Loretta, R. Alomar top the list of Padres second basemen

Only Gwynn had more hits, higher average in a season than Loretta

Loretta, R. Alomar top the list of Padres second basemen

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Second base hasn't exactly been a position of strength for the Padres over the years.

Thirty-one different players have opened the season as the Padres second baseman. Tim Flannery is the only player ever to start more than 500 games at second as a Padre - and he was never the Padres second baseman on Opening Day.

So in picking my five best Padres second basemen of all-time, I went with quality of quantity with one exception . . . Flannery.

The top spot was close and I went with Mark Loretta over Hall of famer Roberto Alomar, based on what they did in three seasons with the Padres.

1.MARK LORETTA (2003-2005): In three seasons with the Padres, Loretta hit .314 with 32 homers and 186 RBIs with a .377 on-base percentage and .438 slugging percentage. The batting average is the second-highest career mark in Padres history among players with at least 1,500 plate appearances. During the Padres first season at Petco Park, Loretta had one of the top offensive seasons in franchise history - hitting .335 with 208 hits, 47 doubles, 16 homers, 76 RBIs and 108 runs scored. And at home, at a time that Petco Park was cavernous, Loretta hit .295 at home with 11 home runs. He represented the Padres in the 2004 All-Star Game and won the Silver Slugger Award for National League second basemen. The 208 hits and .335 average are the best single-season totals ever by a Padre not named Tony Gwynn - and, respectively, the fifth and eighth-best marks in Padres history. The doubles are the franchise's second-highest single-season total. Loretta, who signed as a free agent with the Padres on Dec. 16, 2002, hit .325 over his first two seasons with a Padre and was hitting over .300 again two months into the 2005 season when he suffered a thumb injury and finished the season with a .280 average. Loretta was traded to the Red Sox on Dec. 7, 2005, for catcher Doug Mirabelli. Loretta is not a Special Assistant in Baseball Operations for the Padres.

2.ROBBIE ALOMAR (1988-90): Signed by the Padres in 1985 at the age of 17 - when the Padres were at the forefront of Latin American scouting - the Puerto Rico native debuted at the age of 20 when he father Sandy was the Padres first base coach. Robbie, of course, went onto have a Hall of Fame career. But he spent his first three Major League seasons with the Padres, hitting .283 with 22 homers and 157 RBIs with a .339 on-base percentage and a .379 slugging percentage. He had 90 steals in the three seasons and scored 246 runs. His WAR as a Padre was 12.1 and slightly higher than Loretta's 11.3. Alomar was also a sensational glove as a young Padre. But he was not the offensive force that Loretta was in the same time span. The Padres traded Alomar and outfielder Joe Carter to Toronto after the 1990 season for shortstop Tony Fernandez and first baseman Fred McGriff. Robbie's younger brother Sandy Alomar Jr. also originally signed with the Padres before he was part of a 1989 trade to Cleveland for Carter.

3.QUILVIO VERAS (1997-1999): The speedy, switch-hitter batted lead-off for the Padres 1998 National League champions and batted .267 with a .373 on-base percentage and 79 runs scored. In three seasons with the Padres, Veras hit .270 with 15 homers, 87 steals and 248 runs and a .366 on-base percentage. He also stole 87 bases. Veras' 399 games over three seasons are the fourth-highest total for a Padres second baseman. His WAR as a Padres second baseman was 5.7. But the fact that he was a key part of the 1998 National League winners boosts Veras' value. On Dec. 22, 1999, Veras, first baseman Wally Joyner and outfielder Reggie Smith were traded to the Atlanta Braves for second baseman Bret Boone and first baseman-outfielder Ryan Klesko.

4.TIM FLANNERY (1979-89): Although he was never the Padres' Opening Day starter at second, the versatile Flannery played in 542 of his career total 972 games at second. A Padre his entire playing career - and then for seven seasons (1996-2002) as a Padres coach - Flannery hit .259 with two homers and 126 RBIs as a second baseman. He had a career .341 on-base percentage as a second baseman. Overall, Flannery hit .255 as a Padre with nine homers and 209 RBIs with a 9.2 WAR as a utility player. A fan favorite with the Padres, Flannery's best seasons with the Padres came when he shared second base with Jerry Royster in 1985-86 (.281, four homers, 68 RBIs in 752 at-bats) - leading to the composite player being called Timry Flanster.

5.ALAN WIGGINS (1981-85): This is my No. 5 over a group that included recently-traded Jedd Gyorko (.236, 49 homers, 171 RBIs), Bip Roberts (288 starts at second with a .298 batting average, .361 on-base percentage over seven seasons as a Padres utility player) and Eckstein. Drafted off the Dodgers roster in the 1980 Rule 5 draft, Wiggins played outfield and first base as a Padre before being converted to second. The result was one of the most dynamic seasons in franchise history for a player whose career was soon cut short due to off-the-field problems. Playing second and leading off in 1984, Wiggins hit .258 with a .342 on-base percentage for then franchise-record 106 runs scored. The exciting sprinter also set a still-standing, franchise-record 70 bases after stealing 66 in 1983. Wiggins set the table for the Padres first National League champions. When leading off a game, Wiggins hit .309 with a .375 on-base percentage with 33 runs scored. His WAR in his too-short career as a Padre was 7.7.