Thursday, July 19, 2007
Tony Gwynn Heads to the Hall, pt. 2
Let's start with a number. 434. On it's face, doesn't mean anything, simply a number. Now put it in context. 434 is how many times Tony Gwynn struck out. Ever. Tony Gwynn has 9,288 career at-bats and only 434 times did those at-bats end in a strike out. Thats .04% of the time. For comparison sake, Adam Dunn this year has already struck out 113 times. In less than one season. 434 in 20 seasons. That my friends, is ridiculously good. Scary good. Ted Williams once said that the hardest thing in sports is to hit a round ball with a round bat squarely. Few did it better, or with more consistency, than Tony Gwynn.
There are players you watch that spoil you. If you were a Jordan fan, you expect every shot to go in. Tiger to win every major. Current MLB players like ARod you expect homeruns from, or Peavy you expect to throw shut out ball. This of course is an impossible request of any athlete. It was a request that was asked of Tony Gwynn and more often then not he obliged. You expected a hit and were shocked when he didn't get on base. Near earth shattering shock when he struck out and if he struck out swinging...well...it happened so rarely I can hardly remember if it ever did. Of course it did though, but with such irregularity that every time he struck out or popped out it was as if the sky was falling. Growing up in Oceanside began my respect of Tony Gwynn but moving to Arizona made it harder to follow him on a day to day basis. This required box scores (pre-internet of course) that would reveal the numbers but never the story of the game. First things first, check Gwynn's line, and it would be a very rare day that the hit column didn't have at least the number 1 underneath it. Consistency. If it was the 7th or 8th inning and Gwynn didn't have a hit, it was a shock. Just like when Tiger doesn't win a major. Unfair to ask of Gwynn? Perhaps. But he did everything possible to respond to the request.
Tony Gwynn won 8 National League Batting Titles, a number that was good enough to tie Tony Gwynn with the National League All-Time Record with Honus Wagner. Only Ty Cobb won more batting titles (11) than Tony. Of those 8, Gwynn has stated, and for those who remember it agree, the most exciting of those titles was 1989 against Will Clark of the San Francisco Giants. Going into the last day of the season both Gwynn and Clark were batting .333. And in somewhat poetic fashion, the Padres finished the season playing the Giants. That day Will Clark went 1 for 4. Tony Gwynn...3 for 4, winning the batting title. It is games like this when impossible request are answered.
This year Tony Gwynn received one of the highest honors any athlete can receive. He got himself on the cover of a Wheaties box. When she heard about the Wheaties box, Tony Gwynn's mom could only laugh. The scrawny kid from Long Beach, who played basketball at San Diego State (and was drafted by the Clippers) is on the cover of the Wheaties box. What a ride.
In our next posting, Left Coast Bias will discuss the final season for Tony, including his last game which I was lucky enough to be at. We'll also discuss his two World Series appearances and his current job as head coach of San Diego State's baseball team.
News and Notes:
- Statement series! Perhaps somewhat under the radar but the Padres won the series from the Mets last night with a thrilling 5-4 win. The Mets are widely considered the best team the National League has and with their lineup you can see why. David Wright's 3-run homerun last night off Linebrink to tie the game in the 8th took all the life out of the stadium. That life was quickly restored thanks to something the Padres haven't had much of all year, 2 out hitting. Blum's 2 out single scored Greene. Hoffman racked up yet another save in 1-2-3 form. The Padres open a 4 game set with the Phillies tonight.
- Marcus Giles has been benched for the next few games while he works with hitting coach Merv Rettemund. Giles has hit .197 since May 14th.
- Hiram Bocachica was designated for assignment yesterday as the Padres activated Terrmel Sledge from the DL. The Padres now have to trade or waive him. Bocachica showed flashes of brilliance and adds much needed speed to a lineup terribly void of that commodity. Considering the Padres bench is not what it was the last few years, Bocachica may be an integral part of this team yet. Here's hoping the Padres hang on to him and send him to AAA.
- Milton Bradley hit his first home run as a Padre yesterday, a 427 foot bomb to right-center field. For the naysayers (of which I count myself as one) Bradley has been an offensive spark and, as for attitude, so far, so good.
- Someone told Maddox it was 1996. Mad Dog was dealing last night, going 5IP, 0 ER, 0 BB, and 6 K's.
- Chris Young bought every player on the Padres an embroidered robe with their name and team number on the back as a thank you for helping get him elected to the All-Star Game.
- The Padres head to the weekend 1 game back but tied in the loss column with L.A. With the trade deadline approaching (July 31) Towers has stated a major move is unlikely. However, a starter or a bench player may be in the works. The Padres have been lucky with health in their starters, but with Wells and Maddox over 40 and the insurance plans of Hensly and Thompson struggling in AAA Portland, the Padres may be looking elsewhere for some backup help. As for bench help, I think I speak for many that it's time to welcome Mark Loretta back with open arms.
Saturday is the Tony Gwynn Ceremony and unveiling of the first statute at Petco Park. I'll be on hand and give a full report afterwards. Till then, keep the faith Friar Faithful!