Greatest Moments In Padres History #7: Ken Caminiti Wins The National League MVP Award
Ken Caminiti was an exceptional talent — a switch-hitter with raw power, the kind that gets your name mentioned with the likes of the most famous switch-hitter in the history of the game, Mickey Mantle. Mantle and Caminiti even share a Major League record between the two leagues — most games with home runs from both sides of the plate, which is 10 (Mantle in the American League and Caminiti in the National League).
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Caminiti played mean defense too. A tough, often times spectacular, third baseman, winning Gold Gloves in 1995, 1996 and 1997 — all with the Padres.
Caminiti was a an All-Star with Houston in 1994, hitting .283 with 18 homers and 75 RBIs before being traded to the Padres in December of 1994. The trade also brought Steve Finley, Roberto Petagine, Brian Williams and Sean Fesh to San Diego in exchange for Derek Bell, Ricky Gutierrez, Pedro Martinez, Phil Plantier and Craig Shipley.
In his first year with the Padres, the 6-foot, 200 pounder, made sure Padres’ fans knew who #21 was, hitting .302, with 26 homers and 94 RBIs, to go along with a .513 slugging percentage and .894 OPS.
However, it was 1996 that the 33-year-old truly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. Caminiti played in 146 games, hit 40 home runs, drove in 130 RBIs, had a .408 OBP, .621 slugging percentage and 1.028 OPS, and added a Gold Glove in helping the Padres to 91-71 record (the team’s best showing since the 92-70 1984 National League Championship squad) and the 1996 National League West title. The playoff birth would mark the Padres first appearance in the post season in 12 years, and only its second since the team’s inception in 1969.
Although the Padres were swept in that Divisional Series by the St. Louis Cardinals, Caminiti hit three home runs.
As the 1996 season was coming to an end, talk of Caminiti being named league MVP was gaining momentum, and no Padre had ever won the award. Dave Winfield (1978), Tony Gwynn (1984) and Gary Sheffield (1992) had all posted a Padre-best finish of third in MVP voting. In fact, Gwynn had finished in the top 10 seven times (1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1994, 1995, 1997) in his career; Fred McGriff finished 10th or better three times (1991, 1992, 1993) as a Padre; Randy Jones finished inside the top 10 twice (1975, 1976); and Nate Colbert even pulled off a 7th place finish in 1972 on a 58-95 team.
In the fall of 1996, Kenneth Gene Caminiti was named the National League Most Valuable Player, garnering the maximum amount of votes a MVP candidate could get (392) and received all 28 first place votes.
In his four short years with the Padres, Caminiti played 557 games. His name still stands along side these team records:
- 7th in HRs (121)
- 11th in RBIs (396)
- 3rd in OBP (.384)
- 1st in SLG (.540)
- 1st in (OPS (.924)
Unfortunately, for what some might point to as a variety of reasons, the one place you won’t find his name is as a member of the Padres Hall of fame.
Runner Up: Mark Davis wins the 1989 Cy Young Award. Davis finished the ’89 season with a 4-3 record, 44 saves and 1.85 ERA., in 70 games. He pitched in 92 innings, and beat out Houston’s Mike Scott who had gone 20-10 with a 3.10 ERA and the Cubs’ Greg Maddux, who went 19-12 with a 2.95 ERA. Davis received 19% of the first place votes. He left the Padres to join the Royals via free agency that off season, but was far from the same pitcher he had been for the Padres in 1989.