San Diego Padres: 6 Greatest Outfielders in Team History

Drake SmithContributor IIIAugust 30, 2011

San Diego Padres: 6 Greatest Outfielders in Team History

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    Since the team's inception in 1969, the San Diego Padres have had relatively little to celebrate on the field.

    No World Series titles. No no-hitters. The team has even been shut out of having a player hit for the cycle.

    However, despite never winning a title and having only two inductees into the Hall of Fame, the Friars have had their fair share of players who have had solid careers—as a whole or in part—in San Diego.

    While "Mr. Padre" Tony Gwynn dominates in peoples' minds regarding all-time Padre greats, here are some of the other players who had significant success while roaming the outfield in a San Diego uniform.

Gene Richards

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    Gene Richards was a very solid outfielder over the course of his eight-year career, of which he spent seven in San Diego, from 1977-1983.

    He began his career with a bang, finishing third in the 1977 Rookie of the Year voting, an award won by Andre Dawson.

    The speedy South Carolina native was very consistent offensively, hitting .291 on average during his tenure with the Padres.

    Despite his lack of power, he picked up 242 stolen bases and an incredible 62 triples in seven seasons.

    Richards was also useful in the outfield and had a career fielding percentage of .979.

    His last season in MLB was in 1984 with the Giants.

Steve Finley

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    Steve Finley is probably known more for his frequent changing of teams (he played for all five NL West teams) than his on-field contributions, but his four-year stint in San Diego is not one to be overlooked.

    Finley came to the Padres in a trade with Houston after the 1994 season and started his stint with the Padres in successful fashion, hitting a career-high .297 and was among the National League leaders in runs, stolen bases, hits and triples, earning his first Gold Glove award.

    He followed that success in 1996 by establishing team records in runs, doubles, extra base hits and total bases, as well as winning his second consecutive Gold Glove.

    Finley's final season in San Diego was the magical 1998 run to the World Series, although thanks in large part to a relatively down season he was not re-signed by the club and began his tenure with the Diamondbacks the following year.

Rickey Henderson

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    Although his best years were not as a Padre, the fact that one of the greatest leadoff hitters and speedsters in MLB history played parts of three relatively successful seasons in San Diego lands him on this list.

    Rickey Henderson's first stint with the Padres was in 1996 and the first half of the 1997 season.

    Despite a less-than-impressive .241 average at the plate, his 126 walks that season helped balloon his on-base percentage to .401 and, as a result, he scored 110 runs that season, only two less than his hits total for the year.

    After being traded to Anaheim midseason in 1997, Henderson returned to San Diego for the 2001 campaign.

    In his second stint with the Padres, Henderson broke major league records in walks, games played in left field and runs scored.

    Also, in the final game of the season, he collected his 3,000th hit, despite attempting to take the day off as to not distract attention from the game being Tony Gwynn's last.

Brian Giles

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    This may not be the most popular choice, but the bottom line is that Brian Giles was a very productive outfielder during most of his tenure in San Diego from 2003-2009.

    Although he left his best seasons in Pittsburgh, the San Diego-area native could still produce offensively after coming back home.

    Giles had two seasons hitting over .300 and even received some MVP votes in 2005 after posting a .301 average with 12 homers and 80 RBI while helping to lead the Padres to the playoffs.

    His best season was arguably in 2008, when despite the Padres on-field struggles, Giles managed a .308 average. He also made headlines that season by rejecting a potential trade to Boston, electing to stay with his hometown, last-place team.

    In 2009 Giles was put on the disabled list with a right knee injury and would not play in the major leagues again.

Dave Winfield

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    Dave Winfield was the first "great" Padre and one of the best athletes to ever play the game of baseball.

    Drafted into four professional leagues (MLB, NBA, ABA and, despite not even playing college football, NFL), Winfield was drafted as a pitcher in 1973 by the Padres and called up directly to the major leagues.

    The Padres chose to put him in the outfield, rather than keep him on the mound, in order to use his powerful bat but still be able to showcase his strong arm.

    Over the course of his eight-year tenure in San Diego, Winfield averaged .284 at the plate and made four consecutive All-Star appearances from 1977 to 1980.

    Winfield would then sign a deal with the Yankees, which made him the highest paid player in the league at the time, before ending his career by bouncing from team to team.

    In 2001, Winfield became the first member of the Hall of Fame to go into Cooperstown wearing a Padres cap.

Tony Gwynn

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    Seriously, who else would end this list?

    Tony Gwynn is one of the all-time greats in MLB history and is about as San Diego as surfing and Mexican food.

    Gwynn was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Long Beach, but after high school, his San Diego roots grew quickly.

    "Mr. Padre" began his athletic career at San Diego State University, where he was a standout for the Aztecs in both baseball and basketball. In fact, he still owns the SDSU basketball records for most assists in a season and a career.

    On the same day in 1981, Gwynn was drafted by both the Padres and the San Diego Clippers of the NBA.

    After signing with the Padres, Gwynn made his MLB debut in 1982, and his stellar career was off and running.

    A career .338 hitter, he spent all 20 of his seasons in San Diego, earning 15 All-Star appearances, eight National League batting titles, seven Silver Slugger awards and five Gold Gloves.

    After the 2001 season, Gwynn retired from MLB and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007, receiving nearly 98 percent of votes in his first year of eligibility.

    Beginning in 2003, Gwynn returned to San Diego State as the manager of the baseball team, who plays their home games at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

    During the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Gwynn's son, Tony Jr., also played for the Padres before signing with the Dodgers in the off season.

    Gwynn now also occasionally serves as an analyst for Padres TV broadcasts.