George Bell turns 61 today.
George Bell was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. His brother Juan Bell also made the majors as a utility infielder for 7 seasons for several different teams. He has two other brothers who played professional baseball. The Phillies signed George as an amateur free agent in 1978. The Jays picked him up in the 1980 rule 5 draft, one of the best Rule 5 pickups ever.
Rule 5 draft pickups have to spend the season on the major league roster or get offered back to the team they came from, so George played with the Jays in the strike-shortened 1981 season. He didn’t do terrible, though a little over-matched at the major league level; he got into 60 games and hit .233/.256/.350. But somehow, he got a couple of Rookie of the Year votes. Yankee Dave Righetti won it that season.
George felt he had earned a spot on the Jays the next season, but the Jays didn’t and sent him off to Syracuse. He had a pretty tough year. George came down with mononucleosis in April and then wrecked his left knee in June. When he got back from that, he had his jaw broken by a pitch. Getting hit by that pitch might explain why George was overly sensitive to being hit by pitches. He charged the mound several times. He started 1983 in the minors again but came up for good in July of that season.
In 1984 Bell became a full-timer with us. He was part of a pretty complicated platoon system Bobby Cox used in the outfield. Against left-handed pitchers, Bell would play left field, and Jesse Barfield would play right. Against right-handers Bell would play right field, and Davey Collins would play left. As a young player Bell had a decent arm and ok range as an outfielder, course Barfield had a better arm. George played 159 games, hit .292/.326/.498, with 39 doubles and 26 homers, 87 RBI, and 11 steals. He received some MVP votes. He was 8th in the AL in total bases and 3rd in doubles.
After the season, Dave Collins was traded to Oakland to allow Bell, Moesby, and Barfield to play full time, and the best outfield in Jays history was born. They played together until Barfield the Jays traded early in the 1989 season. They were a great unit. All three were terrific offensive players. All three had good to great arms. Moesby and Barfield were good defensive players, Bell, far less so. He didn’t have much range as he aged as his knees suffered from playing on the hard artificial surface in Toronto. He also made too many errors
Bell had another outstanding season in 1985 hitting .275/.327/.479, 28 homers, 95 RBI, and 21 stolen bases, the most in his career. Bell won the Silver Slugger award for batting and came in 8th in MVP voting, one spot behind Jesse Barfield. Don Mattingly won it that season. Jays made the postseason for the first time that year. Likely many remember Bell catching the last out in the game that clinched the AL East title and fell to his knees. Bell did ok in the 7-game series hitting .321, 9 hits, 3 doubles, no homers, but the Jays lost to the Royals.
Bell’s bat improved a little again in 1986, he hit .309/.349/.532, had 31 homers, 108 RBI, 101 runs, won the Silver Slugger award again, and this time finished 4th in the MVP voting, one spot above Barfield in the vote. Our favorite player Roger Clemens won that year.
1987 was the big season for Bell. He hit .308/.352/.605, had 47 home runs, 134 RBI, and 111 runs. He again won the Silver Slugger award and made the All-Star team for the first time. He won the MVP award, just beating out the Tigers Alan Trammell, the first league MVP from a Canadian team. The vote was controversial because that year the Jays fell into a bad slump at the end of the year. They lost their last 8 games, and the Tigers passed them at the finish to win the AL East. Those last 8 games were a train wreck; Bell hit just .111 over them, but then the only Jay to hit was Lloyd Moesby.
The next season was an interesting year for Bell and the Jays. Jimy Williams became manager, and he decided that Bell would DH and top prospect Sil Campusano would play in the outfield. Only two things went wrong with the plan. One, Bell didn’t want to DH, and Bell wasn’t one to be unhappy quietly and two, Sil Campausano was terrible. Williams’ time as manager didn’t last long, and it wasn’t happy partly because of George. Bell’s numbers fell off a lot that year despite becoming the first major leaguer to hit 3 home runs on opening day.
1989 was better. He hit .297/.330/.458 with 18 homers, 41 doubles, and 104 RBI. George came in 4th in MVP voting in a very tight 4-way race for the award. Robin Yount won with 256 vote points, Bell came in 4th had 205 points. The Jays made the playoffs again that year, but Bell didn’t do well in our 5 game series loss to the A’s, hitting just .200 with one home run.
1990 was his last season with the Jays. It wasn’t good, he hit .265/.303/.422 with 21 homers and 86 RBI. After the season, he signed with the Cubs as a free agent, had one good season there, and then they traded him to the White Sox for Sammy Sosa. The Cubs won that trade. George played for 2 seasons with the White Sox. They released him after the 1993 season after making some nasty remarks about Sox manager Gene Lamont when Lamont replaced him in the playoff lineup with Bo Jackson.
Bell had a good 12-year career, finishing with 265 homers, 1002 RBI, .278 BA. He was a free swinger, didn’t walk much, and his defense was terrible. His arm was underrated. He had more outfield assists from 1984-1987 than any players other than Barfield and Glenn Wilson. He wasn’t a terrible outfielder when he came up to the big leagues but playing on artificial turf wrecked his knees, and he lost his speed, costing him range. Of course, it didn’t help that he considered it an insult to his manhood when they wanted him to move to DH.
But he could rake. He held the Jays single-season record for home runs with 47 until Jose Bautista his 54 in 2010. Gene Mauch, manager of the Angels, called him “the intimidating hitter in baseball.” He was your basic first-pitch fastball hitter, if he could reach the first pitch, he’d hit it.
Bill James had him as the 62nd best left fielder of all time in his New Historical Abstract. Likely he has dropped a few spots since then. Rob Neyer, in his Big Book of Baseball Lineups, has him as our best left fielder ever. And he is on the Roger Center’s Level of Excellence.
He also had, how to put it, a bit of a temper. Likely most of you remember him taking a flying kick at pitcher Bruce Kison after Kison hit him with a pitch. He was ejected from 13 games in his career. He didn’t get along with the media or with managers. And there was the time he ‘invited’ Canadian fans to “kiss his Dominican ass”. Some of his troubles with umpires, opponents, and almost everyone else, had to do with the difference between the Dominican culture and ours. Most of it was because he was a hothead. Likely his career would have been longer if he hadn’t had such a bad reputation. But from everything I’ve read, he was a great teammate, and a great friend.
Bell helped with the Dominican’s World Baseball Classic team and has become a good golfer. He is married with four sons.
Bell’s place on our all-time leader’s lists:
WAR among position players: 12th (21.3).
Offensive WAR: 8th (22.5).
Slugging average: 7th (.486).
Games Played: 7th (1181).
Home runs: 6th (202).
RBI: 4th (740).
Happy Birthday George. I hope life is good.
Original Blue Jay lefty pitcher Jerry Garvin turns 64 today.
He was our 4th pick in the 1976 expansion draft, taken from the Minnesota Twins.
Jerry started our 3rd game (and our 7th and ....). He was a rookie in 1977. In his first start, he went 8 innings in a 3-1 win over the White Sox. He allowed 5 hits, 4 walks with 2 strikeouts. Pete Vuckovich got the save. Canadian Dave McKay drove in 2 runs, and Gary Woods drove in the other.
Garvin would start 34 games that year, going 10-18 with a 4.19 ERA. He threw 244.1 inning and 12 complete games as a 21-year-old rookie. The last time a pitcher threw over 240 innings was 2014, when Dave Price did it. The 244.1 innings is the 17th most ever thrown by a Blue Jay pitcher in a season.
He had a great pick off move. There is a note on his Wikipedia page that he picked off 26 players off first base that season.
Surprisingly enough, he missed a fair bit of time over the next couple of seasons with arm issues. In 1978 he pitched in 26 games, making 22 starts, going 4-12 with a 5.54 ERA in 144.2 innings. He made it into just 8 games in 1979.
By 1980 he moved into the bullpen full time. He pitched in 61 games in relief. He had a 2.28 ERA and 8 saves in 82.2 innings.
In 1981 he pitched in 35 games, making 4 starts, with a 3.40 ERA in 53 innings.
He got into 32 games (4 starts) in 1982, with 7.25 ERA in 58.1 innings, and that was his career.
He played in 6 seasons, had a 20-41 record and a 4.43 ERA in 196 games, 65 starts.
Happy Birthday, Jerry.
Danny Barnes turns 31 today.
Danny was a 35th round draft pick in 2010. We picked current Yankees reliever Chad Green 2 rounds later, but he didn’t sign.
Danny made a slow climb up our minor league ladder. He was terrific in 2016, putting up a 0.73 ERA in 61.1 innings split between New Hampshire and Buffalo.
For that he got a cup of coffee in August and then was called up for September. In 12 games he had a 3.95 ERA.
In 2017 he came up in mid-April and stayed for the season. He had a 3.55 ERA in 60 games with a 3-6 record and 11 holds.
2018 didn’t go as well. He had a 5.71 ERA in 47 games. He did have 8 holds, most coming early in the season.
He was DFAed and outrighted to Buffalo before the start of the 2019 season and then spent most of the season on the IL.
Happy Birthday Danny.
Gabe Gross turns 41 today.
Gross was our first-round pick in 2001.
He made it onto Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list before the 2002 (#75) and 2004 (#72) seasons.
He played 44 games for us in 2004, hitting .209/.311/.310 with 3 home runs in 44 games. And he played in 40 games in 2005, hitting .250/.324/.348 with 1 home run in 40 games.
After the 2005 season, he was traded, along with Dave Bush and Zach Jackson to the Brewer for Lyle Overbay and Ty Taubenheim.
He played 2.5 seasons for the Brewers hitting .251/.357/440 with 16 home runs in 226 games. Then he was traded to the Rays, played 2 seasons there, hitting .235/.333/.396 with 19 home runs in 242 games. He went to the A’s for a season, which was the end of his MLB career.
In total, 7 seasons, 657 games, a .239/.330/.385 batting line with 40 home runs. Not what we were hoping for when he a prospect but a decent career.
Happy Birthday Gabe.