Templeton tops my list of Padres' best at SS
Greene gets slight nod over Smith as No. 2
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
Picking the best shortstop in Padres history was easy.
Garry Templeton wins hands down.
Yes, I know that future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith started his career with the Padres. But he was not nearly the offensive player with the Padres that he later became in St. Louis. And Khalil Greene was absolutely brilliant at times as a Padre, although his credentials lack Templeton's test of time.
Templeton, who last season was inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame, played nine-plus seasons for the Padres. He was a leader on the club's 1984 National League championship team and later officially served four-plus seasons as the Padres' captain -- the last player to hold that title.
So Templeton tops my list of five best shortstops in Padres history.
But No. 2 is not as clear-cut as it might seem. You can make an argument for Greene as well as Smith.
Give Smith the edge in defense and speed. Ozzie was developing into the Hall of Fame shortstop he became while with the Padres for four seasons. But no other Padres shortstop had the power of Greene, who played 100 more games than Smith as a Padre.
So, here are my Top 5 shortstops in Padres history.
1. Templeton (1982-91)
In terms of numbers, only Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn played in more games and had more hits and at-bats as a Padre than Templeton. As a Padre, Templeton batted .252 over 9 1/2 seasons with the Padres, with a .293 on-base percentage. In 1,286 games as a Padre, Templeton had 1,135 hits with 195 doubles (also second to Gwynn on the Padres' list of career leaders), 36 triples (fifth) and 43 homers for 427 RBIs and 430 runs scored.
Templeton ranks fifth on the Padres' all-time list in triples, seventh in RBIs, eighth in runs scored and 10th in steals (101). Although foot injuries reduced Tempy's range over the years, he was a sure-handed shortstop with a strong and accurate arm. Templeton was also a leader on and off the field. As a Padre, Templeton had a 10.0 WAR. During the Padres' first NL championship season of 1984, Templeton was the NL's Silver Slugger Award winner at short. He was also selected to the 1985 NL All-Star team.
2. Greene (2003-08)
I give the introverted Greene the slightest edge over Smith as my No. 2 all-time Padres shortstop. Greene was excellent on defense as well as being the top power hitter ever to play shortstop for the Padres. The first-round pick (13th overall) of the Padres in 2002, Greene made his Major League debut at the end of the 2003 season. Greene reached double digits in homers in each of his five full seasons with the Padres. He finished his stay in San Diego with a .248 batting average, a .304 on-base percentage and a .427 slugging percentage. Greene had 150 doubles, 14 triples and 84 homers (including a career-high 27 in 2007) as a Padre, with 328 RBIs (career-high 97 in 2007) and 301 runs scored.
Greene ranks 10th on the Padres' all-time list in doubles and tied for 10th in homers. During Petco Park's opening season of 2004, Greene hit a career-high .273 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs and finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year Award voting. Greene holds the Padres' single-season records among shortstops for doubles (44 in 2007), homers, RBIs and runs scored. During the 2005 and '06 seasons, Greene was instrumental in the Padres winning NL West titles. Greene had a 10.0 WAR as a Padre. After an injury-interrupted 2007 season, Greene was traded to the Cardinals for pitchers Luke Gregerson and Mark Worrell. Greene played only one more season in the Major Leagues and left baseball in 2010 at the age of 30.
3. Smith (1978-81)
The Wizard of Oz -- or Ahs -- was a spectacular defensive player as a Padre, although his offensive game was still developing while he was in San Diego. Smith was a fourth-round Draft pick of the Padres in 1977 out of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and made his Major League debut on Opening Day 1978. Smith won Gold Gloves as a Padre in 1980 and '81, and was selected to the NL All-Star team in '81 despite hitting only .222 with no homers. Yes, his defense was that good.
In four seasons with the Padres, Smith hit .231 with a .295 on-base percentage. As a Padre, Smith had 64 doubles, 19 triples and a home run. Smith ranks fifth on the Padres' all-time stolen base list with 147, including a career-high 57 in 1980. As a Padre, Smith scored 266 runs and drove in 129. He also had more walks (196) than strikeouts (166). But what set Smith apart as a Padre was his amazing defense. Defense and speed give Ozzie a 10.9 WAR as a Padre. In one of the more memorable trades in franchise history, on Dec. 10, 1981, the Padres sent Smith to the Cardinals in a six-player trade that returned Templeton and outfielder Sixto Lezcano to the Padres.
4. Tony Fernandez (1991-92)
Although his stay in San Diego was limited to two seasons, Fernandez made his mark as a Padre with a .274 average and a .337 on-base percentage in near identical back-to-back campaigns. Fernandez was selected to the 1992 All-Star Game. Fernandez's 171 hits in 1992 were the most ever in a season by a Padres shortstop.
The Padres acquired Fernandez and first baseman Fred McGriff from the Toronto Blue Jays on Dec. 5, 1990, for second baseman Roberto Alomar and left fielder Joe Carter. He was traded to the New York Mets on Oct. 26, 1992, as part of the Padres' infamous "fire sale." Fernandez had a 3.1 WAR as a Padre.
5. Chris Gomez (1996-2001)
The player known as "Steady Eddie" by the Padres gets the final spot in my list over Everth Cabrera and Enzo Hernandez. Although his numbers weren't spectacular as a Padre -- his WAR here was a minus 8.7 -- Gomez had a knack of getting clutch hits and turning every ball he got to into an out. He didn't have great range at short and was far from a spectacular fielder. But he played on the 1996 NL West champions and the 1998 team that won the NL pennant. The 1996 Padres became a much better team after the June 18 trade that brought Gomez and catcher John Flaherty from Detroit for catcher Brad Ausmus and shortstop Andujar Cedeno.
Gomez hit .253 as a Padre with a .331 on-base percentage.
Hernandez (1971-77) hit .224 with a .283 on-base percentage in 710 games as the Padres shortstop. He had 129 steals as a Padre, but had 66 doubles, 13 triples and two homers in 2,609 at-bats and set a Major League record in 1971 when he had 12 RBIs in 618 plate appearances.
Cabrera (2009-14) made it to the Padres as a Rule 5 Draft pick and set franchise records for the position in 2013 with a .283 average and a .355 on-base percentage. But that season ended shortly after the All-Star Game due to a PED suspension, and his career as a Padre ended with off-field problems in 2014. He's the only Padre ever to lead the NL in steals, with 44 in 2012.