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Happy Birthday Alfredo Griffin

Toronto Blue Jays

Alfredo Griffin turns 62 today.

Alfredo Griffin was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cleveland Indians in 1973 at the age of 16. He made the majors with Cleveland in 1976 at the age of 18 but only got in a handful of games and in 77 and 78 he also appeared in a few games. In December 1978 he was traded with Phil Lansford to the Blue Jays for Victor Cruz. Cruz wasn’t a bad reliever but we got the best of that trade.

Alfredo was put in as our full time shortstop and was Co-winner of the 1979 AL Rookie of the Year, tied in the voting with John Castino, making him the first Jay to win a major award. He hit leadoff and did a pretty good job, batting .287/.333/.364 and played good defense at short. He wasn’t a great offensive player, but he didn’t help himself out on the bases. He had a really poor stolen base percentage, he stole 21 bases but was caught 16 times. On defense, he made 36 errors, but had good range at short. He set Blue Jay highs in hits (179), runs (81), triples (10) and stolen bases (21). He also led all AL shortstops in batting average, thanks in part to a 19 game hitting streak.

1980 he started to hit more like, well, he hit more like Alfredo Griffin. He had an OPS+ of 69, but was still batting leadoff, in spite of a .283 on base average. To add to the stupidity of having him leadoff he stole 18 bases but got caught 23 times. And he made 37 errors. He did lead the lead in triples with 15. In 1981, the strike season, he had an awful year hitting .209/.243/.289. You almost have to be impressed that he was caught stealing 12 times when he 99 times reached base. He also led the league in errors with 31. And yet he played a team high 101 games of the 106 the Jays played and 75 as the leadoff hitter. That Bobby Mattick was one heck of a manager.

1983 was our first season above .500, we finished 89-73 and Alfredo had his best offensive season since his rookie year. Playing in every game once again, Griffin his .250/.289/.348 and set a career high in home runs (4, but still a career high).

1984, his All-Star season, was likely his worst season, during his first turn with the Jays. He hit just .241/.248/.298. He took only 4 walks all season, but he did have his best season as a base stealer, stealing 11 bases and being caught only 3 times. The 4 walks in 140 games must be a record of some sort. I did a Baseball Reference search, Alfredo is the only batter with more than 400 at bats, and less than 5 walks since 1909.

He played 140 games, with Tony Fernandez starting to take over at short. Alfredo played 21 games at second base.

I should explain that All-Star selection; in 1984 Damaso Garcia was chosen as the Jay’s representative to the All-Star team. We can laugh later at what a terrible pick for the All-Star team Garcia was, but this is Griffin’s profile. MLB apparently paid airfare for the All-Star and one other person, generally the player’s wife or girl friend. Garcia decided to bring Griffin along. All-Star shortstop Alan Trammell hurt his arm before the game so manager Joe Altobelli named Griffin to the team, because, well, he was there anyway.

After the 1984 season Griffin was traded to the Oakland A’s with Dave Collins for closer Bill Caudill. Caudill had one good season with the Jays and one lousy season but the trade worked out for the Jays because it cleared the way for Tony Fernandez to play short. Griffin played 3 seasons for the A’s, leading off too much for the good of the team. His first season with the A’s he won the Gold Glove in one of those ‘what the hell are they thinking’ vote. He hit better for the A’s then he had for the Jays, still not great but better than he had. After his 3 seasons in Oakland he was traded to the Dodgers.

He was the player that Kirk Gibson pinch hit for when he hit his game winning home run in game 1 of the 1988 World Series. After 4 seasons in LA he signed back with the Jays as a free agent. He was with the Jays for both of the World Series wins as a utility infielder. He was on deck when Joe Carter hit the series winning home run off Mitch Williams in the 1993 World Series and that was the end of his major league career.

For a pretty marginal player he had a long career, playing 18 years in the majors. Any player with 3 World Series rings has to be considered a success. He had a consecutive games played streak of 392 games that ended May 27, 1984. He is also remembered for his kamikaze base running style, scoring from 2nd on a fly ball or going first to third on a ground out or just as often getting thrown out trying to do the same.

He had one of the all time great Chris Berman nicknames: Fettuccini Alfredo Griffin. Bill rJames listed him as the 108th best shortstop of all time in his ‘New Historical Baseball Abstract’. Since the book is copyright 2001, he’s likely to have dropped a number of spots since then.

His line as a Jay: .249/.280/.327. Ranks last on the Jay’s list for OPS at .307 of players that had 2000 or more plate appearances. He has been a coach for the Angels from 2000 until 2018.

Happy Birthday Alfredo, I hope it is a good one.

Robert Person turns 50 today.

His biggest claim to fame, as least as far as Jays fans are concerned, was that he is who we got from the Mets in the John Olerud trade.

Person pitched parts of 3 seasons with the Jays. He went 8-13 with a 6.18 ERA in 22 games, 21 starts with the Jays.

In early May we traded him to the Phillies for Paul Spoljaric. He was much better for the Phillies, pitching in 108 games, 99 starts over 4 seasons. He had a 38.24 record and a 4.23 ERA.

In total he played 9 seasons in the MLB, with a 51-42 record and a 4.64 ERA in 206 games, 135 starts.

Happy Birthday Robert.

Ruben Sierra turns 54 today.

Ruben played 14 games, of a 2186 game career, with the Jays. We signed him as a free agent on May 11, 1997 and released him June 16 of that year. He hit .208/.250/.354 in 14 games for us.

In total he played for 9 MLB teams and hit .268/.315/.450 with 306 home runs over a 20 year MLB career.

Happy Birthday Ruben.

Darren Oliver turns 49 today.

Oliver spent the last 2 seasons of a 20 year MLB career with the Blue Jays. He filled the LOOGY role for us in 2012 and 2013. He pitched in 112 games and had a 2.90 ERA as a 41 and 42 year old. He had 24 holds and 2 saves in those two season.

In total he pitched in 766 games, 229 starts. He had a 118-98 record and a 4.51 ERA, pitching 1915 innings.

Happy Birthday Darren.