Former Jay slugger Tony Batista turns 45 today.
In 2.5 seasons Tony hit 80 home runs for us. Batista had one massively great season, hitting 41 homers and 114 RBI in 2000. He hit .263/.307/.519.
2000 was a pretty good season for watching Jays hit home runs. Carlos Degado also had 41 home runs. Brad Fullmer and Jose Cruz hit 32 and 31 home runs respectively. And 3 others (Darrin Fletcher, Shannon Steward and Mondesi) were in the 20’s for home runs.
Batista had one of the stranger batting stances you will every see. He waited for the pitch in an extreme open stance. He basically stood facing the pitcher, then would step forward, towards the plate with his lead foot, as he started his swing. He swung hard and he didn’t worry too much if the ball was in the strike zone or not. But when he connected, the ball went a long way. I wish we had a good picture of his stance.
I’ll admit, I tried to copy his swing. First of all, if you are playing in a men’s fastball league, it drives the pitcher crazy that you are standing there looking at him. Then, getting the timing of the step towards the plate isn’t easy. Add in that following the pitch while you body is making a quarter turn adds another degree of difficulty. It didn’t take all that long for me to go back to my more Tim Wallachish stance.
When we picked him up in a trade from the Diamondbacks, in the middle of the 1999 season (along with John Frascatore for reliever Dan Plesac) he played shortstop. He wasn’t great at the position, he didn’t have much for range. The next year we moved him over to third. He still wasn’t great defensively but if you hit 41 homers, that can be overlooked.
Tony’s 2001 season didn’t start well, he was hitting .207/.251/.399 and he was making pretty good money, so the Jays put him on the waiver wire and the Orioles picked him up.
Batista had a 11 season MLB career, playing for 6 teams, including the Expos. He hit 221 home runs and drove in 718 runs with a .251/.299/.453 batting line.
Happy Birthday Tony, I hope it is a good one.
It is also Juan Samuel’s 58th birthday today.
We signed Juan as a free agent back in 1996 when he was 35 and winding down a very good MLB career. Gord Ash liked signing older former star. One of those things that drove me nuts about him, I always wanted to see the young guys get a chance.
Juan was very good at hitting left-handed pitchers and the Jays wanted him for that skill and to be kind of a DH/utility guy. He could play most of the infield spots and the corner outfield spots. He sort of platooned with Carlos Delgado at DH, until Cito was convinced that Carlos should be allowed to hit lefties too.
Samuel played 3 seasons for us, the last two mostly as a pinch hitting. He hit .252/.328/.447 with 12 home runs and 27 steals in 157 games as a Jay. He retired from baseball after the 1998 season, when he hit .18/.293/.280 in 59 PA for us.
Career he hit .259/.315/.420 with 102 home runs in a 16-year career, playing for 7 teams. He played 7 seasons with the Phillies. In his rookie season he hit .272/.307/.442 with 19 triples, 72 steals in 737 PA. The downside was a league leading 168 strikeouts (with just 28 walks). he was the prototype ‘you don’t walk off the island’ player. He came in second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Mets’ pitcher Dwight Gooden.
Happy birthday Juan.
It is also Fred Lewis’ 38th birthday. Fred played one season with the Jays, hitting .262/.332/.414 with 8 home runs and 17 steals in 110 games back in 2010. He was a bit of a fan favorite to some here and disliked by others.
He, somehow, forgot how to play defense for us. After being, at least, average with the glove most of his career, he had a -15.1 UZR/150 for us in left field and played left in a rather Teoscar Hernandezish fashion.
Lewis left as a free agent after the 2010 season, and would play 99 games over the next two seasons before the end of his major league career.
Happy birthday Fred.
Mat Latos has his 31st birthday today.
Mat made 3 spot starts for us during the 2017 season. One was quite good, 6 innings of shutout ball against the Cardinals. The other two were bad. He ended up with a 6.60 ERA. He pitched for an independent league team last year.
He had a pretty good career going, until he tore cartilage in his left knee, during spring training in 2014, when he was just 26 and he wasn’t the same pitcher after that. Up until then he had a 3.35 ERA in 137 starts over 5 seasons. After that he had a 4.45 ERA in 60 games, 52 starts.
Happy Birthday Mat.