Third Base- Ken Caminiti
The iconic third baseman was an intense competitor, and quite possibly the soul of the 1998 Padres. He is the only MVP in the franchise’s history (1996). His admitted PED use sadly overshadows his great seasons as a Padre. Caminiti was undoubtedly juiced on steroids during his four-year run as a San Diego Padre.
He was quite outspoken after retiring from the sport. Caminiti was never shy about his usage of supplements and performance-enhancing drugs. Ken Caminiti was probably one of my favorite all-time Padres player. I realize his drug abuse, but the man was entertaining to watch, and he hated losing. The images of him breaking his bat over his mammoth leg after striking out were fantastic memories for me personally. I enjoyed seeing players show that kind of passion – if you ask me, that competitive edge is missing from the game right now.
Ken Caminiti was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1983 draft by the Houston Astros. He made his major league debut with the Astros in 1987 and had a decent 10-year career in Houston. He hit .264 with 103 homers and 546 RBI in 1,085 career games for the Astros. He was known for his solid defense as an Astro, and his bat was just labeled as adequate.
On December 28, 1994, a gigantic 12-player trade was agreed upon between the Astros and Padres. The Padres would send Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, Ricky Gutierrez, Pedro Martinez, Phil Plantier, and Craig Shipley to the Astros for Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, Roberto Petagine, Brian Williams, Andujar Cedeno, and Sean Fesh. The trade brought the San Diego Padres two valuable members of the 1998 team; Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley.
Caminiti’s numbers in four years as a Padre are fantastic. A .272/.384/.540 slash line is phenomenal. He also hit 121 home runs and drove in 396 runs in 557 games as a Padre. How much of that was heightened by his steroid use is anybody’s guess. It’s really tough to say, but the era was full of “cheaters.” It’s not an excuse, but most players in that day were taking stuff that had yet to be fully researched by Major League Baseball. Caminiti was just open about his usage, unlike most players. I always respected him for that.
The 1996 season was his best year in the major leagues. He hit .326 with 40 home runs and drove in 130 runs. He also earned a whopping 7.6 WAR that year. Caminiti was rewarded with an MVP award. His 15-year career includes 1,760 games and a .272 lifetime average. The three-time MLB All-Star became a free agent after the 1998 season and left to play, back in Houston.
Caminiti played two seasons there and one more split between the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves.
He was never the same as in his Padre years. Perhaps the adverse effects of the steroids had finally caught up to him. Injured continuously and in a lot of pain, Ken Caminiti finally retired at the age of 38 in 2001. The man would run through a brick wall for his teammates, and that deserves recognition. I hope one day the San Diego Padres do the right thing and retire Ken Caminiti’s #21 jersey. His death was a shock to me. The man had demons, and that is a shame. I only hope that he is finally at peace now.
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