Forgotten Friars: Andy Benes
The San Diego Padres found themselves in the precarious position of having the number one overall selection for the 1988 MLB First Year Player Draft. It had been less than four years since the franchise represented the National League in the World Series, a sleeper for most fans, who watched the eventual champion Detroit Tigers dismantle the Friars in five games. While multiple NL batting champion Tony Gwynn was entering his prime, other vital pieces of the pennant-winning squad were either gone or well beyond their primes. Players such as Steve Garvey, Graig Nettles, and Goose Gossage were long in the tooth and short on time, as their big league careers were near completion.
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So with the top overall pick, and the need for an ace to pair with Gwynn and the rebuilding Padres, on June 21st, 1988, the team selected the best pitcher in college baseball, Andy Benes out of the University of Evansville. Just over a year later, on August 11th, 1989, Benes made his big league debut with the Padres, and it was a forgettable experience. The big right-hander tossed 6 innings, allowing 6 earned runs in a loss to the Atlanta Braves at home. His next start wasn’t much better, this time on the road against the Montreal Expos. Benes went 6 1/3 innings, allowing 4 earned runs in a 5-2 defeat. It would be the last defeat of his initial big league campaign until the final start of the 1989 season, which he lost at home, 7-2 to the San Francisco Giants. Benes’ final numbers for his rookie season: 6-3 with a 3.51 ERA. The Padres had their ace, as he finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting, and was named NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year by the Sporting News.
Over the next four seasons, Benes would put up double-digit win seasons, with 10, 15, 13, and 15 respectively. In 1991, which most believe was his best season in San Diego, Benes finished sixth in NL Cy Young balloting, with a record of 15-11 and a 3.03 ERA, to go along with 167 strikeouts. That was the peak of Benes’ Padres’ career, as things began to take a turn for the worse starting in 1992. He allowed more hits than any other pitcher in the National League, with 230. He also recorded his first losing season at the big league level, finishing at 13-14, but with a very respectable 3.35 ERA.
Benes was an NL All-Star the following season in 1993, winning 15, while losing 15 as well. The following year, Benes hit rock bottom, leading the National League in losses with 14. He only won 6 games that season, and the writing was on the wall. He began the strike-resumed 1995 season at 4-7, and the Padres had seen enough. As both parties were looking for a change, the Friars shipped Benes to the Seattle Mariners along with a player to be named later (who turned out to be Greg Keagle) on July 31st, 1995. The Mariners believed that a change of scenery could help re-energize the one-time ace, and give the team a solid compliment to Randy Johnson.
In seven seasons with the Padres, Andy Benes finished with a 69-75 record, along with an ERA of 3.57. From Seattle, he briefly signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals that was voided, and moved on to Arizona and the Diamondbacks. At the conclusion of that contract, Benes finished his career in St. Louis with the Redbirds, where he was briefly big league teammates with his brother Alan.