Padres Finding Identity in Wil Myers as Face of Franchise
The Padres had Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn, for years as their face of the franchise. Since then they have tried to anoint successors with no luck. That search seems to have ended with Wil Myers.
The Padres thought Phil Nevin might be that. Maybe Jake Peavy. Trevor Hoffman carried the torch for awhile as well, but it is hard to have your “face” be just a closer. Chase Headley was anointed as that face – but his inconsistent poor play didn’t help much and he was traded away for Yangervis Solarte. Yet in Myers he plays with a throwback style and plays the game with an “aw-shucks” ease that endures himself quickly to fans.
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I read an article from the Hall of Fame Magazine recently about Christy Mathewson who was the first “Face of Baseball”. The article notes that until Mathewson:
Baseball in the beginning of the 20th century was considered an undignified game, played by ruffians for the pleasure of gamblers. Many players did, in fact, come from rough backgrounds, swinging out of coal mines and pitching out of farmlands to eke out a living at baseball. Few had college educations. Even fewer were seen as virtuous. Mothers (Mathewson’s included) did not want their sons to grow up to be baseball players.
Christy Mathewson changed all that.
In the same way it seems that Myers is the guy who hits with no batting gloves, gets dirty, and though until this year had an injury history, likely played many games he shouldn’t have with those injuries.
Moving him to first base seems to have done the trick they were hoping it would, as already now in 2016 he has played in more games, gotten more at bats, and has exceeeded nearly every other category you could think of. Not to be lost though is that in his first two seasons when he only had 335 and 325 at bats respectively, he struck out 91 and 90 times. This year through 359 AB’s, he is only at 85 strike outs. With 7 more home runs this year he will tie his home run output prior to 2016 in the major leagues.
Mathewson wowed audiences with his smile and “gentleman” nature. Of course smiling for pictures was a bigger deal back then – as you had to wait for the exposure or portrait to be painted of you. Not a big deal today – but Myers does seem to have fun. He participated in the Home Run Derby, was an All Star Ambassador and seems to have really embraced San Diego. Ownership is even in talks reportedly of an extension, which would be a SMART move for the Padres.
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While Myers at least to this point may not “talks like a Harvard graduate, looks like an actor, acts like a businessman, and impresses you as an all-around gentleman.” like Mathewson was described as doing, he is playing great baseball and accepting his role as the Face of the Padres franchise in 2016.
Hopefully that extension can get done after the season and we see him in Padre Blue/Brown/Yellow for years to come.