One current Padres pitcher and three former position players celebrate birthdays today. Of course, by the time Opening Day comes around, there might be four former Friars born on December 20. There's no telling what AJ Preller is apt to do, the market for starting pitching has been strong all offseason, and there have been rumors regarding James Shields swirling around.
But for now, James Shields is celebrating his thirty-fourth birthday while still a member of the Padres. The top free agent acquisition by Preller before last season, Shields didn't have that great of a year by his standards, but I can't really say anything, because I didn't have that great of a year by anybody's standards. The big right-hander did exceed 200 innings pitched for the ninth season in a row, but he did post a 1.334 WHIP in that time, which was his second-worst in any full season. This was aided by a career-worst 3.6 walks per nine innings, which, paired with his career-best 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings, suggests an entirely founded lack of faith in the defense behind him. Keeping the ball out of play didn't work out all that well for him, as his 4.45 FIP was the worst he has posted in any of his ten years in the bigs.
Born one year before Shields, catcher Luke Carlin got the lion's share of his major league playing time with the dismal 2008 Padres team. The rookie backstop fit right in, batting .149/ .238/ .234 in 105 plate appearances over 36 games, both of which would prove to be career highs by far. He has since gotten into 10 games with the Diamondbacks in 2009, and 10 more with Cleveland, split between 2010 and '12. He's still plugging away, serving as a backup catcher in AAA, most recently with the Cubs organization.
Seventeen-year major league veteran Oscar Gamble, who turns 66 today, spent one of those seasons in San Diego. Signed as a free agent prior to the 1978 season following a year in which he hit 31 homers for the White Sox, Gamble showed drops in every slash-line category, and hit just seven home runs in a comparable number of at-bats. After the season he was sent to Texas in a trade that brought Kurt Bevacqua to the Padres for the first time. Gamble kept playing through the 1985 season, but it's his hair he's best remembered for.
Kindly remove your cap to celebrate Oscar Gamble's bday. pic.twitter.com/5LXAaoniWb— Batting Stance Guy (@BattingStanceG) December 20, 2015
The oldest member of the Padres' December 20 Club is infielder Don Mason. The freshly minted 71-year old came to San Diego via trade before the 1971 season after spending his first five years in the majors on the Giants' bench. Mason promptly set career highs in games, plate appearances, at-bats, doubles, and home runs (with two). Those 113 games were nearly a third of the 336 he participated in during his eight seasons, and his slash line of .212/ .270/ .270 was basically in line with his career showing of .205/ .278/ .250. Mason played in 17 more games with the Padres over the next two seasons, and retired for good after a final 16 contests with the Friars' AAA affiliate in Hawaii in 1974.
Tomorrow's birthdays include a pair of uninspiring relievers, a light-hitting infielder, a draft disappointment, and a strong contender for biggest jerk to ever play the game, along with a recent minor league signing with major league time under his belt who has yet to suit up for the Padres. Just describing them may have talked me out of writing about them. I guess we'll see, won't we?