- Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 36.80 (18/49/49)
- Seasons: 2005-2009
- Stats with Arizona: 396 games, .255/.330/.520, 113 OPS+, 1.7 bWAR
- Best season: 2005- 130 games, .304/.366/.636, 154 OPS+, 3.4 bWAR
Before he was the Executive Director of the MLBPA, Tony Clark was a 6’ 8” switch hitting first baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was signed as a free agent after the abysmal 2004 season with little expected outside of the veteran “presents” he could offer to a young roster. After the failed Richie Sexson experiment, Bob Melvin had no clear option at first base. The team had Chad Tracy and Conor Jackson, but the former was only entering his second major league season while the latter had yet to appear in the bigs. Chad Tracy would get the Opening Day nod, but both Tracy and Clark would go on to share an equal amount of playing time at first during the 2005 season.
As it would be, 2005 was arguably Tony Clark’s best season despite his limited playing time. He had better accumulation statistics in seasons prior, but on a per plate appearance basis it was one of his most productive. Bob Melvin had a knack for running out a different lineup nearly everyday being dubbed later on as the “mad scientist” by Mark Grace and Daron Sutton. Tony Clark did not have a huge difference in his platoon splits depending on which side of the plate he took his at bat, so his versatility as a switch hitter played well to Bob Melvin’s day to day lineup strategy. His strong performance that season contributed to a 26 win improvement by the 2005 Diamondbacks who finished 2nd at 77-85 in a weak National League West, and Clark was ultimately named as the team’s Most Valuable Player. Jim noted in 2014 that Tony Clark was the first player since Mark McGwire in 2000 to hit at least 30 home runs in less than 350 plate appearances.
2006 was essentially a lost season for Tony Clark as he tried to play through a significant shoulder injury until he eventually underwent season ending surgery. Then 2007 happened, and with that entertaining and successful season (measured in the form of reaching the postseason) Clark coined the term “Anybody. Anytime.” The team would use that phrase as a marketing push to sell tickets for the playoffs. For those who don’t quite remember, new age wisdom would tell us that the 2007 Diamondbacks, a team that had been outscored by their opposition over the course of the season, should not have made the playoffs. However, as Tony Clark had put it the players on that roster, no matter who it was, found any way they could to come through and deliver a victory. Tony was able to put that characteristic into words and truly demonstrates the leadership he brought to young Diamondback rosters during his time here. Much of that leadership ability allowed him to be a player representative in the Players Union, and certainly contributed to him being named the Executive Director in 2013.
“Obviously, he’s a veteran guy and he’s a lot more superior to us as far as baseball,” [Chris] Young said. “But he doesn’t treat us like that. He treats us just like a friend. I can talk to him about anything.”
Clark was a free agent at the conclusion of the 2007 season and signed a one year deal with the San Diego Padres. With the Diamondbacks looking to return to the postseason for a second season in a row, General Manager Josh Byrnes decided his veteran “presents” was needed once again and was able to reacquire him in a trade. An interesting side note, Tony Clark waived a provision in his contract that would have required San Diego to pay him an additional $500,000 for being traded in order to facilitate the deal. The Players Union had spoken against players walking away from money that they had negotiated in their contracts previously, so it is perplexing that a player with close ties to the union would do so himself. He never really produced in a meaningful way on the field again upon rejoining the Diamondbacks, signing another one year deal with the team for the 2009 season, being more of a mentor for younger players and an extension of the coaching staff. There was desire from the team to keep him around in either a front office or broadcasting capacity, but his path would take him towards his current role with the Union as noted above.