Morning Coffee with Mark Whelan: Home Run Derby Short on Padres. Again.


The Home Run Derby is over. There were no Padres in it. That’s no surprise. In 30 years of Home Run Derbies, only three Padres have competed, and two of those were 22 years ago in the year the All-Star Game was in San Diego. Since 1992, the only Padre to participate has been Adrian Gonzalez.

That’s a lot of years to go without a name brand power hitter. Since I started following the Padres in 1995, the power hitters that come to mind are Greg Vaughn, Ken Caminiti, and hometown hero Gonzalez. (Why did we trade him?)

There were a couple of others — Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin. But what I remember more about them than hitting home runs is griping about how hard it was to hit homers at Petco Park. I know they both had a good year or two at the Q before the move downtown, but my definition of a power hitter doesn’t include complaining about it being hard to hit home runs.

Thirty years of home run contests, and three Padres combined to hit a total of 9 home runs in the Derby.

Isn’t it time we got some legitimate power hitters?

The Derby isn’t the be-all and end-all of power hitting, of course. Guys turn down invitations to it. It doesn’t always get the guys with the most homers. But it doesn’t get guys with 15 home run power either. Guys in the Derby hit the long ball. And every year, without fail, there are 8 or 10 sluggers in the Derby. They’re just not Padres.

Let’s look at some Padres power stats since Gonzalez left town, and compare them to the rest of the league.

Last year, 14 major leaguers hit 30 homers. Chris Davis of the Orioles hit 53. The Padres leader, Jedd Gyorko, had 23.

In 2012, 27 players hit 30 homers. The Padres’ leader was Chase Headley, with 31. He was tied for 20th place. And that was the only year Headley went deep more than 13 times. Second on the team that year? Carlos Quentin with 16. They were the only two Padres in double figures. Six major leaguers hit 41 or more.

Headley has 87 homers in his 7-year career. Barry Bonds had 73 in one season.

In 2011, 24 guys hit 30. The Padres’ leader – cover the children’s ears – was Ryan Ludwick with 11. Eleven. You could roll that on a pair of dice, and that was the most on the team. The only guy in double figures. And he was traded after about 100 games.

146 players hit more than that. That’s an average of five per team.

Are you getting the point?

The Padres lack of power in recent years has been appalling. Headley and Venable each had one career power year, but make no mistake, they are not power hitters. Neither has hit more than 13 in his second-best year. And Venable’s best was only 22. That barely cracked the top 50.

The current Padres power hitters are Quentin and Gyorko. Quentin’s best total as a Padre is 16. And Gyorko’s 23 is likely to still be his best after this year.

The Padres need players who are capable of changing the outcome of games with one swing. The four one-run losses in the last week tell you everything you need to know about that.

As the team looks for a new GM, we start to think about how we would build a new team. Since the goal is to win the World Series, let’s look at the makeup of recent World Series champions. With one exception, every World Series champion over the last 10 years had at least six guys in double figures in homers. Eight of the ten also had at least one 30 home run guy. Half of them had at least two 30-homer guys. The only exceptions? The Giants in 2010 and 2012. Neither had a 30 home run hitter. But even the 2010 Giants had seven guys in double digits, and four guys with at least 18.

Over the last three plus years, the Padres’ best individual home runs totals have been 31, 23, 22, and 16. 16 is the fourth best total we’ve seen since 2010. This year’s leader, Seth Smith, is on a pace to hit 17.

So seriously, why did we trade Adrian Gonzalez instead of making the San Diego/Tijuana native the face of the franchise? In his five years playing in Petco Park, he hit 24, 30, 36, 40, and 31.

Sorry, I’m still not over that one.

The new GM should put one thing on his or her wish list. A new offense where at least seven guys have double-digit home run power, and at least two are likely to hit 30.

You know, like the World Series champions.  And the guys in the Home Run Derby.

That’s not too much to ask. Is it?