A durable, consistent starter, Benes relied on a hard fastball and a shaky slider to post 10 seasons of double-digit win totals, including a career best 18-10 for the 1996 NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals. After making his name as Padre over the first five years of his career, Benes spent his best two season in St. Louis before a contract dispute sent him to Arizona. The years in exile were not good to him, and he returned home to St. Looey in 2000 to spend the next two years pitching with decreasing effectiveness.
Benes broke in with San Diego in 1991 and earned an All-Star berth two years later by posting a 15-15 record for the lowly Pods. Although he never exhibited the kind of dominance that leads to 200-K seasons, Benes did manage to lead the NL in that category during the strike-shortened 1994 season with 179 punch-outs.
After a brief stint in Seattle, Benes went to the Cardinals as a free agent and had the best two years of his career as the club made playoff runs in 1996 and 1997. He loved St. Louis so much that he bought a home there and announced to the press that he would finish his career a Redbird.
Unfortunately, a contract struggle left a bad taste in Benes’ mouth, and he left after the ’97 season to sign a two-year, $12 million deal with the expansion Diamondbacks. Struggling badly for Arizona in 1998 with a 4.81 ERA, Benes never lived up to expectations or his salary, and had to suffer the ignominy of being left off the post-season roster after an even worse season in 1999. Declining the third-year option on his contract, Benes signed a new deal with the Cardinals in 2000. But age had slowed his fastball from its customary mid-90s velocity, and though he still accumulated 12 wins his ERA was an unimpressive 4.88.
The 2001 campaign was even worse as his ERA soared above seven and he failed to collect 10 wins for the first time since 1994. Benes’ slow, straight fastball was meat for hungry bats and he became a frequent longball victim, becoming the 17th pitcher in major league history to give up four homers in an inning on July 23.