular in the National League for six seasons.

A sort of poor man’s Neifi Perez, Enzo has become a symbol of the early Padre squads’ futility. Nonetheless, he wasn’t entirely bad. He was an excellent base-stealer on the rare occasions that he found himself on base. He seldom struck out, and was a competent bunter. And he wasn’t exactly the worst defensive shortstop in the league.

Crap, who am I kidding?!? Enzo Hernandez sucked. Whenever you find yourself frustrated by today’s Padres, be thankful that there’s no Enzo in the bunch.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #86 Juan Bonilla



JUAN GUILLERMO BONILLA | 2B | 1981-1983 | CAREER
STATS




Bonilla was originally drafted out of Florida State in 1977 by the New York Yankees with the 606th overall pick, but the pick was voided and in January of the following year, he was signed by the Cleveland Indians as an amateur free agent. He spent three seasons in the Cleveland organization and compiled a truly unspectacular batting line. Bonilla's ability with the bat began and ended with hitting for a decent average. That decent average coupled with range at second base was enough to entice Padres who traded Bob Lacey for him after acquiring Lacey four days earlier from the Oakland Athletics.

Juan Bonilla became the Padres' starting second baseman in his rookie year and he didn't disappoint at the plate hitting at a tick above average relative to the league and leading Padre infielders in On-Base Percentage. Despite leading NL second basemen with 13 errors, Bonilla showed good range. Acquiring Bonilla was looking like a good decision.

Unfortunately, Bonilla's sophomore season was shortened by a broken wrist and drug rehabilitation. During the 45 games he did play in, Bonilla's batting average fell ten points as did his Equivalent Average. One bright side was the improvement in his fielding which had been a negative his rookie season.

Bonilla's third season with the Padres is is the one that has him on this list. Despite his offensive numbers continuing to decline, Juan put together his most valuable season of his career thanks to what may well have been a fluky spike in his fielding value. Thanks to a holdout the following year, he would be released and would end up signing with the team that originally drafted him.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #87 Jody Reed

The following is a guest article by Michael Baker of metalsupply, a San Diego Padres blog.



JODY ERIC REED | 2B | 1995-1996 | CAREER
STATS




Between 1989 and 1991, Jody Reed was one of the better second baseman in the major leagues. Suffice it to say, he did not play those three seasons with the San Diego Padres, but rather with the team that drafted him, the Boston Red Sox. Reed was selected by the BoSox in the eighth round of the 1984 draft, and surfaced with the big team at the end of 1987. He stayed with the Red Sox until 1992.

Jody Reed was a classic '80s middle infielder. He was solid with the glove, had some gap power, and was a heady baserunner (That would be in reference to going from first to third on a single, not stealing bases. His career high in stolen bases was only seven. But Jody played the game “The Right Way”, looked good in a uniform, and had that intangible quality we now call "scrappy." Jody epitomized scrappitude.

After a major step back in 1992, the Red Sox chose not to protect Reed in the 1993 expansion draft. He was drafted by the Rockies, and was replaced in the Red Sox lineup by veteran Scott Fletcher. In unceremonious fashion, the Beantown club had washed its hands of Jody Reed. Soon thereafter, the Rockies traded Reed to the Dodgers for recent Padre great Rudy Seanez.

I imagine that Jody's $2.5 million contract (the fifth highest in baseball among second basemen) was attractive neither to the expansion Rockies nor the Sox considering his feeble bat, but the Dodgers needed a second baseman pretty badly. No other reasoning could possibly explain the events following Reed's only season with the Dodgers.

Jody's 1993 was quite a bit like his 1992, given modest improvement in average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. He proved to be an eminently replaceable commodity if not for his reputed glovework, so much so that Dodgers GM Fred Claire was prepared to offer Jody a sizeable contract to continue with the Dodgers, somewhere in the arena of his previous year's contract, and for multiple years.

Jody would have none of it. His agent/brother-in-law decided to play hardball with Claire, and deemed Jody equal in value to Giant all-star second baseman Robby Thompson, who signed a multi-year pact that off-season for a $3.8-million annual salary. That was the moment that Fred Claire made the biggest bonehead move of his career. Desperate for a second baseman, but not willing to overpay for a mediocre player, Claire did exactly that in trading a young pitcher named Pedro Martinez to the Expos to acquire Delino DeShields. Thus, Jody Reed was left out in the cold. Or as Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman put it:
"Jody Reed booted nearly $8 million. Fred Claire booted Pedro Martinez. Both looked around and thought they had a better play to make. You can see the rationalization, so tantalizing. But what blindness. Neither saw that the correct play was right in front of them."

Jody claimed that it wasn't about the money, hinting that he was afraid of what might happen to him as Jose Offerman's double-play partner (a perfectly rational concern). In any event, Jody eventually signed a minor league contract with the Brewers for $750k, and the following year began his tenure in San Diego.

Jody's days with the Padres were like those of so many other veterans signed by the Padres (and Chargers, for that matter): his reputation in the big pond garnered him a lot of respect in San Diego's smaller pond, and he was a beloved member of the Padres 1996 NL West Championship team. He hit relatively well in the postseason that year, with two key hits off Donovan Osborne in the deciding Game 3.

That was the last game of Jody's two-season stint with the Padres. He was traded that offseason to Detroit for (among others) the late Mike Darr, and after one season with the Tigers he retired from baseball, probably not of his own choosing.

He currently resides in Tampa, Florida, where he grew up. His website, jodyreedbaseball.com, professes to teach kids to play baseball the right way. (Needless to say, his brother-in-law does not run a similar website for sports agents!) Says Jody:
"I will show you how to do everything the same way Major League ballplayers do it. Through video clips done by me, you will learn the same techniques and mechanics the best players in the world use. We also communicate through message boards, chat rooms and even live webcasts to allow you a more personal training experience with a former Major Leaguer."

Lo, how the mighty have fallen. Once one of the five highest-paid players at his position, he's now available for a person-to-person Internet chat for the low, low price of thirty American dollars - a small price for any true Padres fan.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #88 Bob Barton



ROBERT WILBUR BARTON | C| 1970-1972, 1974 | CAREER
STATS




What can be said of Bob Barton that has not already been said?

I could call him a poor man’s Fred Kendall. Additionally, I might comment on the fact that Barton was the only member of our Top 100 club of whom I had no recollection. And of course it bears mentioning that our rankings place him as the seventh greatest catcher in Padre history. Oh, and he was born on a Wednesday.

In December 1969, after parts of five seasons of offensive impotence as a San Francisco Giant, Barton was shipped to the Friars with Bobby Etheridge and Ron Herbel. The Giants received Frank Reberger in the deal.

That Bob Barton was arguably the best player involved in this package speaks volumes of the insignificance of the deal. But a team has to play somebody at catcher, and Bob Barton became that somebody here in San Diego.

Barton struggled mightily in his first Padre campaign, posting a .592 OPS in limited duty. His second year with the club would be the best of his career. Playing in 121 games, he compiled an OPS of .663, just .021 beneath the league average. His modest success would be short-lived, however, as his playing time was limited to just 29 games the following season, which would see his OPS plummet to .413 (Yes, four-thirteen.).

Swapped to the Reds in mid-1972, Barton would appear in only two games as a Red before returning to San Diego to close out his career with a lackluster 1974. Released by the Padres on October of that year, Robert Wilbur Barton surprisingly has resurfaced as number 88 in our Padre countdown.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Monkey Eaten by Bear?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Shortstops by Net Runs Above Average

I think you'll recognize the guy at the top of the list.

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #89 Scott Sanders



SCOTT GERALD SANDERS | SP/RP | 1993-1996, 1998 | CAREER
STATS




After being drafted 32nd overall by the Padres in the 1990 amateur draft, Sanders would spend the next four years compiling a 4.83 RA and a 2.00 K/BB ratio from Low A to Triple A. That performance coupled no doubt with his being a first round pick was good enough to get nine starts at the Major League level in 1993. He was barely a third of a win above replacement across the 52.3 innings he pitched, but teams have seen worse performances from "established" starters (*cough*Tim Redding*cough*).

Scott performed well enough in '93 to get another chance in '94 and in just over twice as many innings, he was good for about nine times as much production. Scott would also see his first action out of the 'pen in a handful of high leverage situations and he performed well enough to put up a WXRL of .446 in only three appearances. Before one such appearance, Sanders was arrested for soliciting undercover policewomen posing as prostitutes. The Padres won that game with Scott picking up his first career save.

The following season, Sanders drew ever closer to a league average RA and was only half a win short of his previous career high despite pitching in six fewer games. Then in 1996, Sanders finally showed a flash of what would have made him a first round pick when he posted a RA 28% lower than the league average and was better than four and a half wins above replacement. Despite this breakout or because of it, Sanders was dealt in the off season for Sterling Hitchcock.

Sanders' days as a Padre weren't over though because in May of '98, the Padres dealt Rod Lindsey to the Tigers to bolster the bullpen. Unfortunately, Scott would post the worst numbers of his Padre career and he was cut in early September.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Richard is having some computer issues.

Which is why our Top 100 has been stuck on Jerry Turner for over two weeks. Many of the upcoming player bios have already been written, and the graphics compiled; apparently, it's all trapped in Richard's hard drive, or something like that. I don't pretend to understand such things.

I am confident that it will all be ironed out soon, however, and that a flurry of Top 100 posts will immediately ensue.

In the meantime, our Friars have won six in a row, and Tony Gwynn's Aztec squad pummeled Air Force, 36-11, yesterday.

Yes, that's 36 runs. And no, Dave Magadan is not the Aztecs hitting coach.