Friar Favorites: The Best Third Basemen Ever
Next in our series chronicling the franchise's best players divided up in their respective positions, we take a look at the hot corner and list the Friars' best third basemen.
As we've been doing, we will run through the candidates in alphabetical order, with brief paragraphs outlining their case. Voting will then take place, and the winner will receive an article that includes a full player profile; and will be included in our list of the greatest Padres of all-time.
On our list, we find MVPs, batting crown champions, a former No. 1 draft pick, and both starting third basemen for San Diego's pennant teams.
And now, the nominees:
Ken Caminiti (1995 - 1998)
After John Moores purchased the team in 1994, new GM Kevin Towers engineered the first big move in his tenure, trading for Steve Finley and Caminiti among others.
They would both be big cogs in San Diego's two playoff appearances over the next four years, and Caminiti would prove to be the driving offensive force eventually leading San Diego to a pennant run.
In 1996, Cammy hit .326, with 40 HR and 126 RBI, earning him the Silver Slugger award, an All-Star selection and the N.L. MVP award. That year, he would become part of baseball lore when, in Monterrey, Mexico for a three-game series against the Mets, he suffered from severe gastrointestinal pain. Instead of sitting out the game, Caminiti downed a few Snickers bars and hit two HR.
Caminiti's .526 SLG% is tops in franchise history, and he also ranks among the top ten in the following categories: OBP, HR, RBI, BB, and OPS, where he is first overall. His glove was also a huge asset for San Diego, winning three Gold Gloves from 1995 to 1997.
Graig Nettles (1984 - 1986)
A hometown hero who was born and raised in San Diego, Nettles also graduated from San Diego State University. Already a five-time All-Star, perennial MVP candidate and World Champion as a member of the New York Yankees, Nettles signed with the Padres prior to the 1984 season.
As part of a talented roster, Graig hit 20 HR and 65 RBI in a limited role, and helped the Padres reach the World Series where they would meet the Detroit Tigers. The next season, at the age of 40, Nettles would be selected to his sixth All-Star game on his way to hitting 15 HR and 61 RBI.
After a 1986 season where he hit for another 16 HR, Nettles was let go at the age of 41, citing his declining offensive performance (he hit .218 that season). However, the wily veteran would latch on with the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos for two more seasons, before retiring at the age of 43.
Phil Nevin (1999 - 2005)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 by the Houston Astros, Nevin would be regarded just six years later as one of the biggest busts in recent years. Playing for his third team in as many seasons, there weren't many who expected big things from the bulky CSU-Fullerton product in San Diego.
How wrong they were.
Nevin found his greatest successes in a Padre uniform, making the All-Star team in 2001 and being twice named an MVP candidate during his tenure. Despite being rattled by injuries in his latter seasons with the Friars, Nevin never hit less than 24 HR in seasons where he played in more than 120 games.
In 2001, his All-Star season, Nevin hit 41 HR and 126 RBI, the first time a Padre had reached 40 HR since Greg Vaughn in 1998 and only the third time overall in franchise history. Along with Ryan Klesko, Nevin was the Padres' offensive star for a team that never finished over .500 in his time here.
He ranks fifth in franchise history in BA, eighth in OBP, third in SLG%, third in OPS, tenth in games played, eighth in runs, fifth in hits, sixth in doubles, second in HR, third in RBI and ninth in BB.
Gary Sheffield (1992 - 1993)
Certainly up for Hall of Fame consideration when he decides to retire, Sheff's first glimpse of greatness came in a Friar uniform.
Acquired from Milwaukee prior to the 1992 season, the then 23-year-old hit .330, slammed 33 HR and drove in 100 RBI on his way to winning a Silver Slugger award, garnering an All-Star selection and placing third in N.L. MVP balloting. His .330 AVG would get him the N.L. batting crown as well.
Though converted into an outfielder upon joining the Florida Marlins, Sheffield patrolled third base for San Diego in his time here and displayed some of the qualities that made him so coveted as an outfielder: speed, range and arm strength.
He gained a second All-Star selection for San Diego prior to being packaged away in the 1993 Fire Sale, shipped off to Florida at the deadline as part of a trade that brought reliever Trevor Hoffman to the Padres.
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