clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Top 40 All-Time Greatest Blue Jays: #34 Damaso Garcia

Damaso Domingo Garcia Sanchez | 2B | 1980-1986 | Career Stats | Two All-Star Appearances (1984 & 1985)

Top 10 Toronto Blue Jays Batting Ranks (min. 2000 PA):

In order to make this list, a player must, at minimum, fulfil one of two requirements: 1) be great for a short period of time or 2) achieve longevity with the Blue Jays. For the most part, Damaso Garcia, the 34th greatest Blue Jay of all time, is on this list because he fulfilled the latter. Sure, he was a two-time all-star, but the 86 OPS+ he posted during his time with the Blue Jays does not reflect greatness, regardless of the dearth of quality second basemen during the 1980s.

Garcia, who was signed by the Yankees when he was 19, made his major league debut in 1978 at the age of 23. At that time, perennial all-star Willie Randolph was the Yankees' second baseman, which meant Garcia had to ride the pine for two seasons. As a result, the Yankees traded Garcia, Chris Chambliss, and Paul Mirabella for Tom Underwood, Rick Cerone, and Ted Wilborn. Chambliss was traded to Atlanta a month later, while Mirabella was either injured or ineffective during his time with the Jays. In 1979, Toronto's primary second basemen, Danny Ainge and Dave Mckay, put up putrid OPS+ totals of 50 and 44, respectively. As a result, Garcia was handed the starting job in 1980, which he would hold on to until 1986.

Garcia came out of the gate swinging, as he only walked 12 times 140 games. Although he possessed a great deal of speed, he hadn't yet developed good baserunning skills. In fact, the entire team seemed to lack that skill, as they were only successful on 48.2% (67 of 139) of their stolen base attempts. If you're wondering why manager Bobby Mattick caused the team to squander runs by continually sending runners, you're not alone.

During the 1981 strike-shortened season, Garcia fell victim to the dreadful sophomore slump. Fortunately, however, there were some positive signs to be excavated from the rubble. He managed to increase to his walk rate (which was still much too low, mind you) and he showed a marked improvement in his baserunning ability, increasing his SB% from a subpar 50% the year before to a very respectable 81%.

In a way, the Blue Jays' situation mirrored Garcia's. They were young, had struggled up till that point, and were coming off a very disappointing season. However, much like Garcia, there were signs that hinted at future sucess. For one, the team had accumulated a good core of young players whom they could build around; Garcia, George Bell, Lloyd Moseby, Willie Upshaw, Dave Stieb, and Luis Leal were all under the age of twenty-five and full of promise. Additionally, Bobby Cox, now considered to be a member of the inner-circle of all-time great managers, was hired as the team's new manager prior to the 1982 season. The future, both the team's and Garcia's, looked bright indeed.

During the next four seasons, the Blue Jays were very competitive with Garcia firmly planted as the everyday second baseman. Despite enjoying his career years in 1982 and 1983, Garcia enjoyed all-star berths in 1984 and 1985. Amazingly, his OPS+ total was never higher than 86 in either season. Unlike today, however, middle infielders were offensive afterthoughts who depended on their defensive ability to stay in the lineup. For instance, here are the OPS+ totals of the starting AL second basemen from 1984, the first season Garcia was an all-star:

Of those players, Whitaker and Garcia were the lone all-stars that season. Garcia's inclusion is suspect, especially considering his defense was subpar throughout most of his career. With that said, he certainly wasn't a liability relative to the other AL second basemen at the time. Instead, the Blue Jays' other starting middle infielder, Alfredo Griffin (48 OPS+), certainly cost the team a few much needed victories. Amazingly, Griffin was an all-star in 1984, which is further proof that all-star appearances should not be taken all that seriously.

After another Garcia-like season in 1986, he was traded along with pitcher Luis Leal to Atlanta in exchange for pitcher Craig McMurtry. Neither team came out on top in this deal, since Garcia was atrocious during the few games he played with Atlanta, and neither Leal nor McMurtry pitched a single inning for their respective team.

Garcia went on to play for the Expos during 1989, but his career was cut short when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. Garcia immediately underwent surgery and an extensive chemotherapy program, but the outlook was not optimistic: according to his doctors, he had only six months to live. Fortunately, the operation and subsequent treatments were successful, and despite some physical effects (i.e. a limited ability to speak), he's able to lead a normal life.

Since his playing days, Garcia and his wife have launched programs to aid children with hemophilia, a disease with which his son Damaso Alejandro is afflicted. It's helped fans see him in a different light, for he was often seen as surly and unmanageable as a player. For instance, he once said, "I don't like to walk and I don't like to bunt." In fact, he once hit a single on a pitchout. However, his most well-known act of rebellion occurred in 1986, when he burned his jersey in the clubhouse following a lackluster effort.

A few memorable feats:


  •    
  • First Blue Jay to steal 50 bases in a season
  • First Blue Jay to record 1000 hits with the club
  • Had a 21-game hitting streak in 1983 and a 20-game hitting streak in 1982
  • Hit four doubles against the New York Yankees on June 27, 1986

Thanks to baseballlibrary.com for providing a bunch of interesting info about Damaso Garcia and many other players