By David Israel
In the ongoing search for baseball oddities, one bit of trivia remains stuck in the mind of many Padres fans – the Tour De NL West. Both Steve Finley and Matt Herges completed the tour, and with the signing of Jon Garland to the Rockies, presuming he starts a game, I was reminded of the phenomenon. It raised the question: What other divisions, if any, have played host to a player who has played for each team within the division?
Woe Doctor! was kind enough to start my research, stating
@itsdis Oh, my bad. I think Mark McLemore played for all AL West teams. Think Gene Nelson did, too – or missed by one team (realignment).
— Woe, Doctor! (@woedoctor) March 25, 2013
My parameters were the divisions as they were aligned from 1998 until 2012, with the addition of the Rays and Rockies, and the Brewer’s move to the NL Central. A soft parameter of 1994 (the expansion from two divisions to three, with the addition of the wild card) was also used.
He was correct; both men played for all four AL West teams. Mark McLemore started with the Angels in 1986 (before the current division alignment) but makes the cut, having completed the Tour during the 2004 season with the A’s. Gene Nelson played on all four of the AL West teams using my parameters, but his service time was between 1981 and 1993, when the AL West contained Minnesota, Chicago, Texas, Oakland, Seattle, Kansas City, and the Angels. As such, Gene Nelson failed to complete the Tour.
The other divisions were checked using the Baseball Reference multi-franchise tool; surprisingly, no other division has had a player compete for each team. There are, however, some notable players one team away. David Wells, another former Padre, was never a Ray, but played for the rest of the AL East, thanks to his 1996 season in Baltimore. Jose Canseco was never a Blue Jay, but his 2000 split between Tampa and the Yankees got him close.
Other players with long careers spanning many teams were surprisingly far away. Octavio Dotel, having played for 13 teams, has not played for more than 3 teams in any division (AL Central – Royals, White Sox, and Tigers; NL Central – Astros, Pirates, Cardinals). Rickey Henderson played for three AL East teams, but only two of the AL and NL West divisions.
While the Padres were heavily involved in the Tour De NL West, starting Finley’s tour and housing his most productive years, despite a longer tenure on the Diamondbacks. Alas, we were the only team to keep Brent Mayne from joining the illustrious club…but aren’t we looking for a backup catcher for 50 games?
David Israel can be found on Twitter at @ItsDis, or advocating for the Padres victory song to be Buck-O-Nine’s ‘My Town’, anywhere. But that’s a post for another day.