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Today in Blue Jays history: Shea Hillenbrand traded

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Seven years ago today the Jays traded Shea Hillenbrand Time flies when you are following a pretty average team.


It was 7 years ago today (really? that long ago?) that the Toronto Blue Jays traded Shea Hillenbrand and Vinnie Chulk to the San Francisco Giants, getting Jeremy Accardo back.

Jeremy was our closer for the 2007 season, picking up 30 saves (and people wonder why folks say the save stat overrated). After that there were some injury problems and some crappy pitching troubles. He spent parts of 5 seasons with the Jays, putting up a 3.67 ERA, with 35 saves in 72 games, 139.2 innings, 57 walks and 97 strikeouts. Since then 4 different teams have tried to see if he could regain ability that allowed him to rack up 30 saves.

Hillenbrand finished out the 2006 season with the Giants, hitting .251/.270/.330 for them and then went on to play for the Angels and the Dodgers, the next season, hitting much the same. It turned out to be the right moment to trade Shea. Chulk was ok for the Giants for parts of the next 3 seasons, having a 4.29 ERA in 112 games, 107 innings, 37 walks, 82 strikeouts. He went on to Cleveland and pitched in a handful of games for the Brewers in 2012.

But the trade wasn't the real story.

As you all likely remember, a couple of days before the trade, someone wrote on the clubhouse bulletin board "play for yourself" and the "sink was sinking". That someone turned out to be our friend Shea. Shea wasn't happy. After being a full time player in 2005, splitting time between first, third and DH. He was playing less in 2006, and mostly at DH. The team had picked up Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay in the previous off-season. Shea wasn't the greatest of guys and a drop in playing time didn't help his personality. Then teammate Gregg Zaun called him a cancer in the clubhouse. Zaun said that he told the team:

"In our players' meeting I did tell the entire group, 'Do not let your personality be dictated by whether or not you're in the lineup every day,'"

So, Shea writes that on the board and once-and-future manager John Gibbons was a little less than pleased. He challenged Shea to a fight. Now there is leadership for you. In reality, he had put up with way too much crap from Hillenbrand before that.

Clearly, Shea had to go and, considering he had to be traded, J.P. Ricciardi got a pretty decent return. The Jays would go on to finish with a 87-75 record (wouldn't we love this season to 'sink' to that record), good for 2nd place in the AL East, 10 games behind the Yankees. We haven't made it to 87 wins since.

Gibbons would continue to manage the Blue Jays until about the mid-point of the 2008 season, but that moment was the memorable moment of his first tour with the team.