Happy New Year to all of our Blue Jays from Away readers! Yes, I know we’re about a week late in wishing you cheer for the new year, but things are a bit crazy! Lots of traveling (although we got back to Toronto just in time for -18 degree weather) and moving apartments kept me busy to start the new year but with a fractional amount of news, we’ll bring some of that to you!
The first bit of news that everyone is talking about isn’t the Randy Carlyle firing, it’s the Hall of Fame selection. Several players with Blue Jays connection (and Expos connections) were on the ballot this year and two former Expos were selected to have their plaques made and placed in the shrine at Cooperstown.
Gaining entry were Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. Johnson had an almost unanimous selection, showing up on 534 (or 97.3%) of the ballots (75% is necessary for selection). Pedro Martinez earned 91.1% of the votes (500 votes) while John Smoltz was elected by getting 82.9% of the votes (455). All three were selected in their first year of eligibility while Craig Biggio got 82.7% (454) of the votes to gain entry in his third year on the ballot.
Johnson, the big lefty who was incredibly dominant, was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the second round of the 1985 draft and made his debut in 1988 with a strong beginning to his career. He was traded in 1989 to the Seattle Mariners for Mark Langston as a 25-year-old. Johnson had the reputation for wildness and proceeded to prove his critics right (for a while), leading the AL in walks in three years straight from 1990 to 1992 (with totals of 120, 152 and 144 — you thought Ricky Romero walked a lot of batters) but he also struck out 194, 228 and 241 (to lead the AL) in those same three years. After 1993, Johnson figured out his control and became one of the best left-handed pitchers ever, posting a record of 303-166 with a 3.29 ERA and a whopping 4875 strikeouts (including six seasons topping 300) while walking 1497 batters in 4135 1/3 innings over his 22-year career.
Pedro Martinez managed to pitch a little more for the Expos in his 18-year career but Pedro was limited to 2827 1/3 innings over his years thanks to injuries that kept him from making a full season’s worth of starts many times. Signed by the L.A. Dodgers in 1988 (by the same team that signed his older brother, Ramon), he was traded to the Expos in 1993 for Delino DeShields. This move was something that Pedro fans loved because the Dodgers, at the time, had the reputation (under manager Tommy Lasorda) of blowing out pitchers’ arms. Included in his tremendous career was four seasons of stardom in Montreal in which Pedro went 55-33 with a 3.06 ERA and 843 strikeouts over 797 1/3 innings. He was traded to Boston for Carl Pavano (and eventually Tony Armas) in 1997.
Two players with Expos pedigrees remain on the ballot after coming up short this year. Tim Raines got 55% of the vote in his eighth year of eligibility after a career that saw him perform at elite levels as a leadoff man in the lineup. Raines had 69.1 rWAR over his career, stealing 808 bases, and hitting .294/.385/.425. He spent his most dominant years (13 of them) as an Expo, hitting .301/.391/.437 with 635 of his stolen bases. Larry Walker, in his fifth year on the ballot, got only 11.8% of the vote despite a long career with Montreal and Colorado where he finished with a .313/.400/.565 slash line with 383 home runs. While some take away from these numbers because of the thin air of Colorado, he still hit .281/.357/.483 with 99 home runs in six years with Montreal before hitting his peak.
Two former Blue Jays remain on the ballot. Fred McGriff, the Crime Dog, came to the Blue Jays after getting traded in 1982 (while still a minor leaguer) from the Yankees for Dave Collins and Mike Morgan. He made his major league debut with the Jays in 1986 and played five years with the Blue Jays (although he only played in three games in 1986), hitting .278/.389/.530 with 125 of his 493 career home runs. McGriff got 12.9% of the vote in his sixth year of eligibility.
Jeff Kent was actually drafted by the Blue Jays in the 20th round of the 1989 draft before asserting himself (after leaving the Jays) as one of the best power-hitting second baseman of all time. Kent only played in 65 games with the Blue Jays, hitting .240/.324/.443 with eight home runs before being traded on August 27 to the New York Mets for David Cone, who helped the Jays win their first World Series. Kent went on to hit .290/.356/.500 with 377 home runs in a 17-year career that also included stops in San Francisco, Houston and with the L.A. Dodgers. Kent received 14% of the vote in his second year on the ballot.
Finally, there is Roger Clemens, holding steady with 37.5% of the vote despite being in the conversation of the best all-time pitcher. Clemens’ reputation is, of course, tainted by the PED allegations and, like Barry Bonds, doesn’t look like he’s close to being elected despite some unbelievable career numbers.
Falling off the ballot is Carlos Delgado with just 3.8% of the vote in his first year of eligibility. He might have been able to stick around longer had there been fewer candidates to vote for in this year’s ballot but he was still no more than a borderline candidate despite his career being shortened by a hip injury. Delgado, who is known for the joy with which he played the game, had a .280/.383/.546 career line with 473 home runs and he remains, after his 12 seasons with the Blue Jays, the team home run leader (and leader in many other categories) with 336.
Former Jays’ utility infielder and fan favourite John McDonald has announced his retirement. McDonald spent parts of seven years with the Blue Jays as a valuable defender and light hitter who had some brilliant moments when called for. One of the most poignant moments in the Blue Jays’ history had to be when John McDonald hit one of his 14 career home runs on Father’s Day in 2010 in tribute to his late father, Jack. We’ll miss you, Johnny Mac.
Here’s a quick Australian Baseball League update.
Jack Murphy is slugging away with 10 RBI in his last four games, thanks to a four-RBI game on January 2 (including a home run) and a six-RBI game today (January 8, yes, it’s the future in Australia) including another home run. Murphy’s slashing .364/.425/.585 with six home runs this season.
The real pleasant surprise of the Winter League is Christian Lopes who, since the New Year turned, is on fire, going hitless once in five games and having three multiple-hit games. Last weekend, January 1 – 4, Lopes 8/16 with four home runs and nine RBI, taking three walks and scoring seven times. His season slash line is .364/.416/.579 with six home runs, 24 RBI while walking 13 times and striking out only 10.
L.B. Dantzler continues to put up some solid numbers, hitting .267/.316/.425 with four home runs and 20 RBI and has only played three games since January 1, doing 4/14 with a home run and one RBI.
Anthony Alford continues to show flashes of potential. In four games since January 1, he’s 4/14 but put together a 3/4 game today with three runs, a home run, two RBI, a walk and a stolen base. He has his good games and his not so good ones but overall, with a .216/.346/.342 line, there are flashes of good and great that he will hope to build on when he gets back to North America and play (probably) with the Lansing Lugnuts.
Speaking of the Lugnuts, the club has finally announced their 2015 field staff. As we’ve reported earlier, Ken Huckaby moves up from his batting coach position to become the team’s manager for the 2015 season. John Tamargo, Jr., who was the manager for the past three seasons, has been moved up to Advanced-A Dunedin along with former pitching coach Vince Horsman. Returning as hitting coach is Kenny Graham, who held the position in 2012 and 2013 before managing the GCL Blue Jays last year while Jeff Ware moves up from Vancouver to take over Horsman’s role with the pitching staff in 2015.
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Work has started on the 2015 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook. You can still purchase The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com, now at a reduced price of $2.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!
The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $0.99 US! Get an update on how your favourite players did last season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!
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