This decade has come and just-about gone and as is natural, we’re driven to look back at what we have all witnessed over the past 10 years. It was a big decade for the Padres, probably the biggest in the team’s history, even though it lacked a World Series appearance. The team moved into Petco Park, and that signaled a new era of Padres baseball. So before we follow Jeff Moorad and Jed Hoyer into the 10s, I present to you my team of the 00s:
C Ramon Hernandez
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B Mark Loretta
SS Khalil Greene
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
LF Milton Bradley
CF Mark Kotsay
RF Brian Giles
While some of these positions picked themselves, some took a bit more deliberation. Please allow me to explain.
Catcher was, surprisingly, one of the harder positions to choose. Mike Piazza, in his one year here, was the cleanup hitter we’ve yet to replace, and Josh Bard hit out of his mind his first year over from Boston. But my final vote went to Ramon Hernandez, who was worth over 6 wins* in his two years here. It also doesn’t hurt that he was my favorite player for the little time he called San Diego home. His hair was just so stylish.
Third base came down to preference: offense or defense. Phil Nevin’s bat needs no introduction. In 2000-01, Nevin hit 72 home runs in Qualcomm–while not quite Petco Park in size, the Q was still a pitcher’s park (.819 park factor in 01). Unfortunately, the less said about Nevin’s defense at third, the better. Just like the more said about Kouzmanoff’s defense at third, the better. While Kouzmanoff hasn’t been a great fielder, as Myron explains, he’s been good. Good enough at least to carry his flailing bat to a couple of wins a year.
Left field was the hardest position to chose. Rickey Henderson, Ryan Klesko, Dave Roberts, and Chase Headley all deserve a mention. Klesko, in particular, may be one of the most underrated Padres for everything he did for the team. But none of these players had enough to overcome Milton Bradley’s zazz! This may be a bit of revisionist history, but Bradley was the single-most exciting Padre I have ever had the pleasure of seeing for myself. As soon as he came over from Oakland, he lit the team up. Undeterred by Petco Park, he posted a home OPS of .977. As we all remember, his season ended a week early when Bud Black was forced to blow Bradley’s knee out, but it was a great run while it lasted.
And while center field was another hard pick, it wasn’t from a dearth of options. You, our loyal reader, surely know Mr. Mike Cameron and The Sacrifice Bunt had something serious together, so it was especially difficult to leave him off the team. While Cameron came and mashed, his worn leather glove found kryptonite somewhere on 19 Tony Gwynn Way. A career 5.7 UZR/150 centefielder, Cameron actually cost the team 10.3 defensive runs while here. Ultimately, Cameron was worth 6.6 wins in San Diego, plus the wonderfulness that is our love. Mark Kotsay on the otherhand, was worth 8.2 wins in 2002 and 2003 alone. In those two years, he brought 8.2 defensive runs to the team, as well as his strong bat.
Also, surprise! This is a cliffhanger. I’ll be back with the pitching half of my team of the decade. Until then, tell us where I went wrong in the comments section.
* Any reference to “wins” is based on WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. Tom Tango has a great explanation of the stat here.