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Happy Birthday John McDonald

And Jim Acker, Paul Spoljaric, Moises Sierra and Kevin Millar

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

John McDonald turns 45 today

John McDonald had a pretty amazing career for a guy with a life time .233/.273/.323 slash line. How do you play 16 years with a bat like that? Well, for one thing, you have to be pretty amazing defensively. A number of years ago I asked Brian Butterfield about Mac.

Last year in Seattle we watched fielding practice in Seattle before the game and John McDonald is out there to the very end. That’s why he’s so good at it?

That’s exactly right, he’s the best I’ve ever been around, I’ve told this to several people in the game, he has the best work ethic and gets himself into the right position better than any infield that I’ve ever had and I’ve been blessed to be around some great ones. And it’s not a mistake for me when he makes a play in the hole that brings the house down. I don’t get as excited because it’s something I expect from him because it’s something he’s rehearsed so many times. He’s rehearsed going into the hole and getting the ball in the air as quickly as he can. He rehearses it. He rehearses it at game speed. When you look at him after he is done taking ground balls he’s got a lather, he’s tired and he practices defense quickly at game speed the way you should. He’s the best.

I watched McDonald take infield practice several times. I always enjoyed watching him practice, he goes so hard at it and he makes sure he throws every ball straight over top, not side arm, not 3/4. He was a great defensive player, not because he was gifted with great talent (though he has that) but he also works so hard.

That was part of why we liked him so much. We kind of got the feeling we could be McDonald, if, you know, we did all that work. Course, none of us are going to do that much work, but still.

Anyway, he played 7 seasons for us, and was a big time fan favorite, even though he was never a regular. We do tend to like the backups, it is harder to blame them for losing.

I think the other reason he has had such a long career, despite his bat, is that he is a good guy. Every one seems to like him. When you see players players who’s career last longer than you would expect from his numbers, generally are good guys. It is a pretty good life lesson, you want to last a long time in a career, be a good guy. I mean skill works too, but being someone that everyone likes? That can never hurt. He could get a coaching or manager job if he wanted one.

When Cito was here, he worked on Mac on his batting and had him going all out pull. And it kind of worked for a bit. He hit 6 home runs, in 152 at bats, in 2010. I watched him in batting practice, pulling balls down the right field line, over and over. He had a great month, hitting .382/.417/.765 with 3 home runs, in 34 at bats, in August that year. After a bit pitchers saw what he was doing and started giving him pitches that were harder to pull. In September he hit .200/.222/.300, but I still think it wasn’t a bad idea for Mac, the 6 home runs he hit that season, the most he hit in his career and, I think, Cito, in time, would have helped him figure out what to do with the outside pitches.

I was less thrilled with Cito using McDonald in the outfield, that didn’t work so well.

His ‘Father’s Day’ home run is one of my all-time favorite Blue Jays memories.

Happy birthday, John. Enjoy your birthday.

Jim Acker turns 61 today.

Acker was a reliever for the Blue Jays from 1983 to July of 1986, and then again from 1989 to 1991. If he could have played there one more year, he would have had a World Series ring.

Acker was a first round draft pick (#21 overall) for the Braves in 1980. We picked him up in the Rule 5 draft before the 1983 season.

As a Rule 5 pick he stayed on the Blue Jays roster for the 1983 season, but he was one of our better pitchers, as a 24-year-old rookie. He had a 5-1 record and a 4.33 ERA in 38 games, 5 starts. In 1984 he battled some injuries, got into 32 games, 3 starts with a 4.38 ERA.

In 1985 we had a closer by committee thing, and Acker had a good season, with a 7-2 record (our relievers got a lot of wins that year, Dennis Lamp went 11-0), a 3.23 ERA, and 10 saves in 61 games.

We made it to the playoffs for the first time that year, Jim pitched in 2 games, 6 innings, allowed 2 hits, no walks with 5 strikeouts. In July of 1986 we traded him back to Atlanta for, right-handed starter, Joe Johnson. Johnson would make 29 starts for us over the next two seasons, going 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA.

He played for the Braves until August 24, 1989 when they traded him back to us for Francisco Cabrera and Tony Castillo. Cabrera would play hero in the 1992 NLCS, getting the series winning hit in the 9th inning of the 7th game. The Braves would go on to lose to the Jays in the World Series.

Acker did a great job for us down the stretch of the 1989 season, with a 1.59 ERA in 14 games, 28.1 innings, helping us make it to the playoffs again. We lost out to the A’s in the ALCS, but Acker had a good series pitching in all 5 games, with a 1.42 ERA in 6.1 innings, allowing 4 hits, 1 walk with 4 strikeouts.

Jim had a good 1990 season, with a 3.82 ERA in 59 games and 91.2 innings. 1991 wasn’t as good, 5.20 ERA in 54 games, 88.1 innings. We made the playoffs again, losing out to the Twins in the ALCS. Jim pitched in 1 game.

After the season he signed with the Mariners, pitched in 17 games and that was the end of his MLB career.

He played 10 seasons in the majors. 467 games, 32 starts. He had a 4.45 ERA, 33-49 record and 30 saves. 7 of those seasons were with the Blue Jays. He wasn’t a strikeout pitcher, averaging just 4.8 per 9 innings, but then it was a different time and he wasn’t a one inning reliever like we see these days. Pitchers looked for contact to keep their pitch counts down.

Happy Birthday Jim. Hope it is a good one.

Paul Spoljaric turns 49 today.

Paul was a left-handed reliever for the Blue Jays. He was born in Kelowna BC (a beautiful town). He was an amateur free agent signing. Back in the day, Canadians weren’t part of the draft, in 1989.

Paul made the team out of spring training in 1994, got rocked in two appearances and wasn’t seen again until 1996. Things went better, he had a 3.08 ERA in 28 games.

He was having a very good 1997 season, had a 3.19 ERA in 37 games when he and Mike Timlin were traded to the Mariners for Jose Cruz Jr. The Mariners were in a pennant race and their bullpen needed help. They had taken Cruz in the first round of the 1992 draft, number 3 overall. Timlin and Spoljaric did help them to the playoffs, but they lost out in the LDS. Cruz would go on to hit 122 homers for the Blue Jays over 6 seasons. Without checking, I’m pretty sure it had to be the best trade that Ash made for the Blue Jays.

Paul had a terrible 1998 season, 6.48 ERA for the Mariners. Before the 1999 season he was traded to the Phillies and in May of that year he was traded back to the Jays, the Jays sent Robert Person to the Phillies. Person’s biggest claim to fame was that he came from the Mets for John Olerud in a one-for-one deal in which we sent cash along to the Mets.

Paul would pitch in 37 games, making 2 starts, for us in 1999 with a 4.65 ERA.

After the season he and Pat Hentgen were traded to the Cardinals for Alberto Castillo, Matt DeWitt and Lance Painter. Not a deal that moved the needle for us. Paul was released by the Cards, before the 2000 season and signed with the Royals. He pitched in 13 games for them and that was the end of his major league career.

In total he played 6 seasons in the majors, 4 with the Jays. For the Jays he pitched in 104 games with a 4.31 ERA and 4 saves. In total 195 games, 12 starts, 5.52 ERA.

Happy Birthday Paul. Hope you have a good one.

Moises Sierra turns 31 today.

Moises was an outfield prospect for us. He was called up at the end of July of 2012, played in 49 games and had a .224/.274/.374 line.

He again got a call up in August of 2013, and hit much better, .290/.369/.458 in 35 games.

That bought him a job out of spring training in 2014, but he didn’t hit much at all in 13 April games and was DFAed and taken by the White Sox off waivers. He played in 83 games, hitting .276/.311/.417.

After that he bounced from team to team. He played 27 games for the Nationals in 2018, hitting .167/.217/.204.

He played in Mexico this past season and had a very good year, hitting .355/.464/.572 with 18 home runs in 114 games.

In the majors he played parts of 4 seasons, hit .235/.287/.362 with 9 home runs in 207 games.

Unfortunately, most of my memories of Moises involve misadventures in the outfield. If his defense was better someone would have given him enough at bats to show whether or not he could become a major league regular.

Happy Birthday Moises. Have a good one.

Kevin Millar turns 48 today.

Millar played his last season in the majors for the Jays. He was brought in for veteran presence. But when you hit .223/.311/.363 in 78 games. When you are a first baseman/DH and you hit like that, it really doesn’t matter how great a guy you are in the clubhouse, but, after he left the team we found out that most of his veteran presents was telling everyone how great it was when he was with the Red Sox.

He wasn’t a favorite of mine.

Kevin played 12 seasons in the majors, with the Marlins (5 seasons), Red Sox (3), Orioles (3) and Blue Jays. In 1427 games he hit .274/.358/.452 with 170 home runs and a 14.2 bWAR (-0.7 of that with the Jays.

He has a World Series ring from the 2004 season with the Red Sox and he was a big part of there comeback from down 3-0 in the ALCS that year. In the ninth inning of game 4, down a run, Kevin worked a walk off Mariano Rivera. Dave Robert pinch ran, stole second and, well, the rest is history.

Millar is on the MLB Network now and I haven’t warmed up to him there either.

Happy Birthday Kevin.