5 Padres greats not in the Hall of Fame
SAN DIEGO -- There has been no shortage of Hall of Fame talent to pass through San Diego over the past five decades.
The Padres lay claim to a trio of Hall of Famers in Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman and Dave Winfield, each of whom dons an interlocking "SD" on their plaque in Cooperstown. Numerous other Hall of Famers have made stops in San Diego -- Ozzie Smith, Roberto Alomar, Willie McCovey and Greg Maddux among them. In 2023, Fred McGriff will join them in the Hall.
After that group, however, there's a strong list of Padres who just missed the Cooperstown cut. (Note: This list doesn't include current players and players yet to become eligible for the Hall, nor does it include players who made a minimal impact on the franchise.)
Here are the Padres' five best players who aren't in the Hall of Fame (at least, not yet):
1. Gary Sheffield
Gary Sheffield spent only two seasons in San Diego, but they were two of the best seasons of his brilliant 22-year career. In 1992, Sheffield, then a third baseman, flirted with winning the Triple Crown in the National League. He settled for the batting title and a .330/.385/.580 slash line with 33 home runs. (Sheffield is still the only Padre not named Tony Gwynn to win a batting crown.) Sheffield was excellent again the following season before he was dealt to Florida as part of the team's so-called fire sale. He spent time with eight franchises, amassing 509 homers and a 60.5 career WAR. Sheffield jumped from 40.6% to 55% in 2023, but he's running out of time with only one year remaining on the ballot. Perhaps due to concerns around performance enhancing drugs, Sheffield seems unlikely to reach the 75% threshold.
2. Kevin Brown
It was almost certainly detrimental to Kevin Brown's case that he never settled with any singular franchise, instead splitting 19 seasons among six teams. No question, the right-hander was likely also docked by voters for his inclusion in the Mitchell report. Still, it's hard to justify the lack of consideration for one of the best pitchers of his generation. Brown's numbers -- 67.8 career WAR, a 3.28 ERA, 2,397 strikeouts -- would seem to put him on the fringe of inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Instead, Brown was one-and-done, receiving just 2.1% of the vote on the 2011 ballot. On top of Brown's Hall-caliber exploits during the regular season, he was a certifiable October ace -- never more so than during his brilliant 1998 campaign with the Padres.
3. Graig Nettles
Perhaps one of the sport's more underrated players, Graig Nettles might have garnered more serious Hall of Fame consideration had he played in a different era. Nettles never hit for average, but he amassed 68 WAR across his 22 seasons in the big leagues, played an excellent third base and reached base at a solid clip during his peak. Nettles was a key cog in the Padres’ run to the 1984 National League pennant, but his best season in San Diego came in ’85. In three seasons with the Padres, Nettles batted .237/.333/.405 and might have won a Gold Glove Award or two if Mike Schmidt hadn't spent two decades hogging them. Nettles spent four seasons on the Hall of Fame ballot and never received more than 10% of the vote.
4. Jake Peavy
Jake Peavy was one-and-done, not receiving any votes in his lone season on the ballot in 2022. Nonetheless, Peavy had an outstanding 15-year career, racking up 152 victories, 37.2 WAR and a 3.63 ERA. He pitched for World Series winners in Boston and San Francisco, but his best seasons came in San Diego. From 2002-09, Peavy was an ace in the Padres’ rotation. He won a pair of ERA titles, a pair of strikeout titles and the '07 NL Cy Young Award. Ultimately, Peavy isn’t headed to Cooperstown. But judging solely from his Padres tenure, he’s arguably the best starting pitcher in franchise history.
5. Steve Garvey
Known best for his time with the Dodgers, Steve Garvey's arrival helped propel the Padres to their first stint as serious contenders. Having joined the club as a free agent after the 1982 season, Garvey batted .275 with 61 home runs in five seasons in San Diego. But his most famous long ball came in October -- a walk-off two-run shot that won Game 4 of the 1984 NLCS against the Cubs, setting the Padres on course for their first trip to the World Series. Garvey accrued 36.8 career WAR and 2,599 hits to go along with his impressive postseason resume in both Los Angeles and San Diego. But he never garnered more than 42.6 percent of the Hall of Fame vote from the BBWAA.
• Tony Fernandez arrived in the trade that also netted McGriff. Fernandez was one of his generation's best defensive shortstops, with plenty of offensive value, as well.
• Randy Jones' comparatively brief career never warranted serious Cooperstown consideration, but it's worth remembering how dominant he was in winning an ERA title in 1975, then the NL Cy Young Award in '76.
• Steve Finley pieced together an immensely valuable 19-year career but received only four Hall of Fame votes in 2013, his lone year on the ballot.
• Ken Caminiti's Padres peak was as good as several Hall of Famers, but he wasn't able to sustain it.