Ray’s note: Sorry about the delay in updating. Technical difficulties.
09. Tony Gwynn, Jr., CF
From the acclaimed filmmakers who brought you “Stauffer: The Last Honest Man” comes a heartbreaking story of the gifts and the curses that fathers past down to their sons.
In the sleepy town of San Diego, Tony Gwynn was a king. Honest and just, he ruled over his kingdom with a fair hand. He loved his people and in return they loved him. After years of loyal service, King Tony stepped down to devote his time to the youth of his community, leaving his kingdom in a state of flux. His son, Prince Tony, was away at school and his birthright waited. And waited. After school, the Prince took time to see the world, escaping to the great land of Milwaukee before returning to San Diego.
As humble as his father, the Prince refused to be handed the keys, choosing instead to work for them. He excelled in ways his father never had but he failed in the ways his father had built his legend on and the people of the land had trouble embracing the young Prince’s style.
Coming this winter, “In the Shadow of My Father: The Tony Gwynn, Jr. Story”
That really got away from me, but the point stands. AJ will always be his father’s son and his legacy will always be tied directly to his father. I always thought it was strange that the children of legends would even consider following in the parent’s footsteps but I suppose growing up in a life makes you grow a little fond of it. But what happens if your best turns out to be great but not great enough?
If you see your uncles next month round the Thanksgiving table and you tell them how great Tony, Sr. is, they’ll probably tell you that you’re being condescending. But if you tell them how great Tony, Jr. is, you’ll get a better conversation going.
AJ is a career .244 hitter, ninety-four points lower than his father’s .336. The younger’s career .291 is not only eight points lower than his father’s .371, but it’s much lower than the average .333. He’s not a good hitter. It’d probably be charitable to call him a bad hitter. But my goodness, can he play centerfield.
I’m not even going to bother to show you AJ’s offensive statistics from this past year. Trust me when I say that they’re incredibly bad, but trust me when I say that they don’t matter too much. Remember this number: 12.9. That’s how many defensive runs AJ saved above-average in 2010. For all center fielders, 12.9 was the third best mark in the league. And for a pitching staff that was middle of the road, all things considered, it may have been even more valuable.
If you didn’t know, UZR isn’t perfect. AJ’s standing as a great defender isn’t written in stone, not yet at least. But the fact remains that Tony Gwynn, Jr. has saved 18.5 runs above average in 1,842 innings in centerfield, and he brought a reliability to the most important position. Remember Chris Denorfia in center? Remember his diving attempts, few of which actually ended in catches? How’d he make you feel out there? And how did AJ make you feel? As a basement nerd, I’m supposed to ignore the visceral aspects of baseball–but I’m rebelling. Sometimes, how you feel matters. I might call Darren Balsley and get his opinion on that. But I digress.
AJ is not his father. He may have the name and his number may only be one away, but there’s only one Tony Gwynn, Sr. But for me, I want you to tell your uncle that’s all right. Tell him to trust me.