Retired numbers: San Diego Padres

The club has been generous (perhaps overly generous) with its honors

The major leagues welcomed four expansion franchises to the fold in 1969. The San Diego Padres have clearly been the least successful.

Consider regular-season winning percentages. The Padres have posted a 52-year mark of just .462, putting them behind their three contemporaries — the Nationals/Expos at .489, Brewers/Pilots at .482, and Royals at .480.

Or look at postseason records. The Kansas City Royals own a pair of world titles, and the Washington Nationals have one. The Brewers and Padres have both failed to win World Series trophies, but Milwaukee has made seven playoff appearances, compared to only six for San Diego.

Yet this dismal history has not dissuaded the Padres from celebrating their past. San Diego has honored former players, broadcasters, and owners by retiring seven jerseys. That’s larger than the number for any of the other three clubs born in 1969.

This is the 18th installment of my team-by-team rundown of retired uniforms, and it’s different in one important regard. Most clubs still have obvious candidates worthy of being honored at future ceremonies. The pickings are much, much slimmer in San Diego, as we shall see.

Subscribe — free — to Baseball’s Best (and Worst)

A new installment will arrive in your email each Tuesday and Friday morning

Padres’ numbers already retired

The Padres have retired seven jerseys in all, as noted above. Here’s a rundown in numerical order, leading up to two that are numberless:

No. 6 Steve Garvey spent his first 14 seasons with the Dodgers before wrapping his career with a half-decade in San Diego (1983-1987). His jersey retirement by the latter club is a bit puzzling, since only 631 of his 2,599 career hits came with the Padres, as did only 61 of his 272 homers. The first baseman made two All-Star teams while wearing a San Diego uniform.

Only 23 batters in big-league history have rapped more than 3,100 hits, and No. 19 Tony Gwynn is among them. The Hall of Fame right fielder’s feat is especially noteworthy because he played his entire career with the Padres (1982-2001). Gwynn won eight National League batting titles — yes, eight — including four in a row from 1994 to 1997. His career batting average was an awe-inspiring .338.

No. 31 Dave Winfield also topped 3,100 hits in his career, though he traveled more widely than Gwynn. The Hall of Famer patrolled right field for eight years in San Diego (1973-1980), then moved on to five other clubs, most notably the Yankees. His 1,134 hits for the Padres are third in the club’s all-time rankings, while his 599 runs scored are second in that category.

Nobody has pitched more innings for the Padres than No. 35 Randy Jones, who worked 1,766 in eight seasons with the club (1973-1980). Jones won the 1976 Cy Young Award by posting a 22-14 record for a San Diego squad that went 51-75 in its other 126 games. He remains the franchise leader in lifetime starts (253), complete games (71), and shutouts (18).

No. 51 Trevor Hoffman started his career with the Marlins and finished with the Brewers, but he reached the Hall of Fame because of his 16 years as the Padres’ closer (1993-2008). Hoffman piled up 601 saves, putting him second on the all-time list, trailing only the 652 that Mariano Rivera secured for the Yankees.

Jerry Coleman hung around the majors for nine seasons as a utility infielder for the Yankees, appearing in 26 World Series games and winning four rings. But it was his 42 years in San Diego that inspired the Padres to retire a numberless uniform in his name. Coleman was the club’s play-by-play announcer from 1972 to 2013, except for a brief hitch as manager in 1980.

You won’t find Ray Kroc in Cooperstown, but he has been honored by the Advertising Hall of Fame and the National Business Hall of Fame. Kroc made his mark as a pioneer in the fast-food industry, the man who transformed McDonald’s into an international giant. He owned the Padres from 1974 until his death a decade later, a tenure commemorated by a retired jersey.

Padres’ candidates for retired numbers

The Padres have already honored the obvious candidates, leaving few strong contenders. Here are the five best possibilities:

No. 1 Garry Templeton (1982-1991) played 1,286 games for the Padres, the second-highest total in franchise history. Gwynn (2,440) and Winfield (1,117) are the only others who exceeded a thousand. Templeton also ranks second on the Padres’ career lists for hits (1,135) and doubles (195). And the slick-fielding shortstop is the club’s all-time leader in defensive wins above replacement (10.3).

No. 15 Bruce Bochy is considered a strong bet for Cooperstown, based on the three world championships the Giants won during his 13 years as their manager. It’s often forgotten that Bochy also managed the Padres for 12 seasons (1995-2006), directing them to four divisional championships and the 1998 National League pennant. The franchise’s other 20 managers eked out just one divisional title and one pennant in 40 years.

No. 17 Nate Colbert was as close as the Padres came to a star in their earliest years (1969-1974). The first baseman launched at least 22 homers in each of his first five seasons in San Diego, soaring as high as 38 in 1970 and again in 1972. Nobody in franchise history has ever topped his total of 163 homers.

No. 21 Ken Caminiti is best known for his 10 seasons as Houston’s third baseman, though he also spent four years in San Diego (1995-1998). His stay with the Padres included a Most Valuable Player Award in 1996 (when he hit 40 homers and drove home 130 runs), as well as three Gold Gloves. His .540 career slugging average in San Diego is still the club’s highest.

No. 44 Jake Peavy was almost a mirror image of Randy Jones. Peavy, like Jones, spent eight years as a starting pitcher for the Padres (2002-2009 in Peavy’s case). Both men won 92 games for San Diego, and both earned a Cy Young Award. Peavy’s came in 2007, when he posted a 19-6 record with a league-leading 2.54 ERA.

The outlook

I meant it when I suggested that the Padres’ options are few and uninspiring.

Templeton’s stats are good enough, though certainly not overpowering. He was never a fan favorite, partly because he was considered to be moody and partly because of the high price that San Diego paid to acquire him. The Padres traded future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith to lure Templeton from the St. Louis Cardinals in December 1981. So scratch him from the list.

Honoring Colbert would be a nice way to remember the hapless Padres of 1969 and the early 1970s, but the club has never seemed interested. Colbert has been retired for 45 years, so it’s safe to say that his window of opportunity has closed.

Caminiti’s stay in San Diego was momentous, yet brief. He played 10 of his 15 seasons in Houston, and the Astros haven’t retired his number. So why should the Padres?

That leaves Bochy, who could be honored if he makes it to the Hall of Fame, and Peavy, who would seem to have as strong a case as Randy Jones. Neither is a lock.

If the club wants to hold on until an ironclad candidate surfaces, it might have to remain patient until somebody on its present squad wraps up his career, perhaps a current star such as No. 13 Manny Machado or No. 23 Fernando Tatis Jr. But they’re only 28 and 22 years old, respectively, with plenty of baseball still ahead of them.

It could be a long, long wait.

Previous posts on retired numbers