the San Diego Padres
tribute to the National League champions of 1998)
Some facts on the 1998 San Diego
now, my personal musings on
the 1998 season, and the postseason:
made it to the postseason for the 3rd time
in team history (1984, 1996), all three times by virtue of winning the
National League West division title
made it to the World Series for the 1st time
Trevor Hoffman saved 50 games for the Padres,
and Greg Vaughn hit 50 home runs, making San Diego the only team in history
to have a 50 save man and 50 homer guy in the same season
their 98 regular season wins was the best
single season win total in team history
they were also the first team to have to play
3 teams with better records than they had
this was one of the rare years that Tony Gwynn
did not win the National League batting title
I'd have to say that when you look at
the entire picture, the 1998 season was probably the best in the team's
history. Especially when you consider the expectations, which were peachy-keen
in light of SD's last place finish in their division in 1997, and the signing
of Kevin Brown during the offseason. Once the season started, though, they
just basically took off and never looked back, pretty much leading their
division from start to finish. Despite Tony Gwynn, the perennial All-Star,
for the most part, struggling with his health and his hitting. Despite
Ken Caminiti, 1996 N.L. MVP, doing the same. What carried them mostly was,
in no particular order:
Despite the success of the regular season,
the Padres really had a hard time winning games at the end of the regular
season. Was it overconfidence? Slacking? Looking too far ahead to the postseason?
Most had San Diego given up for dead at the hands of whomever they would
face in the N.L. semi-final series, which ended up being the Houston Astros.
Optimists pointed to the previous N.L. champs, the Florida Marlins, who
limped into the playoffs and walked out as World Series champions.
Kevin Brown's outstanding pitching, which
was pretty much expected from him given his status and accolades from previous
years, especially 1997
the resurrection of Greg Vaughn, who really
hit the stuffings out of baseballs after a horrible 1997 season
Trevor Hoffman's continued excellent pitching
as the Padres closer
the emergence of Andy Ashby, who turned into
an All-Star pitcher in 1998
decent, if unspectacular performances from
players such as Quilvio Veras, Steve Finley, Jim Leyritz, Wally Joyner,
Chris Gomez, Carlos Hernandez, Dan Miceli, etc.
They promptly went on to shock the Astros
in Houston in game 1 by beating their ace, Randy Johnson, with their own
ace, Kevin Brown. The Padres showed heart in coming back in the 9th inning
to tie the game on a Jim Leyritz homer, but ended up losing. The Padres
had the series in their hands, theirs to win at home, and they did not
blow it, winning both games 3 and 4 in San Diego. Final insult to injury?
Randy Johnson was handed his second loss of the series in game 4. MVP of
this series was Kevin Brown, IMO.
It was on to Atlanta from there, the Braves
of the perennial postseason appearances, the 1995 World Series champions,
home-field advantage, and light years more postseason experience than the
Padres. Heck, Chipper Jones played more postseason games than Tony Gwynn.
Did not mean much apparently to the guys, who won both games 1 and 2 in
Atlanta. The Braves looked to their best pitcher, and some would say the
best pitcher of all time, Greg Madduz, to win the must-win game 3 in SD.
He lost to the suddenly unbeatable Sterling Hitchcock, putting the Braves
in a never-overcame 3-0 hole. To their credit, they bore down and won games
4 and 5 in San Diego. Now the pressure was on the Padres not to choke and
let it go to a game 7 where the Braves would have all the momentum in the
universe. Game 6 was won by Sterling Hitchcock, in a Padre shutout of the
Braves, which meant the Padres would be going to the World Series for the
first time since 1984, when they lost to the Detroit Tigers in 5 games.
My MVP for the N.L. Championship series was Sterling Hitchcock, who won
game 3, a must-win game for Atlanta, and game 6, practically a must-win
game for San Diego.
The World Series result was almost forgettable,
as the New York Yankees swept the Padres. From my point of view, San Diego
should've won games 1 and 3, which they led deep into the games, were it
not for untimely walks and homers surrendered to the opportunistic Yankee
hitters. That would've left the series tied 2-2, and who knows? The heroes
of the World Series for San Diego were, in no particular order:
And, the "goats"? I hate to point fingers,
Tony Gwynn. Got the big hits when needed,
and more. Upped his career W.S. batting average too. FWIW, I think he was
the most valuable Padre in the World Series.
Greg Vaughn. His homers should've been the
focus of a San Diego win in game 1, but... oh well
Kevin Brown. Pitched his heart out in games
1 and 4, and it just ended up not being enough.
Carlos Hernandez. Played great behind the
plate, and got some hits at it too.
Chris Gomez. Played steady at SS and hit pretty
well, considering the team standard in the Series.
Still, even given their World Series downfall,
it was a stupendous season in almost every other way. No one really expected
it, probably not even the most optimistic of Padres players, or even fans.
Congratulations to the 1998 San Diego Padres, who got farther than probably
anyone expected, and hope they can make the return to the 1999 World Series
and finish what they started!!! Go Padres!
to the rest of the game!
Jim Leyritz. Maybe he was a bit out of his
element, having to play the biggest series in the world against his former
teammates. Did not get a single hit in the series.
The home plate ump (I don't remember his name,
and I don't want to know!) in game 1. Blatantly failed to call a critical
third strike on Tino Martinez of the Yanks, and Martinez promptly hit a
grand slam on the next pitch.
Trevor Hoffman. Blew his only save opportunity
of the W.S.
Donne Wall. Gave away all of Kevin Brown's
game 1 lead on one pitch. Was never seen on the field again.
Randy Myers. Simply didn't do the job he was
brought in and paid to do.
Ken Caminiti. He did play hurt, and he did
get a hit in his last at-bat. I do feel bad for the guy. Still... he allegedly
kept a World Series diary, on www.worldseries.com,
I never checked it. If it were me in his shoes though, I'd probably write
it like: game 1: it sucked. game 2: it really sucked! game 3: Trevor and
Randy sucked. game 4: I got a hit, but it probably sucked the most!