Friday, May 18, 2012


In 1987, a man who thought he was on the verge of buying the Padres discovered he didn't have enough outside support, from either the commissioner's office or other club owners. So the sale was rescinded. Sound familiar? On the field, the Padres were an odd mix, prone to losing four of every five games through early June, yet several talented players made them worth watching. Larry Bowa, as popular with his players as Queeg was with his sailors, managed the '87 Padres. The team started out 12-42. That's worth repeating: 12-42. As the world's most knowledgeable Padres Tweeps recently discussed the '87 club with This Blog, someone joked that the '87 Padres were the most talented 12-42 team in baseball history. I consider them far more talented than the 2012 Padres, who are 14-25.

Here, I'll limit my comments to the farm system. Its graduates on the  '87 team included right fielder Tony Gwynn, 27, who batted .370, on-based .447 and two decades later went into the Hall of Fame off his first ballot; John Kruk, 26 and also left-handed, who hit .313 with 20 home runs, numbers that foretold the first baseman/left fielder's .300 career batting average and three All-Star berths in the early 1990s; and Benito Santiago, the 22-year-old catcher, a lithe, durable and rifle-armed athlete. He batted .300 with 18 home runs and 33 doubles.

Yes, 1987 was a great year for offense throughout the major leagues. Santiago nevertheless would make five All-Star teams.

In Eric Show and Andy Hawkins, the Padres employed two homegrown pitchers who each would log 200-plus innings in four seasons.

The farm system was far from spent. The second baseman in Double-A, Robbie Alomar, batted .317 and showed a shortstop's athleticism. Last year he received 90 percent of the vote for the Hall of Fame. His brother and teammate on the Wichita Pilots, catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., had six All-Star berths in his future. Shane Mack, the Triple-A center fielder and former first-round selection drafted three years earlier, spent part of the '87 season in San Diego. Mack batted .280 for his nine-year career and finished with a 121+ OPS. The second baseman who played for San Diego's Sally League affiliate, the Charleston Rainbows, was only 18 years old. He hit from both sides of the plate and batted .305 in 1987. Traded two years later for Joe Carter, in a swap that also sent Sandy Alomar and Chris James to the Indians, Carlos Baerga batted .291 over a 14-year career that took him to three All-Star games. UPDATE: The .309/.418./.410 slash line that Dave Hollins produced in the Northwest League with the Spokane Indians was a decent indicator, major league-adujusted, of what the third baseman, San Diego's sixth-round draft choice in '87, would give the National League champion Phillies as an All-Star in 1993.

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