Two Fewer Original Padres

While the Padres prepare to celebrate their 40th anniversary in MLB, two members of that original team have died within the span of a week. First, left-hander Dave Roberts died of lung cancer [h/t Baseball Musings via Didi] at age 64 on January 8; then skipper Preston Gomez died at age 85 on January 13.

Roberts came to the Padres in the October 1968 expansion draft after a fine 18-5 campaign at Columbus of the International League in the Pirates organization. He got into 22 games — all but five in relief — for the ’69 Padres and did little to distinguish himself. The next year, splitting time between the rotation and the ‘pen, he went 8-14 with 3.81 ERA (104 ERA+).

In 1971, Roberts put together the first great season by a Padres starting pitcher. Although his record was a mere 14-17, he finished second in the league (to Tom Seaver) with a 2.10 ERA (157 ERA+). If that seems incongruous, it’s worth noting that the Padres averaged 2.30 runs per start in support of Roberts.

To this day, Roberts remains one of four Padres starting pitchers to earn 20 or more Win Shares in a single season (Randy Jones ’75 and ’76 [h/t reader BjoanZ], Kevin Brown ’98, Jake Peavy ’07). By my accounting, and mostly on the strength of one monster season, Roberts is the 12th best starter in franchise history.

Gomez, for his part, possessed probably the single most important trait a manager of an expansion club could possess: boundless optimism. Although the Padres were preseason 300-to-1 longshots to win the pennant, Gomez predicted that his charges would outscore the Los Angeles Dodgers in ’69.

History will show that the Padres fell short by 187 runs, but it’s hard not to love a guy who is willing to put himself on the line for the most ridiculous of causes. If you think 99 losses felt bad last year, how do you suppose 110 losses felt?

Gomez managed the Padres in ’70 and ’71, before being let go 11 games into the 1972 season. His record at the helm was 180-316, which boils down to a .363 winning percentage. After leaving San Diego, Gomez went on to manage the Houston Astros in ’74 and part of ’75, as well as the Chicago Cubs for part of 1980.

My condolences go out to the family and friends of both men.

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11 Responses »

  1. The 1969 Padres pitching staff seems to have lost a disproportionate number of players at a somewhat premature age.
    Clay Kirby, Joe Niekro, Johnny Podres, Dave Roberts, Dick Selma, and Dick Kelly have all passed away. With the exception of Podres, they all died at a reasonably young age.

    As for Preston Gomez, I always liked him, and I think he was the perfect man for a team just starting out. Of course he will always be remembered for pinch hitting for Clay Kirby and Don Wilson during their no-hitters.

  2. All right are you pumped or what, the Padres just signed David Eckstein to a one year deal!

  3. And we got the grit factor up. I really don’t get what the plan for this season is.

    It seems like the Padres just pick a handful of players and throw them against the wall to see which ones are al dente.

    Meanwhile, the lack of starting pitching is not addressed at all and we are 30 days to reporting. As it stands today, Luis Rodriguez is the starting SS and The Eck at 2B. Whoopee!

    I hope Antonelli will have a good Spring Training and April in AAA just so he’ll push The Eck off to the bench/platoon SS.

    Antonelli is the future and he just need some seasoning at AAA. I hope he’ll arrive sooner than June.

  4. Pads sign Eckstein. Ya just gotta love what a gritty player he is. Uniform is always dirty and he really hustles down to 1B on a BB! The guy just knows how to win. He may be 5′ 9″, but his heart is at least 6′ 6″!!!

  5. #1@parlo: Yeah, that is strange… and sad. I hope the Padres bring some guys from the original team out to the park and honor them this summer.

    #2@Mike: Actually, I am. When was the last time we had a middle infielder with on-base skills? Mark Loretta in ’05? A career .351 OBP for $850k is looking pretty good right now from where I sit.

  6. #5@Geoff Young: I don’t hate the move but who would you rather tune into see this year: Antonelli and/or Denker with L-Rod and Cabrera splitting time at SS or a mix of Eckstein, Burke L-Rod and possibly Vizquel up the middle?

    I say if we are going to lose, lose with the future, not a bunch of guys who won’t be here in 2010.

  7. #6@Steve C: I’m in favor of whichever plan maximizes the likelihood that Antonelli sticks when called upon and doesn’t bounce back and forth between here and Portland. The rest of those guys — with the possible exception of Cabrera, who is an extreme longshot — don’t concern me much.

  8. #7@Geoff Young: Denker is a long shot? I thought he was a pretty good prospect with the Giants, no? Also I would be in favor of sticking Antonelli at 2b and letting him figure it out much like they (had to) did with Kouz. I know last year was a down year for him but he showed that he could still control the strike zone at AAA and from most of the reports I read said he was still hitting the ball well but his hits were just not falling, but I have yet to see him play on any level (except for the small bit last season) so I really don’t know.

  9. #7@Geoff Young:
    #8@Steve C:

    I’m with GY on not wanting to put Antonelli in position to fail, while simultaneously gaining service time which will hasten his expensive years. People should be wary of any financial information that any baseball team chooses to share, but whatever the underlying facts, the front office may be operating on the cheap for a while. If that’s so they need to make sure that a prospect’s first four years coincide with the highest possible production. That might mean keeping Antonelli in AAA almost all year no matter how well he does.

    But I’m with Steve on using Denker instead of Eckstein to accomplish that. It’s not making me bang my head on the desk, and there may be some other benefits from Eckstein vs. Denker or LRod. If this is a year in which they’ll move pitchers, a better defense behind them might possibly increase their value. A .290 average from Gritty McGritserstein might net a couple of interesting prospects mid-year. Still, they had a young second baseman in Denker who now has nowhere to play and who could turn into somebody they might want to keep around for a few years. That would seem to be more valuable to a front office laboring under financial restrictions.

  10. “To this day, Roberts remains one of four Padres starting pitchers to earn 20 or more Win Shares in a single season (Randy Jones ‘75, Kevin Brown ‘98, Jake Peavy ‘07).”


    Please help me understand this statistic.
    How does Kevin Brown, Jake Peavy, and Dave Roberts merit 20 game Win Shares with none of them eclipsing the actual 20 wins. Where’s Gaylord Perry’ 21-6 record of ’78, and Randy Jones’ 22-14 Cy Young season of ’76?

  11. #10@BjoanZ: Win Shares was developed by Bill James a few years ago as a way to compare players. Here are a few links you may find useful:

    Brief explanation of Win Shares

    How Win Shares are calculated

    Win Shares book

    As to your other question, Perry’s ’78 season netted 18 Win Shares, while RJ’s ’76 netted… hmm, I’m very glad you asked this question because I’ve made an error. Jones had 21 Win Shares that season. Thanks for the catch!