When people ask me what it was like growing up as a Padres fan, I am always willing to discuss the positives. But you know what readers? I can never paint a rosy picture of my younger days as a Friars supporter, because the late 1980’s and early 1990’s were the hey-days of when the Padres shipped their best talent not named Tony Gwynn out of town. Why am I bringing all of this up right now? Well, just recently the 2013 MLB Hall of Fame ballot came out, and on it was one of those terrific players who the Padres traded away during that time period: First Baseman Fred McGriff. Although it might bring back some bad memories, I thought that I would discuss McGriff’s career with the Friars and the ridiculous trade which sent him to Atlanta back in 1993.
To understand how and why McGriff was traded, one has to look at the 1993 season in general. Overall, the 1993 campaign was an ultimate disaster for the Padres (they would finish with a 61-101 record). By the middle of July they were all but eliminated from contention in the National League West. But worst of all for Friars fans though, the Front Office decided to dump some of their highest-paid, but most effective players that year. San Diego’s brass first traded their All-Star Third Baseman and the 1992 National League leader in Batting Average, Gary Sheffield, to the Florida Marlins for only a few Minor League prospects. Luckily for San Diego, the trade netted them future All-Star and future Hall of Fame Closer Trevor Hoffman. Sadly for us fans, the Front Office was not done with their “’93 Fire Sale” and the worst was yet to come as McGriff and his $4 million dollar salary were deemed expendable.
With McGriff on the trading block, and in need of some Offensive fire-power at the time, the defending National League Champions, and then-N.L. West member Atlanta Braves were an interested party. Unfortunately for those of us in San Diego, it was a “fire-sale” deal, except for the fact that a Hoffman “diamond in the rough” prospect was not received by the Padres in exchange for McGriff on July 19, 1993.
In all, the trade for the National League’s 1992 Home Run Champion netted San Diego only three Minor League players: Outfielders Vince Moore and Melvin Nieves, and Pitcher Donnie Elliott. I must add that Moore never played at the big league level during his career, Nieves played less than three seasons with the Padres before he was traded, and Elliott pitched only 35.0 Innings for San Diego during the 1994 and 1995 seasons. McGriff of course would help lead Atlanta to two National League pennants, one World Series title in 1995, and helped the 1993 Braves overcome the Giants to win the National League West on the regular season’s final day after he registered a .310 Batting Average, 19 Home Runs, and 55 RBI’s in the 68 Games after the trade.
I really hope that “The Crime Dog” will eventually get inducted into the Hall of Fame. During an era so tainted by performance-enhancing drugs, McGriff put up some awesomely consistent numbers, especially for a guy not thought to be linked to any sort of P.E.D. use. It is a shame that he lasted only two and a half seasons with the Padres, but McGriff’s 84 Home Runs, 60 Doubles, 256 RBI’s, .281 Batting Average, .519 Slugging Percentage, and 53 Intentional Walks speak for themselves as to they type of player he was during that period.
As much as it does hurt sometimes to think about the losses of so many great players during the 1990’s, I will still tip my hat to their accomplishments and hope they eventually get the credit they deserve. It just hurts to think about the type of players we got to watch during that time period who were sent packing due for financial reasons.
Stats Courtesy of: Baseball Reference