Top 11 Achievements of Tony Gwynn’s Incredible 20-Year MLB Career
Major League Baseball has lost another fantastic person Monday. The San Diego Padres confirmed that Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn has died at the age of 54, losing a long battle he was fighting with cancer.
Gwynn, who played his entire 20-year MLB career with the Padres, is considered one of the best hitters in this generation, and possibly the history of the game. He posted a career line of .338/.388/.459 with 135 home runs, 1,138 RBI and 3,141 hits, which ranks 19th in MLB history. In honor of this baseball legend and personal favorite of mine, here are 10 of Gwynn’s greatest accomplishments as a player.
11. Stole 10-plus bases in 11 different seasons
Gwynn was known for what he did at the plate, but he was a threat on the bases for big portion of his career, as well. His 319 career stolen bases rank 144th in big league history. He swiped more than 26 bags on five different occasions. With a career on-base percentage of .388 and only 135 of his 3,141 hits coming as home runs, he had plenty of time to wreck havoc on the basepaths.
10. Finished in the top-10 of NL MVP voting 7 times
Gwynn was never named the National League’s Most Valuable Player, but he definitely was the best player on the Padres. His consistency on the field put him in the MVP discussion annually. His highest finish came in 1984, when he came in third behind Ryne Sandberg and Keith Hernandez. The outfielder posted a .351/.410/.444 line with seven home runs, 71 RBI, 88 runs scored and 33 stolen bases.
9. Won 5 Gold Glove Awards
Similar to the Silver Slugger, managers and coaches vote on which players are the most superior defenders at each position. Again, the players with the best statistics don’t always win. Gwynn took pride in his defense, and like a lot of other times in his career, he won all his Gold Glove awards in a bunch, getting those five honors over a six-year period from 1986-91.
8. Won 7 Silver Slugger Awards
The Silver Slugger award is handed out annually to the best offensive players in each league at every offensive position, with managers and coaches determining the winner. They consider all major offensive categories, but also look at a player’s total offensive value. So, the player with the best statistics doesn’t win all the time. Gwynn’s ability to put the bat on the ball at an elite rate made game-planning for him a nightmare to the opposition. Winning this award seven times is a testament to just how good he was, even during the “steroid era” of baseball.
7. Posted a .394 batting average in 1994
One of the most iconic numbers in baseball is the .400 batting average. Ted Williams was the last hitter to finish a season above that number, posting a .406 mark in 1941. The closest anyone has been is Gwynn, with his .394 batting average for San Diego in the strike-shortened year of 1994. He played in 110 games and accumulated 475 plate appearances before labor issues ended his pursuit of this magical number.
6. Was named to 15 All-Star games in a 16-year span
Getting named to the MLB All-Star game is an honor no player would surrender if given to them. Playing at an elite level for multiple years is difficult, especially at an All-Star level. For 16 years, there weren’t many offensive players as good as Gwynn. He went to four straight midsummer classics before being left off the roster in 1988. He followed that with 11 straight selections. He should’ve been elected to the team in ’88, as well– he finished the year 11th in NL MVP voting and won the batting title with a .313 average.
5. Won 8 NL batting titles
When you’re finishing every season with a .300-plus batting average, you’re bound to consistently be in the mix for a batting title every year. He finished with the best batting average in the National League eight different times, which is second-best in MLB history. Ty Cobb has him edged, with 12 batting titles.
4. Stuck out 434 times in 9,288 career at-bats
Strike-out rates have soared in baseball over the last 20 years. Players were willing to sacrifice their batting average to hit more home runs. Not Gwynn, who struck out an incredible 4.67 percent of the time in 9,288 career at-bats. That’s just unheard of in today’s game. The most he ever struck out in a season was 40 times, which happened during that non-All-Star season in 1988.
3. Hit over .300 for 19 straight seasons
Depending on who you ask, hitting a baseball is considered the hardest thing to do in sports. Players who fail seven out of every 10 at-bats are viewed as some of the best in the game’s history. Gwynn appeared in 54 games for San Diego during his rookie season of 1982, posting a respectable .289 batting average. For the duration of his career after that, he never finished below .300. That’s the second-best streak in MLB history, with Cobb’s 23-straight seasons taking the top spot.
2. Was a first-ballot Hall of Famer
Convincing the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that you’re a Hall of Fame player is tough, especially with the 75 percent vote needed to secure a plaque in Cooperstown. The above accomplishments speak for themselves, and the BBWAA didn’t disappoint, voting to make Gwynn one of baseball’s immortals the first time he appeared on the ballot in 2007. He showed up on 97.5 percent of ballots, one of the highest rates in MLB history.
1. His .338 batting average is 18th-highest in MLB history
If the above statistics weren’t enough to convince you Gwynn was one of the best hitters in the history of the game, his .338 career batting average should. That mark is one of the highest by any retiring ballplayer since 1939. None of the players he joined in the top 20 are from this era, or the era before that. Try naming any player in today’s game with a chance to do that.
In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Gwynn was also a tremendous person, winning awards for his community efforts off the field. Not long after losing Don Zimmer, the baseball world is once again sent reeling with another living legend gone too soon. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Gwynn family during this rough time.
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