Padres Special: Craig Kimbrel Latest in History of Great Closers for San Diego Padres

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Courtesy: San Diego Union/Tribune
Courtesy: San Diego Union/Tribune

Rich Gossage was a nasty fastball throwing right handed pitcher that had grown out of favor with Yankee management. Gossage was outspoken and didn’t exactly see eye to eye with Yankee owner George Steinbrener. Gossage challenged his authority and was deemed expendable after the 1983 season. Trade Jack McKeon wasted no time in jumping in and gave the former Yankee closer a free agent deal. Goose Gossage went on to pitch four years for the Padres going 25-20 with a 2.99 ERA and a 1.164 WHIP. He recorded 83 saves as a Padre and was pivotal in the Padres National League Championship run of 1984. You can read about the team here.

Goose Gossage was dealt on February 12, 1988 to the Chicago Cubs for Mike Brumley and Keith Moreland. His loss was filled by a left-handed pitcher who had one of the nastiest curve balls in the league. Ever since Mark Davis was acquired from the San Francisco Giants with Mark Grant, Chris Brown and Keith Comstock for Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts and Kevin Mitchel, you could see the potential. His curve ball was something special but he had trouble locating it for strikes. Most major league teams adjusted and just stopped swinging at it. He was forced to reinvent himself and boy did he.

The 1989 Season started out like any other. Davis had recorded 28 saves in his first year as the Padres closer after trading Goose Gossage in 1988. He was a decent closing option, but I don’t believe anyone would have seen the miracle year he had. In his final year as the Padres closer, the 28-year-old Davis saved 44 saves. A league high. He also recorded a 1.85 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP. Davis struck out 92 batters and was awarded the National League Cy Young award. He finished his career with 78 saves in five total years ( In 1993 and 1994 Davis returned to the Padres and played his final two seasons) a 2.75 ERA and a 1.260 WHIP.

After his Cy Young award-winning season Davis spurned the Padres to sign a lucrative deal with the Kansas City Royals. $13 million dollars for four years was way out of the Padres price range. So the team turned to an unlikely character for saves. Craig Lefferts was signed as a free agent after spending three seasons in San Francisco. Lefferts was mainly used as a situational lefty in the bullpen, but in his last two seasons as a Giant he recorded 31 saves. The Padres were very familiar with the left-handed pitcher, and knew he had the proper mentality to close.

Lefferts went on to record 23 saves in each of his two seasons closing for the Padres (1990 & 1991). In 1992 the Padres traded Bip Roberts to the Cincinnati Reds for Randy Myers. Myers was in the last year of his contract and the Reds already had Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton in their bullpen. Myers went on to record 38 saves in the 1992 season. He left after the season to become the Chicago Cubs closer. Myers first time around as a Padre was definitely better than the 1998 and 1999 season where the Padres essentially paid $13 million dollars to sit on his butt.

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