When San Diego Padres fans look at the current starting lineup, they see four young players who are exciting to watch, and are expected to be a part of the team’s long-term plans.
Manuel Margot, Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe, and Austin Hedges are all expected to be with this team for a long time as the organization is trying to build a winner, and one that can win for years to come.
These four don’t bat simultaneously in the lineup. Margot and Myers are the only two who have seemed to establish a permanent place in the lineup. Margot is the lead-off man, and Myers has established himself as the No. 3 hitter.
Renfroe and Hedges have moved up and down between the No. 5 and No. 7 spots. It will take a little time before they establish permanent spots in the order.
Having a young core of players, and expecting them to be an important piece to the puzzle while building a winning team, is exciting.
However, this isn’t the first time San Diego had four talented players that were fun to watch. Looking back, there was a time when San Diego had “The Four Tops.”
When people think about the Padres during the 1990’s, they look back the 1998 team that won the organization’s second National League Pennant, before losing to the New York Yankees in the World Series.
However, during the early 90’s, the Padres had “The Four Tops.” They were given the name because they were the first four hitters in the lineup: Tony Fernandez, Tony Gwynn, Gary Sheffield, and Fred McGriff.
When any one of them recorded a hit at Jack Murphy Stadium, the PA system would blare a song performed by the Motown band.
In 1992, these four all had averages over .300. One can look at this and ask themselves why this team didn’t win at all, or even contend in the postseason. That is a completely different discussion, and was no fault of any of these players.
The Padres acquired Tony Fernandez before the start of the 1991 season. San Diego sent Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar to Toronto in exchange for Fernandez and McGriff. Ironically, the Padres acquired Carter from the Cleveland Indians when they traded Sandy Alomar, Jr., before the 1990 season began.
Fernandez spent two years with the Padres. He held a .273 batting average during those two seasons, and stole 29 bases. In 1992, he was a perfect 20-for-20 in stolen base attempts.
McGriff spent two and a half seasons with the Padres. In 1991, he hit 31 home runs. He hit 35 in 1992, and had 100+ RBIs in both seasons.
He was on his way to another 30-homer season in 1993 before being dealt to the Atlanta Braves. He had 18 home runs when he was traded.
The Padres acquired Sheffield from Milwaukee during Spring Training in 1992. In 1991, Sheffield hit just .194, with two home runs and 22 RBIs. When he arrived in San Diego, he made a comment, saying “It feels like I just got out of prison.” He was unhappy in Milwaukee.
Going to a new club did wonders for Sheffield. In 1992, he hit .330, with 33 home runs and drove in 100 RBIs. In 1993, he was hitting .295 before he was dealt to the Florida Marlins.
Gwynn was the only player who stayed with San Diego. He hit .317 in 1992. In 1993, he hit .358. Of course, this was the norm for Gwynn. He hit above .300 in all but one season of his 20-year career.
The other three were dealt during the Padres’ fire sale, which started in 1992. The Padres sent Fernandez to the Mets in exchange for Wally Whitehurst, D.J. Dozier, and Raul Casanova. Fernandez eventually found his way back to Toronto in 1993 and was an important in their run to the World Series. He hit .333 in the Fall Classic. The Blue Jays defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
Sheffield was a part of the Marlins team in 1997 that defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games.
McGriff was shipped to Atlanta on July 18, 1993, just before the trade deadline. He helped the Braves defeat the Indians in the 1995 World Series. Atlanta won the series in five games.
The “Four Tops” were only a brief period in Padres history, but it is a notable one. All four players were hitting above .320 at one point during the 1992 season. The organization could maybe have built around this core and produced a winner, but incompetent ownership denied any possibility of that happening.