Padres' Top 5 bench players: Cassavell's take

May 19th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only ... if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorites at this position.

Here is AJ Cassavell’s ranking of the top 5 bench pieces in Padres history. Next week: right-handed starters.

Padres All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF

1. Jerry Turner, 1974-81, '83
Key fact: Among Padres with at least 200 plate appearances as a substitute, Turner ranks first with a .286 batting average, a .436 slugging percentage and a .785 OPS.

Turner was a certifiable weapon for the Padres in the late 1970s, and he's still the franchise's all-time leader in pinch hits (70) and pinch homers (nine). He's also the owner of the best season as a bench piece in Padres history, batting .408/.442/.776 in 52 games as a sub in '78. Turner arrived with the Padres in '74 and was never much of a defender in left field. (Although he did make one of the most ridiculous catches in franchise history, running through an opened gate at Dodger Stadium and crashing into the stands.) But his true value came as a pinch-hitter, and no one in franchise history has reached Turner's effectiveness there since.

2. Kurt Bevacqua, 1979-80, '82-85
Key fact: Bevacqua batted .412 (7-for-17) with two doubles and two homers during the 1984 World Series.

One of the feistiest characters in franchise history, Bevacqua is known primarily for three things from his Padres tenure: his feud with Tommy Lasorda, his role in the famed 1984 benches-clearing brawl in Atlanta and his exploits during the 1984 World Series. Bevacqua batted .290/.381/.409 as a pinch-hitter over parts of five seasons in San Diego. He played all four infield spots, too, along with left and right field. After receiving just two at-bats in the 1984 National League Championship Series, Bevacqua served as DH in all five World Series games. He made a huge impact, including a go-ahead three-run homer in Game 2, the franchise's only World Series victory.

3. Tim Flannery, 1979-89
Key fact: No player in franchise history has more appearances as a substitute than Flannery's 349.

Flannery's offensive numbers are nowhere near as gaudy as Turner's or Bevacqua’s. But he played a different role for the 1980s Padres. Flannery spent 11 seasons in San Diego as a versatile utility infielder. He split time mostly between second and third base, though he added shortstop to that mix during the Padres' run to the ‘84 pennant. Flannery was a key part of the San Diego bench for over a decade. Then he filled that role in a different capacity, serving on Bruce Bochy's big league coaching staff from 1996-2002.

4. , 1997-98, 2002, '05
Key fact: Sweeney recorded 24 hits off the bench for the Padres in 1997 and 23 in 2005. Only Terrence Long, with 25 in 2004, had more.

Sweeney was a prominent bench piece in San Diego for pieces of two of the franchise's most successful eras. He arrived in 1997 and played a part in the team's run to the '98 pennant. A widely respected pinch-hit bat, Sweeney spent the next six seasons floating around the league before returning to San Diego for another NL West title in 2005. He batted .294/.395/.466 during that playoff push, with 93 of his 135 appearances coming off the bench.

5. Merv Rettenmund, 1976-77
Key fact: Among Padres with at least 100 pinch-hit plate appearances, Rettenmund's .908 OPS ranks first.

Rettenmund doesn’t quite reach the level of the top four on this list because his initial stay in San Diego was short. He spent two years with the Padres, batting .256/.396/.380 -- including an absurd .310/.440/.442 slash line as a sub. But Rettenmund -- like several others on this list -- would make his way back to San Diego later. He spent nine years as the team's hitting coach from 1991-99, famously working alongside Tony Gwynn and helping the Padres to a pair of division titles in ‘96 and '98.

Honorable mention
Archi Cianfrocco didn't hit much, but was a useful utility piece on those division winners in 1996 and '98. ... John Vander Wal only spent a season and a half in San Diego, but he was integral in the team’s 1998 pennant push. … Craig Shipley's 53 hits off the bench are fifth in franchise history. ... Dave Magadan's .359 OBP off the bench is the highest in franchise history among players with at least 200 substitute appearances. ... Scott Livingstone batted .302/.333/.389 off the bench from 1994-97. ... They don't qualify for this list, but Luis Salazar, Chris Denorfia and Will Venable deserve their due. They weren't primarily bench players. But all three were longtime Padres who were solid during the seasons in which they were asked to fill that role.