As one of the more optimistic of Padres fans, I spend a lot of time defending the Friars and my own fanhood against the rampant negativity that can inhabit the fanbase. But after thinking back and reliving all these great plays from the 2014 season, I can see that the Padres can be quite apt with their own defense [cue laugh track]. When the team was failing at the plate is always nice to see some good defense to help keep them in games and make us realize that it's not ALL a disaster.
When I began thinking of the best defensive plays of the year, only a couple really jumped out off the top of my head. But as I went back through the video archives on padres.com, I found SO many gems that I had unfortunately forgotten about. I narrowed them down to the eight below, and even that was difficult. Now it's your turn to vote for your favorite in the poll and help us decide the best of the bunch!
Stauffer reacts quickly to comebacker (04/24)
There were a lot of reasons to remember this game. It lasted a long time and Andrew Cashner made his debut in left field. But one of the most memorable moments was this play. Stauffer had come in to pitch relief at the same time Cashner came in to play left. It's the bottom of the 11th inning and the game is still tied. Jayson Werth tries to be the hero of the game, but Stauffer knows what a terrible human being he is and prevents that by snagging this comebacker for the out. The longest-tenured Padre shows off his cat-like reflexes and makes one of the best defensive plays of the year.
Will Venable diving catch to rob Jayson Werth (04/27)
Whenever you think about great defensive plays, Will Venable always seems to be in the mix, and 2014 was no exception. This play takes us all the way back to April when our Padres made a trip to the nation's capital. Not only is the play itself superb, but the fact that it happened off Jayson Werth just makes it all the better. Look at that classic Venable layout as he goes after the ball in right field, looking like Superman. But he's better than Superman. He's America's Finest City's Sweetheart.
Gyorko throws out runner after ball caroms off his own arm (05/21)
When you're out there playing defense, you always have to be on your toes and looking for second and third chances to get outs. Here the ball gets Gyorko in the arm and flies straight up, and to the average infielder that may have been the end of the play. But Gyorko's awareness helps him keep track of the ball and, as it falls back down, make a barehand catch and throw out the runner.
Chris Nelson and Tommy Medica back-to-back plays in the stands (08/12)
This was the first thing to come to my mind when I began thinking of the best defensive plays of the year. First let's look at the Nelson catch. He was playing against his former team at the time, which always adds to the fun. But more importantly, look at the reaction of the people in the stands. I think that's what makes the play for me. When the guys in the stands realize Nelson has a chance, you can actually see them back off from the ball and give Nelson room to make the play. Way to be on your toes, Padres fans! Now the Medica catch wasn't as outstanding, but it was still a pretty fantastic display of that extra effort you always love to see from your defenders. Each of these plays are good enough to make the list on their own, but having them happen back-to-back makes them even more amazing. Tommy Medica's reaction ("Oh s__t!") and smile don't hurt either.
Liriano catch at the fence (08/29)
Rymer Liriano's callup to the big league club was one of the more exciting moves this season (IMO) and it was fun to get a glimpse into the talent that he's been displaying down in the minors. Most of that happened at the plate, but this play was pretty spectacular as well. He helps out Andrew Cashner and gets the final out of the inning with this snazzy catch at the fence. And who's behind that fence, you wonder? None other than our very own daveysapien.
Amarista's bunny hop prevents a Panda base hit (09/21)
When I was looking through all these videos, there were so many Amarista defensive highlights. Like a ton. A lot of people like to complain when he plays certain positions or whatever, but Amarista has been a champ all season. He's moved around the infield AND the outfield, playing his little heart out no matter where Buddy puts him. I don't know if it's because his stature requires him to make a little extra effort to get to balls, but he so often makes plays that you might not expect him to make. Here's just one example that stood out. Watch him streeeetch for that ball to make the out and end the inning. "Super Ninja," as Dick calls him.
Padres fail to secure double play on first try, but nail it on second attempt (09/15)
Good defensive plays aren't always flashy. Sometimes they sneak up on you and before you even realize what's happening, BOOM - the play is over and an out is recorded. This is that kind of play. At first you're like, "YEAH GYORKO MAKIN' IT LOOK EASY!" And then you're like, "Awwww Gyorko you shoulda had that, you goober." And then you're like, "Wait what just happened?" Here we see some damn fine heads-up defense as our Padres get the out on a second attempt after everyone thinks the play is over. It's no diving catch or leaping grab at the wall or fast-paced double play, but it gets the job done and showcases some very smart ballplaying.
Despaigne dives from the mound to get the out (09/14)
I just LOVE when a pitcher gets into the action. Some people don't, because they don't want pitchers to take risks and get themselves hurt. But it's one of my favorite things to see. Here Despaigne takes matters into his own hands, literally. The matter being the ball, of course. He runs from the mound and dives for a ball in the infield to make the out. You'd never see that in the AL.