In an era where the term GOAT (Greatest of All Time) is frequently thrown around, one man is usually left out of the conversation. Tony Gwynn easily makes one of the strongest cases to be in the conversation of the greatest baseball player of all time.
Gwynn batted plus .300 in every season of his career but his rookie year, giving him a record 19 straight seasons above .300. His batting average (.338) lands him 19th all-time. 16 of the 18 men ahead of Gwynn on the all time batting average list died before he began his professional career. Bill Terry (ranked 15th) passed in 1989, and the other player ahead of Gwynn on the all time list to live while he played was Ted Williams (8th), who passed in 2002.
Another impressive stat by the Baseball Hall of Fame player is Gwynn only struck out three times in a game once in his career. Thinking about that stat is mind boggling. Today players strike out at alarming rates throughout the season and their careers. Gwynn struck out only 434 times in his entire 20 year career, which is an average of 21.7 K's per season.
To understand how incredible Gwynn's strike out numbers are, here is a comparison with Mike Trout. A player many consider the greatest active player in MLB, a three-time MVP, Rookie of the Year, 8x All-Star, and 7x Silver Slugger, struck out 184 times in 2014. A year he won the MVP award. In his entire nine career he has struck out 1118 times.
Mookie Betts is another top tier ball player in today's game. In his six years playing in the majors, he has 464 strike outs, which is among the fewest, but in his MVP season in 2018, Betts struck out 91 times.
Gwynn's hitting talents were on full display when he stood at the plate with two strikes. The former San Diego Padre batted .302 with two strikes in his 20-year career.
These stats are remarkable and unseen anymore. Fans today will argue that pitchers are bigger and stronger, which equates to better pitching, making batting more difficult.
According to MLB.com, Gwynn faced Greg Maddox 107 times in his career batting .415/.476/.521 against the four-time Cy Young Award winner and Hall of Famer. Among any of the 38 pitchers he faced at least 50 times, his lowest average is a .243 mark against Dwight Gooden. Gwynn also batted at least .300 versus 32 of those 38 pitchers, including Tom Glavine, Nolan Ryan, John Smoltz and Orel Hershiser.
Still not convinced he faced quality pitching, including postseason play, Gwynn faced 18 Hall of Fame pitchers for a total of 541 plate appearances. Gwynn batted .331/.371/.426 against these pitchers in what is equivalent to a full season of at bats exclusively against Hall of Famers.
This past Saturday, Tony Gwynn SR. would have celebrated his 60 birthday, which got me thinking why aren't his baseball cards sought after more by the younger generation, who are fascinated by numbers and elite players.
As a fan of sports history, this 15x All-Star, 5x Gold Glover, 7x Silver Slugger, 8x Battling title champion and Baseball Hall of Famer is one of a kind with hidden gem investment written all over him. Several cards embrace his signature, which increases the value of the cards. People always ask who should you invest in to build a sports card collection. If I were them, I'd start gobbling up the rare cards of Tony Gwynn that are trickling across the market.
Visit SMR Collectibles website and eBay store to view the widest collection of Tony Gwynn cards for sale.
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