Tony Fernandez passed away this evening from a stroke. He was 57.
I’ve long said that Fernandez was the smoothest shortstop I ever watched play. I loved the sidearm throws. He is still the best shortstop the Blue Jays have ever had.
Tony was the franchise leader in games played (1,450) and hits (1,583). He also holds our single season record for singles (161) and triples (17). He also leads position players in bWAR at 37.5 (Jose Bautista is second at 37.0).
Fernandez actually had four different tours of duty with the Blue Jays. He came up to the Jays in 1983, at 21 years old and played shortstop for us until 1990. Then he was part of the big trade, going to San Diego with Fred McGriff for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter—you may have heard about that trade before.
Then in 1993, our shortstop Dick Schofield was injured in early May. The Jays tried Alfredo Griffin and Domingo Cedeno at the spot but neither were really up to the job, so they traded with the Mets to get Fernandez back. It worked out well; Tony hit .306/.361/.442 in 94 games with the team and got himself a World Series ring.
After the season he signed with the Reds as a free agent. He played with the Reds, Yankees and Cleveland before we got him back as a free agent before the 1998 season, this time to be an utility infielder. He ended up playing a bunch of games at second and third base in 1998. Then in 1999 he was a full-time third baseman. He had a super year with the bat in 1999, hitting .328/.427/.449, though his defense left something to be desired.
In 2000 he went to play in Japan. The Brewers signed him as a free agent before the 2001 season. He played there for a couple of months, was released, and Toronto signed him again. He pinch hit and DHed a bit for us and was able to retire as a Blue Jay.
Tony won four Gold Gloves and was a very athletic shortstop. He was always a favourite of mine. He had a great ability to make that leaping jump-spin throw to first. I remember him smiling and happy on the bench but then he was generally quiet with the media, maybe it was a language thing. His teammates always say great things about him.
I have a long list of people to whom I owe part of my baseball fandom. Tony Fernandez is one of them.
Rest in peace, Tony. My condolences to his family and loved ones.
I think it would be good if you could share your memories of Tony here in the comments.
Thanks to Héctor Gómez for tweeting the news and keeping us up to date on his condition these past weeks.
Former MLB player Tony Fernandez has died. He suffered a brain stroke and Kidney complications.— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) February 16, 2020
Fernandez was selected to 5 All Star Games, won 4 Gold Glove and a World Series with Toronto Blue Jays (1993).
Rest in peace. @z101digital @ZDeportes pic.twitter.com/JtpVSLiOAv
Here is a video of Tony. The play at the 55-second mark is the way I remember him.