Rand: Celebrating Tony Gwynn

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 16, 2014 - 8:30 PM

The former Padres great, who died Monday, will be remembered for more than just his hitting.

hide

Fans gave tribute to Tony Gwynn at his statue outside San Diego’s Petco Park on Monday.

Photo: Lenny Ignelzi, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Tony Gwynn’s death Monday stirs plenty of emotions: anger over the relentless nature of cancer, which took his life and in this case was highly preventable given Gwynn’s assumption that chewing tobacco was at its root cause.

Sadness for his family — his son, Phillies outfielder Tony Jr., went to Twitter on Monday with a heartfelt message for his dad that had to be particularly difficult to compose so soon after Father’s Day.

A certain amount of fragility, since Gwynn was a rookie with the Padres around the time I started caring about baseball as a young boy and he was certainly one of the brightest stars of that generation of players.

But instead of dwelling too far on those things, let’s take a look instead at that magnificent career and a celebration of everything Gwynn was able to accomplish on the field:

• Above the batting average and all the other accomplishments, Gwynn’s ability to make contact will always be the thing that seems most amazing to me. Between 1991 and ’99, Gwynn had at least 446 plate appearances every season. He had more than 500 in all but three. And in eight of those nine seasons, his season strikeout total was somewhere in the teens. Yes, it was between 14 and 19. That’s a normal two-week stretch for some hitters. That was a season for Gwynn, who struck out only 434 times in more than 10,000 career plate appearances.

• OK, but the batting average is a close second. Gwynn hit .338 for his career. More than one out of every three official at bats resulted in a hit. He hit .289 in 190 at bats his rookie season in 1982. Every season thereafter, he hit at least .309. The crowning achievement in that run was 1994, a strike-shortened season in which Gwynn hit .394 in 475 plate appearances. He was hitting .475 for the month of August when baseball shut down. Hitting .400 would have been a stretch, but it would have been nice to see if he could’ve done it.

• As noted, he never hit below .309 after his rookie year. That means Gwynn was hitting right until the end. Most players fade away, but even in a much-reduced role his final two seasons, he hit .323 over 229 at-bats.

• Would Gwynn be thought of less in this era, where batting average seems less significant than driving the ball and getting on base? (If you don’t believe that, ask Joe Mauer.) Well, Gwynn did amass 763 extra-base hits in his career. His .847 career OPS (on base plus slugging) was better than that of Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski and, yes, Kirby Puckett.

 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 7 2nd Qtr 8:17
Seattle 0
Miami 83 FINAL
Boston 75
LA Lakers 80 FINAL
New York 92
Arizona 3 FINAL
Montreal 2
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Nashville 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 FINAL
East Carolina 50
Michigan 66 FINAL
Michigan State 76
Marist 75 FINAL
Canisius 67
Fordham 77 FINAL
Dayton 101
Manhattan 87 FINAL
Monmouth 76
Quinnipiac 100 FINAL
Niagara 105
Utah 67 FINAL
USC 39
Connecticut 68 FINAL
Houston 70
California 90 FINAL
Washington 88
North Dakota St 64 FINAL
Western Ill 62
Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
(14) Texas 59 FINAL
TCU 64
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Cornell 53 FINAL
Yale 60
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Miami-Florida 66 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
(21) Georgia 72 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 80
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
Wake Forest 63 FINAL
(4) Notre Dame 92
Loyola-Chicago 56 FINAL
Illinois State 72
(24) Oklahoma 69 FINAL
West Virginia 78
St Johns 73 FINAL
Seton Hall 78
Delaware 73 FINAL
Hofstra 62
Binghamton 49 FINAL
UMass Lowell 66
Vermont 49 FINAL
Hartford 60
William & Mary 72 FINAL
Northeastern 66
Boston College 60 FINAL
(16) North Carolina 72
Virginia 77 FINAL
Clemson 72
(2) Connecticut 83 FINAL
Temple 49
Arkansas 53 FINAL
Alabama 42
Virginia Tech 71 FINAL
Georgia Tech 79
Kansas 58 FINAL
(3) Baylor 66
Canisius 51 FINAL
Rider 52
Monmouth 52 FINAL
Fairfield 54
Quinnipiac 81 FINAL
Saint Peters 50
Butler 55 FINAL
Creighton 62
Wichita State 61 FINAL
Drake 64
Evansville 52 FINAL
Indiana State 67
(18) Miss State 67 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
Villanova 47 FINAL
DePaul 49
Georgetown 73 FINAL
Marquette 80
North Texas 55 FINAL
Rice 58
Auburn 45 FINAL
(12) Texas A&M 78
(11) Arizona State 58 FINAL
Utah 48
Missouri State 56 FINAL
Northern Iowa 64
Michigan 60 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 75
Minnesota 49 FINAL
Northwestern 70
Wisconsin 73 FINAL
Illinois 62
Bradley 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 76
Florida 67 FINAL
Vanderbilt 58
(20) Iowa 88 FINAL
(5) Maryland 93
(1) South Carolina 77 FINAL
Ole Miss 59
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close