Could Manny Machado become the greatest Padres player of all-time?
OK, don't get angry and start sending furious, ALL-CAPS emails quite yet. I know this question is blasphemous. It's like saying, "The Cincinnati Reds should stop wearing scarlet" or, "Baseball would be better if everyone had to bunt." I get it: Just because the Padres reportedly signed Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract -- the largest in baseball history -- how could he possibly supplant Tony Gwynn?
I mean, Gwynn is San Diego. He attended San Diego State, played for the Padres for the entirety of his career, collected 3,141 hits and is arguably the best pure hitter not named Ted Williams (another Padres alum -- though back when the team was in the Pacific Coast League). His statue greets visitors to Petco Park. The very story of the team and the city cannot be told without Gwynn's swing and infectious smile.
Machado may be one of the best hitters in the game, with a smooth glove to boot, and he's a perennial MVP candidate. But he couldn't possibly top that, right? Only 26 years old, Machado has topped 30 home runs for each of the last four seasons and could keep doing that for the life of his contract. But, even if we give Machado the benefit of the doubt and expect him to continue improving as he enters his late-20s, it would be almost impossible for him to match Gwynn's statistical prowess.
It all hinges on the World Series. The Padres have gone to the postseason only five times in their 50-year history. Compare that to the Dodgers, who have won six consecutive NL West titles. San Diego is also 0-for-2 when it comes to the World Series. While Gwynn was able to get his teams there -- and he was 13-for-35 in his two Series, good for a very Gwynn-ian .371 batting average -- a baseball team is far more than a single man.
And that's where Machado should have plenty of help. While the shortstop will be the face of the franchise -- and if things go right, will be wearing an "SD" on his cap at a future induction ceremony at the Hall of Fame -- he should be joined by what could become one of the greatest prospect classes in baseball history.
According to MLB Pipeline, the Padres have the No. 2 prospect in the game in Fernando Tatis, Jr., who, just like Machado, is a tall, slick-fielding, power-hitting middle fielder. The Padres are also well represented in the top 100, with eight more players on the rest of the list. For those counting at home, that's basically an entire roster of top prospects. And while not every one of them will pan out, the Padres have shown they will spend the money necessary to supplement the rest of the roster, signing
Can Machado ever supplant Tony Gwynn in Padres fans' hearts? It seems almost impossible to do so. But if he helps unseat the Dodgers in the NL West and lead the team to its first-ever World Series title? Then he might not stop at Padres legend, he could become the Mayor of the whole city.
What do you think?