Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tony Gwynn Dead at 54

The entire baseball world is in mourning this week, as Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn succumbed to mouth cancer on Monday.  Gwynn is widely considered to be one of the greatest hitters of all time.  He won 8 batting titles and amassed a .338 career average and 3,141 hits during his 20-year career, all with the Padres.  Playing in an age where steroid-fueled power was more prevalent than batting average, Gwynn primarily bludgeoned his opponents to death with stunning hand-eye coordination and bat control, and one could argue was really only rivaled by Wade Boggs in terms of best pure hitter over that 20-year span.  Gwynn's prime years came when I was in grade school, so I can't honestly say I remember a lot about him or even watching him play that much.  But when he retired in 2001, even seeing him for a few years at the tail end of his career made me appreciate what an amazing hitter he was.  I remember him for the fantastic World Series he had against the Yankees in 1998, as part of the historic 1999 All-Star Game with Ted Williams at Fenway Park, and single after single after single laced through the hole between shortstop and third base (which Tony dubbed the "5.5 hole").  And perhaps most vividly, I remember him getting inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with Cal Ripken Jr. the year that Erik and I were on the Tour, in front of record crowds that might never be approached again.

Eventually, there are going to be a lot of articles out there about how Gwynn is the prime example for why chewing tobacco should be banned in the big leagues, and rightfully so.  54 years old is way too young to leave this world.  But for now, I hope people will take the time to appreciate just how gifted a hitter he really was, a hitter that never got the glory he deserved during his career because of playing 20 years on the west coast and not being known for his power.  Out of all the statistics I've combed through in the last couple days, I think this one best puts his talent into perspective: for 6 straight years (and 8 altogether), Tony Gwynn struck out fewer than 20 times in a season.  In the ENTIRE season.  He struck out 3 times in a game just one time in 20 years.  Conversely, there were 97 players in the big leagues who struck out 20 times last month, and two Brewers struck out 3 times just in yesterday's game.  Baseball has truly lost one of its all-time greats.

Brewers 43-29, +3.5, (3 @ Rockies, 3 v. Nationals)
Reds 34-35, -7.5 (3 v. Blue Jays, 3 @ Cubs)
Twins 32-37, -5.5 (3 v. White Sox, 3 @ Angels)

Erik - 3 (+10 worked)

Peter - 21

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