Padres Add Caminiti to Hall of Fame

Although flawed, his impact on San Diego baseball cannot be denied

NBC 7’s Derek Togerson looks at the newest addition to the Padres Hall of Fame in this commentary

I loved watching Ken Caminiti play baseball. His grit, his toughness, his no-BS attitude … all are essential to a winning team. He was Jason Varitek or Thurman Munson, the one guy in the clubhouse nobody else would ever DARE to question.

It’s rare that a man who only spent four seasons with a franchise ends up in that club’s Hall of Fame. But it may be rarer still for a man to have the impact Caminiti did in four seasons with the San Diego Padres.

He set the tone for a pair of division titles and a World Series appearance. He won an MVP Award with a torn rotator cuff. He scared the daylights out of anyone who even thought about loafing or taking a day off or not giving it his all.

It was borderline impossible to get Ken Caminiti out of the lineup. He endeared himself to fans by playing hurt, personifying the image of an athletic warrior. For those reasons alone Ken Caminiti will always have a spot on the hearts of Padres fans.

Ken Caminiti was also a cheater, and that is what makes his inclusion in the Padres Hall of Fame so interesting.

Caminiti was open about his steroid use, especially during his 1996 MVP year. He was certainly not alone. Baseball was riddled with performance-enhancing drugs even though steroids were added to the league’s list of banned substances in 1991. For some reason it took MLB a decade to realize it doesn’t do much good to make something illegal if you don’t test for it.

Padres fans have vilified other cheaters. Barry Bonds was ridiculed mercilessly when he came to San Diego, and rightfully so. The question, then, is why is it OK to beat down a steroid user on another team but raise up a steroid user on your own team?

I think the reason is Cammy admitted what he did. He didn’t hide from it and Americans are a forgiving lot as long as we feel like we’re not being lied to. If you’re up front with us, there’s a good chance you’ll be back in good graces eventually. That’s why guys like Bonds and Roger Clemens are still looked down upon. They simply refuse to admit any wrongdoing and we’re going to hold it against them until they fess up.

At the end of the day (and Cammy’s days tragically ended far too soon) the essence of the man wins out. Ken Caminiti had a good heart that was tortured by personal demons, something we all have to battle in some way. I’m not condoning his taking banned substances to get an edge. But every team that has a Hall of Fame adds players based on what those players did for the franchise and what they meant to the fans and the city in which he played.

It’s not so much based on numbers as it is on impact and there is no question that the impact Ken Caminiti had on San Diego baseball is worthy of being immortalized in the Padres Hall of Fame. Steroids or not Ken Caminiti would have been in charge of that clubhouse. He was the heart and soul of the best Padres teams of all time. That kind of leadership comes from the soul, not the body, and no steroid can ever enhance the soul.

Welcome the Hall, Cammy.

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