I want to send Michael Saunders to the All-Star Game. And I need your help.
I know, I know, he’s not the league-wide household name like his teammates Jose Bautista or Josh Donaldson. He wasn’t a perennial all-star with his previous team, like Troy Tulowitzki. And he isn’t an energetic fan favourite like Marcus Stroman, or his fellow outfielder Kevin Pillar.
As for me, I may not be Don Cherry, who campaigned like mad (and successfully!) to earn Donaldson a starting spot last year. But I think I have a good case to make nevertheless.
I adore Jose Bautista. Anyone who knows me knows this. Bautista totally deserves to be in the ASG, you can vote for both of them and I encourage you to do so! However, Bautista’s foot is currently hurt and it’s likely that he will not have recovered by the All-Star Break. So if he has to bow out due to injury again, let’s try and sneak Saunders up in the voting to replace him! He’s a great candidate, and here’s why.
Firstly: His performance. Only one Blue Jay has hit three home runs in the same game this year. It wasn’t Josh Donaldson, and it wasn’t Edwin Encarnacion. It wasn’t Jose Bautista, either. I think you know where I’m going with this. Just in case you’d forgotten his performance, here’s a video reminder:
As of June 23rd, Saunders has the highest batting average of the Blue Jays’ everyday players, the second-highest on-base percentage (OBP), by far the highest slugging percentage (SLG) and highest on-base plus slugging (OPS), at .967. He has the third-most hits, third-most home runs, and is tied for the most doubles.
What’s more impressive is that he has the fifth-highest OPS in all of baseball out of qualified players, and the highest among outfielders. He’s currently third in the AL in slugging alone – trailing only behind David Ortiz and Manny Machado, which is pretty good company to be in. His average – .304 – is good for twelfth among all American League hitters.
This is not what anyone expected to see of the Michael Saunders who was traded from the Mariners. That was a guy who had a career-high nineteen home runs in a single season, and a career average of .231. He’s already hit fifteen homers in 2016, and it’s not even July yet. His OPS from his time with Seattle was .685, which is just slightly more than two-thirds his OPS from this year. That’s absolutely nuts. It seems like there’s nothing he can’t hit, and no pitcher he can’t hit (a left-handed hitter, he’s hit for more power against lefties than he has against right-handed pitching).
There have been article after article written about his unprecedented evolution at the plate. These links compile a more thorough statistical profile than what I’ve listed above. But you don’t have to read them all to understand one thing – he’s been amazing.
Secondly: He’s one of us. I’m going to appeal to your patriotic side for a moment, here. How often do Canadians proudly lay claim to athletes and celebrities alike? No matter where they go, or what they do in their careers, we’re proud of our own. Saunders knows this. He grew up here, idolizing and cheering on the team he now plays for. If you go back to any interview from spring training, or early last season after he came over from the Mariners, his eagerness to play for the Jays is clear. Plus, consider this – he nearly had his chance to play in Blue Jays blue ripped away from him not once, but twice.
Last year, through a freak accident, a sprinkler head on a training field in Dunedin destroyed his knee and left him to play just nine games over the whole season. Much like teammate Devon Travis, he had to watch the playoff race and the postseason excitement from the dugout instead of being able to take part. Among all that excitement, he was overlooked by many fans (including yours truly). We nearly forgot about him. Which was, admittedly, kind of rude of us. So wouldn’t voting him into the ASG the perfect way to say ‘sorry’, as well as ‘thank you’?
Then this past spring, once he’d finally regained strength in his knee and was able to rejoin the team, he nearly got traded. Think about that. The team you’ve wanted to play for since you were little, suddenly deciding they don’t want you anymore. Before you even got a chance to show them what you could do. Through some stroke of luck, the trade didn’t go through and afterward Saunders told GM Ross Atkins it would be ‘the best trade he never made’. So far, he’s definitely lived up to that promise.
So let me ask you one question. Who better to represent the Blue Jays than a Canadian who’s been hitting out of his mind?
Saunders is a free agent at the end of the season. If he keeps on hitting the way he is now, I’d be more than happy to see him stick around for 2017 and beyond. However, there will probably be a lot of other teams that come knocking. He might be ASG-worthy for many years to come. This also might be the only chance we get to have him represent us.
Remember, if you want to see any Blue Jays at the ASG in July, you only have until next Thursday, June 30th at midnight. You can vote up to 5 times per day, up to a total of 35 times. So get voting!
Click here to go to the ASG voting page.
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