Archi Cianfrocco – 1994 Upper Deck

December 5, 2010

Boy, They Were Packin’ ‘Em In At The Jack In 1993

Shots like this remind me of watching the Braves on TBS when it first came to my small town in Indiana in the late 70’s, and then in the mid-to-late 80’s as well.

At home games in Fulton County Stadium, when a right handed pitcher was throwing from the stretch (a not-rare happening), they would have a shot of the pitcher in the stretch and behind him were seas and seas of blue seats.

Empty, of course.

San Diego’s always been a tough draw for sports teams. A lot of people move to San Diego, they aren’t from there. Hell, that’s about the only place where there is no winter I would move. Why not? It’s idyllic, really. Every time I have been to San Diego for a conference, I’ve never really wanted to leave.

San Diego’s lost three basketball teams (Rockets, Clippers, Conquistadors / Sails), a WHA team (Mariners), and they’ve almost lost the Chargers (and still may) and the Padres (on many occasions).

They’ve never finished higher than 4th in the NL in attendance (now that would be a bit more difficult, but there were times where fans avoided Shea, Wrigley and other ‘hotbeds’).

And it could be argued that San Diego never really clamored for major league baseball. They were rushed into the NL after the AL decided to expand thanks to the Kansas City settlement in 1968, and for their first five years they never drew more than 644,000 fans in a season. Many of those fans, if I read right, were Marines stationed nearby who were ‘forced’ to go for ‘morale’. How can you have morale when watching Larry Stahl, Dave Campbell and company blunder their way through endless 7-1 losses?

When this picture was taken, San Diego was on its way to finishing last in the NL in attendance (again – that’s 8 times in just 42 seasons) and honored the 1973 Padres by finishing 61-101 (beating those Padres by one game).

Those Padres were managed by perennial nice guy / last place manager Jim Riggleman. The last places he’s accumulated have been earned by talent, not managerial issues, though.

These Padres should have been 72-90 according to their Pythagorean record. That would have pushed them to within a game of fifth place Cincinnati. Why the discrepancy?

Luck, basically. They played 52 one-run games, and only 33 5+ run games. For instance, the 1993 Astros had the same amount of one-run games and blowouts.

The Padres did deal away McGriff and Sheffield during the season, but they were already buried in the cellar by then.

They also had a horrid offense, especially after those two left. Tony Gwynn and Phil Plantier did great, and Phil Clark probably would have helped a lot of Riggleman would have played him regularly. But the rest of the team after the departure of Sheffield and McGriff were more than sub-par.

San Diego was the go-to team for transactions. Before the season Tony Fernandez went to the Mets for Wally Whitehurst. Derek Bell came from Toronto at the end of Spring Training for Darrin Jackson and Clark was a fortuitous waiver claim for Detroit.

But after a deal sending disappointing (at that time) reliever Jeremy Hernandez to Cleveland that didn’t help the club at all, the Padres just gave in and starting trading their chits in.

Tim Scott went to Montreal for Mr. Cianfrocco. Scott was a helpful reliever for Montreal. Cianfrocco is best noted for his name (which I love).

(I should write a bit about Archi – and here I will. He was a corner infielder who had a little pop but no other offensive plus, and he whiffed a lot without taking a walk. He was a minus defender as well and didn’t have much speed. But why do I love him? Well, he went to Purdue, about 25 miles to the north of where I grew up, and…c’mon the name people! It’s pronounced Ar-key See-un-frock-oh!)

Rich Rodriguez and Sheffield were sent to Florida for Andres Berumen, Jose Martinez, and some converted shortstop turned relief pitcher named Hoffman. Yeah, Trevor Hoffman. What happened to him?

McGriff went to Atlanta for “You’re Out Of Your Element” Donny Elliott and Mel Nieves. Whoops.

Greg “Not The Ambidextrous One” Harris and Bruce Hurst went to Colorado for Andy Ashby, Brad Ausmus and Doug Bochtler. That worked out a bit!

Basically, they blew up the team but set the stage for 1996 and 1998 success.

Yet the fans of San Diego decided that their summer nights were better spent elsewhere. Watching Kerry Taylor, Jeff Gardner and Billy Bean try to play baseball wasn’t high on their lists.

It should be noted that 1993 was also an expansion year for the NL. Yet the two expansion clubs finished ahead of two established clubs. The Rockies finished sixth in the West, and the Marlins were a notch ahead of the Mets, who did the Padres one better and honored the 1964 Mets by going 59-103 (not 53-109 like those old Mets, but at least the numbers were there).

One Response to “Archi Cianfrocco – 1994 Upper Deck”

  1. One of my fondest memories of an empty-seat ’80s game on TBS was an extra-inning game that involved both of these teams: August 10th, 1988. I think this is the game, anyway. It’s the longest extra inning Braves home game between the two teams between ’86 when I started watching Braves games and ’89, and I’m just about positive it was Braves/Padres that I was watching.

    Attendance at Fulton County Stadium was announced as 6070, and then it went into extras. I swear, there were like 8 people left in the stands by the end, and one of them was probably a drunk guy who thought the Falcons were playing.

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