Besides a modest handful of past candidates, the San Diego Padres haven't been known as a slugging enclave in Major League Baseball.
Save the likes of Nate Colbert, Dave Winfield, Phil Nevin and Ken Caminiti, the Padres are moderate at best in their history of producing heavy-hitting talent along the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Yes, Mr. Padre Tony Gwynn finished with Hall of Fame numbers, but he never hit more than 17 homers in a season. In fact, Gwynn hit 10-plus home runs in a season only five times.
There's a reason why the Padres own just two National League pennants (1984, 1998) and have captured only six division titles: they haven't had a perpetual enforcer digging into the batter's box for an extended period of time. And the last one they had, Adrian Gonzalez, was traded two years ago because San Diego couldn't afford to re-sign him after his contract expired. Then-Padres general manager Jed Hoyer admitted that it was hard to see Gonzalez head across the country to Boston.
"Adrian is a superstar player, and I certainly wish we could keep him in San Diego long-term, but we can't," Hoyer said. "They've got themselves a great player, a player we certainly wish we could have kept. Red Sox fans will certainly enjoy watching him play for a long time."
Fans tend to phase out the business side of sports, which further infuriates them after such moves as the Gonzalez trade. Here's another name for San Diego fans to reflect on: Greg Vaughn.
Vaughn clubbed 50 home runs in 1998 and added 119 RBIs, helping the Padres reach the World Series before the New York Yankees showed them what winning is all about. That was Vaughn's third and final season with the Padres as he was dealt to Cincinnati in 1999 and finished with nearly identical numbers from the year before (45 home runs, 118 RBIs).
Winning is still obsolete for the current Friars, who have yet another piece to work with in outfielder Carlos Quentin before possibly fumbling that option away.
Padres general manager Josh Byrnes is at the controls now and is aware the ball club hasn't reached the postseason since 2006. Perhaps a scintillating deal would spike interest in trading Quentin when the deadline approaches, but, then again, building around the newcomer isn't a bad idea, either.
The Padres are a fairly young team and their fresh-faced players can't look up to too many figures. Quentin could be that leader.
He's already proven that with his bat in just a short duration in his new digs. He already had a solid reputation with the Chicago White Sox. Never mind when he missed action in 2008 with a broken wrist suffered when he punched his own bat during a showdown with Cliff Lee.
"I kind of hit down on the bat head with my right hand, closed fist. I hit it a little bit low, nicked my wrist," Quentin said. "I woke up the next morning and that was that. It's something I've done a lot. Unfortunately, it hit the bone perfectly and not in a good spot."
Fast forward a few years and Quentin's been hitting the ball in all types of good spots. Laid-up for the first 49 games of the season after having arthroscopic knee surgery in March, Quentin roared back to the diamond in impressive fashion.
He is not a small guy by any stretch of the imagination at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, and has been using his size and keen eye to his advantage. Entering Tuesday's series opener with the San Francisco Giants, Quentin was 9-for-19 with six extra-base hits (three doubles, three homers).
He then put on a show in San Diego's 6-5 series-opening win by finishing 3- for-4 with a pair of home runs -- Quentin's second multi-homer game of the season in just six games played. He already has three multi-hit games and, at this rate, will pass current hitting leader Chase Headley, who leads the Padres with seven homers (Quentin has five) and 25 RBIs.
Quentin said he's seeing the ball well and is not trying to do too much at the plate. Staying focused and having quality at-bats is fueling his success, and teammates are beginning to notice.
"Carlos Quentin is one of the best hitters in baseball. Pitching against him for so many years, he's a guy in the lineup who provides a dynamic that has to be respected," Padres closer Huston Street said on the club's website. "He changes the game. He's changed so many games for us ... and he's only been back for 10 days."
San Diego can parlay this current roster into something special if it remains intact and gets some better pitching performances. With Quentin continuing his success, it can only make the likes of Headley, Yonder Alonso, Will Venable, Cameron Maybin and Nick Hundley better. And who says this corps is not capable of accomplishing what the Arizona Diamondbacks did last season in coming out of nowhere to win the NL West?
The Padres are last in the division right now and haven't won a series since taking two of three against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from May 18-20.
The situation can change.
Does it help to have five wins in the last 17 games? No, but it is relieving to know a front office has confidence in what's on the field right now.
Keeping Quentin in the fold could set those wheels in motion.