Padres History: Gary Sheffield was an absolute stud in San Diego
By Jake Misener
You’d think more baseball fans would remember the teams a guy who slugged over 500 home runs played for. But unless you call San Diego home or you’ve followed the team for the last three decades, that might not be the case when it comes to this player.
Gary Sheffield, largely remembered for his time with the then-Florida Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers, was a Triple Crown contender in his one full season as a member of the San Diego Padres back in 1992.
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In March of that year, the Milwaukee Brewers sent Sheffield and minor leaguer Geoff Kellogg to San Diego in exchange for Jose Valentin, Matt Mieske and Ricky Bones. Sheffield was coming off an injury-plagued 1991 campaign in which he appeared in only 50 games and hit just .194, hardly what the Brewers were looking for from a former first-round pick.
Upon arriving in San Diego, Sheffield caught fire – really emerging for the first time in his career as one of the premier offensive players in the league. From Opening Day until the final week of the season, he anchored the Padres’ lineup, never batting lower than .298 in a single month.
Of course, back then, on-base percentage was far less a focal point than it is in today’s game, but he checked that box, as well, managing a .385 mark on the year. He brutally punished mistakes left out over the heart of the plate – belting 33 home runs, largely out of the three-hole in the order.
Padres fans saw the breakout season of Gary Sheffield in ’92
It wasn’t just that Sheffield stood out in the Padres lineup (which featured an insane amount of talent in Benito Santiago, Fred McGriff and Tony Gwynn, among others). He finished the season at 6.2 WAR – a full win above the next-best performer in the Crime Dog, who belted a team-leading 35 home runs that year.
Right down to the wire, Sheffield was a legitimate contender for the Triple Crown – and was so at the ripe age of 23. He’d have to ‘settle’ for the National League batting title, a Silver Slugger and the first All-Star selection of his career. Oh, and a third-place finish in NL MVP voting (the closest he’d ever get to winning one).
The next year, he got off to another hot start before the Padres sent him to Florida in a deal that any San Diego baseball lover is well-educated on. Why? It brought back future Hall of Famer and franchise icon Trevor Hoffman, who would spend the next 16 years locking down ballgames en route to 601 career saves.
So while we might remember Sheffield largely as the piece that brought back the most iconic pitcher in Padres history, let’s not sleep on his 1992 season because, make no mistake about it: it was historic.