On Sunday, Air Force One landed in Cuba, bringing a sitting US president to Havana for the first time in nearly 90 years. It's a landmark moment in a tense history with our island neighbor, signalling a softening of hostilities that dates back to the Eisenhower administration. But as Padres fans, what we all really want to know is what it means for the future of Cubans in baseball. Well, this afternoon the Tampa Bay Rays will take the field against the Cuban National Team in Havana, and President Obama will be in attendance.
Cuban players are becoming a more common sight in big league games, but they're still a relative rarity, with 193 to have ever called the island home. Just eight of them were Padres, and some of them were pretty forgettable.
Eddy Rodriguez, 2 games, 2012
The 2012 team was a dumpster fire of epic proportions, as the team relied on fifteen different starting pitchers over the course of the season. What you probably don't remember is Eddy Rodriguez getting his one and only cup of coffee. He caught two games in early August, going 1-for-5 in seven plate appearances. That one hit was a doozy, though. He hit a solo homer off of Johnny Cueto.
Eddie Oropesa, 16 games, 2004
Eddie Oropesa is about as notable as the other Edd(y/ie) on this list, but he played on the 87-75 team, which gives him a leg up. On the other hand, he played much worse, giving up eleven runs in the nine innings he pitched for the third place finishers. There's a reason he was released by the team that September.
Odrisamer Despaigne, 50 games, 2014-2015
This is a name you definitely know, just because he played here so recently. His 2014 Major League debut went well, as he showed the potential to be a reliable fifth starter with a 3.36 ERA. Last year, he swung between the rotation and the bullpen and put up considerably worse numbers. But he does have one more hit than Eddy Rodriguez.
Tony Gonzalez, 53 games, 1969
One of two Cubans on the very first major league roster for the Padres, Tony Gonzalez spent most of his time in left field. His offense suffered in his time here, as he hit a career-worst .225 for the Friars. He was sent to Atlanta that June, where he fared much better.
Yasmani Grandal, 216 games, 2012-2014
Another more recent Friar, Yasmani Grandal saw parts of three seasons at Petco before getting shipped to LA as part of the Matt Kemp deal. His debut in 2012 was impressive, as he hit .297 with 8 homers in 60 games. His followup seasons, however, were marred by injuries and a drug suspension. He looked like he might have regained that form with the Dodgers last summer, but a bad August and disastrous September put a serious tarnish on his year.
Jose Arcia, 234 games, 1969-1970
As the other Cuban to be part of the inaugural Padres team, Jose Arcia lasted significantly longer, but he was, well, not very good. His batting average hovered just above the Mendoza Line, he couldn't draw a walk to save his life, and, perhaps most damning, he was a middle infielder who couldn't field. He committed 16 errors at shortstop, 8 at second, 5 at third, and a lone error in his single game at first. That's one error in every eight games. Dark times.
Tito Fuentes, 281 games, 1975-1976
Tito Fuentes was traded to the Padres by the rival Giants before the 1975 season, and spent two years as the team's starting second baseman. He wasn't particularly impressive at the plate, and didn't look much better at second, where he outdid Arcia with an astonishing 48 errors. This is what Randy Jones had to work with, folks.
Yonder Alonso, 439 games, 2012-2015
Yonder came to San Diego with fellow Cuban and University of Miami teammate Yasmani Grandal in the Mat Latos trade. As you're probably well aware, he had an average bat that never developed the power to the gaps fans hoped for, but he was an immaculate first baseman. What sealed his fate was a combination of his frequent injuries and the potential the team saw in Wil Myers at first last year. Still, unlike several other players on this list, Alonso should have a decent future in baseball for years to come.
If you're interested in more coverage of today's game, check out our sister site DRays Bay. They've got the hookup for you.