Gonzalez, Colbert 1-2 in Padres 1B history
Top 5 list includes Garvey, Joyner, Klesko
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
There is no question that Tony Gwynn was the greatest Padre.
But who was the Padres' top shortstop? Who was the best right-handed starting pitcher?
Today, we start a new offseason feature ranking the best Padres by position. These are my selections. You are invited to disagree -- or agree -- through my twitter (@padrescentral).
We're starting at first base where my Top 5 is topped by Adrian Gonzalez over Nate Colbert, the Padres' first legitimate star. Remember, these picks are ranked by only what they did as Padres. The factors included in my preferences are topped by performance as well as importance and tenure with the Padres.
While it was close between my first and second picks at first, it was even tougher narrowing the list to five.
I gave Ryan Klesko and Wally Joyner the nod over Phil Nevin and Fred McGriff for the final two spots in my Top 5 because they spent much more time at first as a Padre than the other two, who had stronger offensive figures.
My top five Padres first basemen:
1. ADRIAN GONZALEZ (2006-2010) -- San Diego County native Gonzalez was named to the National League All-Star team in three of his five seasons with the Padres. The graduate of Eastlake High in Chula Vista, Gonzalez was the first overall pick of the 2000 Draft by the Florida Marlins. He came home on Jan. 6, 2006, in one of the best trades in Padres history -- a six-player deal with Texas that saw the Padres receive Gonzalez and right-handed starting pitcher Chris Young in exchange for pitchers Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. At a time when the dimensions at Petco Park weighed heavily against left-handed hitters, Gonzalez hit .288 over five seasons with the Padres with 161 home runs, and 501 RBIs. Gonzalez, who ranks second on the Padres' all-time list in homers and fourth in RBIs, had a .374 on-base percentage, a .514 slugging percentage (third on the Padres' all-time list) and a 20.3 WAR rating as a Padre. The two-time Gold Glove winner as a Padre was arguably the best fielding first baseman in franchise history.
2. NATE COLBERT (1969-1974) -- The ninth player selected by the Padres in the draft to stock the 1969 expansion franchise, Colbert developed into one of the premier power hitters in the National League and the Padres' first true star. A member of the inaugural Padres Hall of Fame class in 1999, Colbert remains the Padres' all-time leader in home runs with 163 and ranks sixth in slugging percentage (.469). He hit .253 over six seasons as a Padre with 481 RBIs at a time when the Padres didn't score a lot of runs. Like Gonzalez, Colbert's home run statistics were likely adversely affected by the cavernous dimensions of San Diego Stadium when he was a Padre. When Colbert was a Padre, it was 330 feet down the lines and 420 feet to center with a 17-foot wall from foul pole to foul pole. Ironically, Colbert was not the Padres' Opening Day first baseman in 1969. That honor fell to Bill Davis, although Colbert quickly took over. Colbert led the Padres in homers in each of the franchise's first five years and in RBIs in four of the first five seasons. Colbert also had the single greatest day in Padres history. On Aug. 1, 1972, in Atlanta, Colbert hit five homers and drove in 13 runs in a doubleheader against the Braves. The home runs tied a Major League record set by Stan Musial in a 1954 doubleheader. The RBIs established a doubleheader record that has since been tied. Colbert made three National League All-Star teams as a Padre. As a Padre, Colbert had a 17.3 WAR.
3. STEVE GARVEY (1983-87) -- Garvey's No. 6 was retired thanks to the single most important swing in Padres history. On Oct. 6, 1984, Garvey hit a two-run, walk-off homer to give the Padres a series-tying, 7-5 win in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs. The Padres won their first National League title the next day and Garvey was voted the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS. In four seasons with the Padres, Garvey hit .275 with 61 homers and 316 RBIs. He had a .309 on-base percentage and a .409 slugging percentage as a Padre. Although he spent the majority of his Major League career with the Dodgers, Garvey was voted to the National League starting lineup for the 1984 and 1985 All-Star Games as a Padre. He also led the team in RBIs those two seasons.
4. RYAN KLESKO (2000-2006) -- Klesko played first base in 522 games as a Padre, but also saw time in left field. His bat over an extended time at first base gave him the nod over Joyner, McGriff and Nevin. Klesko hit .279 with 133 homers and 493 RBIs over seven seasons with the Padres. He had a .381 on-base percentage and a .491 slugging percentage. Among qualifying Padres, Klesko ranks fifth in career on-base percentage and slugging percentage and fourth in OPS (.872). He ranks third on the Padres' all-time list of leaders in walks, fifth on the Padres' all-time list of RBI leaders and sixth in home runs and runs scored. He was a member of the 2002 National League All-Star team. As a Padre, Klesko had a 15.9 WAR, which includes his time as an outfielder.
5. WALLY JOYNER (1996-1999) -- Like Garvey, Joyner was the first baseman on a Padres team that won a National League pennant (1998). Offensively, Joyner hit .291 in four seasons with the Padres with 38 homers and 271 RBIs. He also had a .376 on-base percentage and a .429 slugging percentage. Among qualifying players, Joyner's career batting average is the sixth-highest in Padres history and his on-base percentage is the eighth-highest mark. As important as his offense was Joyner's defensive play at first and leadership. Joyner's ability to field imperfect throws at first made it easier for other Padres infielders to take throwing risks on tough throws. Joyner had a 9.0 WAR as a Padre.
McGriff hit .281 with 84 homers and 256 RBIs in 2 1/2 seasons for the Padres (1991-1993). He was a starter in the 1992 All-Star Game and finished the season as the only Padre ever to lead the National League in home runs (35). He was traded to the Braves on July 18, 1993, as part of the Padres' infamous "fire sale."
Nevin hit .288 with 156 homers and 573 RBIs in seven seasons (1999-2005) as a Padre. He ranks third on the Padres' all-time home run and RBIs list and is fourth in slugging percentage (.503) and eighth in career batting average and hits (842). However, he played only 288 of his 806 Padres games at first base. He had a 17.7 WAR as a Padre.