We’re now 78 days away from San Diego Padres Opening Day 2019.
Good morning, San Diego Padres fans and welcome to another day of our countdown to Opening Day 2019. As we have done with each day in our countdown (except for yesterday, sorry about that) we find some statistic or jersey number that corresponds and either take a look at what that stat means for 2019 or we take a moment to reflect on a player/moment from the past as we work through this long, cold winter offseason.
Now 78 days away, we take a moment to look at the ’78 season, the very first winning season in San Diego Padres team history. Premiering in the 1969 season, San Diego experienced nine-straight losing seasons to start their tenure in Major League Baseball, winning no more than 73 games in any of those campaigns and topping the 100-loss mark four times, including a franchise-high 110 losses in their 1969 season.
Things seemed to be on the up and up, beginning in 1978, but that feeling didn’t last very long. San Diego finished the ’78 season with an 84-78 record, finishing 11 games out of first place in the National League West, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (won the division with 95 wins and eventually lost to the New York Yankees 4-2 in the World Series), Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants. Fans would witness losing seasons over the next three years, before a bit of a winning stretch (including their first World Series appearances in 1984) occurred in the early-1980’s.
The ’78 roster featured an interesting mix of young hitters (second-youngest lineup in baseball) and a veteran pitching staff led by 21-game winner Gaylord Perry who would win the ’78 Cy Young Award and finish 8th in Most Valuable Player voting. In fact, the ’78 roster featured four players who are now enshrined for eternity in the MLB Hall of Fame including Perry, shortstop Ozzie Smith, outfielder Dave Winfield, and closer Rollie Fingers.
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Notable performances from the ’78 season included Winfield’s team-leading 24 home runs, first baseman Gene Tenace and his .392 on-base percentage, Ozzie Smith’s 40 stolen bases and 43/47 K/BB ratio in 668 plate appearances, Perry’s 21 wins and 2.73 ERA, and a 2.52 ERA and 37 saves from Rollie Fingers who represented San Diego in the ’78 All-Star game (logged two shutout innings).
The ’78 season is a nice little reminder about a more positive time in San Diego, with the team now in the midst of a stretch of 11 seasons in which just one has been a winning season. Over the past three seasons under Andy Green, the Padres have yet to win more than 71 games and are coming off one of the worst offensive seasons in franchise history. The future may seem bright, with the game’s top farm system currently working their way towards Petco Park, however, fans are hungry for a winning season, now.
If you have a memory from the 1978 season, we would love to hear them in the comments below! Let’s take a moment to reflect back on the positive moments!