Now that we’ve wrapped up looking at the starting position players, we’ll move to the bench position, where today’s candidates may have spent a good chunk of time as starters, but their careers really pan out as more of a bench role.
Bob Bailor (1977-1980)
Starting this list is the original Blue Jay (I’m sure there will be a “well actually...” in the comments), Bob Bailor joined the team as the Blue Jays first selection in the 1976 Expansion Draft, coming over to the Jays from the Orioles.
Bailor played the majority of the teams’ first four seasons, getting starts all over the diamond. He started 224 games in RF, 92 in CF, 56 at SS, 48 in LF, and 41 at 3B, while also getting into 1 inning at 2B, and pitching on 3 separate occasions (where he allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk over 2.1 innings).
He gave the Jays 3.5 WAR over his 4 seasons, so he really was a decent guy to have around, covering that many positions and playing well enough be in the lineup almost every day. He hit 264/.314/.337 across 2052 PA, knocking 8 home runs and stealing 46 bases.
Garth Iorg (1978-1987)
A career long Blue Jay, Iorg also joined the organization in the 1976 Expansion Draft, coming over from the rival Yankees as the 41st overall pick. He played parts of 9 seasons with the Jays, accumulating 2615 PA across 931 games. He hit just .258/.292/.347, collecting 20 home runs and 23 stolen bases.
Iorg logged most of his time at 3B and 2B, but he did play a handful of games in LF, CF, 1B and SS. Unlike Bailor though, he never made it to the mound for the Blue Jays.
Iorg famously had one of the most unorthodox batting stances in the history of sport. The picture is from Ian Hunter’s blog, and he also has a video of the ridiculousness as well.
Manuel Lee (1985-1992)
Lee had a birthday yesterday, and Tom wrote about him more in depth than I will here. Over 2357 PA as a Blue Jay, Lee hit .254/.304/.323, with 16 home runs and 26 stolen bases. He collected most of his game time at 2B and SS, while also seeing 32 games at 3B, and played in RF for an inning at one point too.
Munenori Kawasaki (2013-2015)
There’s a pretty big time frame I jumped over here, and that’s because I really couldn’t come up with anyone I would happily consider for this list. Frank Menechino was probably the first cut, and he played just 142 games for the Blue Jays. And John McDonald shows up on the SS list.
Which brings us to Mune, a fan favourite in his short time here. He hit .242/.326/.301 over his 597 PA, hitting just one home run, the only one of his career, and stealing just 8 bases. Defensively, he spent his time pretty evenly split on both sides of second base, collecting 73 starts at 2B, 53 starts at SS and 20 starts at 3B.
Of course, fans didn’t love Kawasaki for his playing ability, although he was at least pretty decent at getting on base and playing solid defense. No, fans loved Kawasaki for his sheer love of the game, his fun dancing, and his off the wall interviews.
Ryan Goins (2013-2017)
Goins time in Toronto was very much a mixed bag, between being a borderline replacement player who couldn’t hit but played great defense, and a very serviceable starter in 2015 after Devon Travis was lost for the season. Overall, Goins’ bat was the worst of this group, coming in at a .228/.275/.335 mark over his 1277 PA, launching 20 home runs and stealing 6 bases.
He did provide great defense at 2B and SS though, giving the Jays 27 DRS over 3100 innings at the two positions. He logged time every position but catcher and CF for the Jays, heading to the mound in one memorable 19 inning game for the Jays against Cleveland on Canada Day in 2016. Goins held Cleveland off the board in the 18th, but the game was lost in the next inning by the next man up on our list.
Darwin Barney (2015-2017)
Barney came over to the Jays in September 2015, too late in the year to be eligible for the Playoffs, but he did help lead the team to the division title, and was also around for the playoff run in 2016. He hit .251/.298/.357 over his 694 PA, hitting 12 home runs and stealing 9 bases.
Barney logged most of his time at 2B, where he was a standout defensive player previously with the Cubs. He also played a bit at 3B and SS, while also picking up a handful of starts in LF, and also had that aforementioned pitching appearance.
Who was your favourite bench player?
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