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Top 60 All-Time Greatest Jays: #58 Brett Lawrie

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Brett Russell Lawrie | 3B | 2011-2014

Yeah, I know, there is going to be a lot of complaining.

But Brett is 35th in bWAR (22nd among position players), 55th in fWAR.

Brett Lawrie was born in Langley BC (I’m not sure whether to call that a suburb of Vancouver, but it is in the great mass of urban area around Vancouver) on January 18th, 1990 (yes he is only 30). He was the Brewers’ first-round pick in 2008, number 16 overall.

We got him in trade with the Brewers for Shawn Marcum on December 6, 2010. The reaction to the trade was mixed. Some thrilled to get a very good prospect, some sad that we gave up a fan favorite and a big part of our rotation. Some Brewers fans were upset they traded a good prospect for a ‘3rd tier starter’.

We weren’t sure what position he would be playing. In the Brewers’ system, he was a second baseman, but he made more than his share of errors. That spring the Jays announced that Jose Bautista would play third base. Then, the very last weekend of spring training, they announced Edwin Encarnacion would play the position. I thought that was very unfair to Edwin, who really needed all the work at third he could get. Instead, he spent all of camp working at first. But Bautista was more comfortable in right and he was our star, I’m all for keeping the star happy.

Brett played in Vegas and hit very well .353/.415/.661. Just went it seemed he was about to get the promotion he was hit by pitch and had a ‘non-displaced fracture’ in his hand. He missed more than a month.

Finally, he got the callup on August 4th. He would end up playing 43 games, hitting .293/.373/.580 with 9 home runs, 7 stole bases (caught once), with 16 walks and 31 strikeouts. And he played very good defense, Fangraphs had him at a 13.3 UZP/150. He finished the season with a 3.3 bWAR (second among AL rookies position players that year, despite playing only 43 games).

In his first game, he went 2 for 4 and drove in a run in his first at-bat. He had a grand slam against the A’s August 10th. And September 4th he hit a walk-off home run against the Red Sox in the 11th inning.

His season came to an early end when he fractured a finger on September 21st.

Unfortunately, he wouldn’t have numbers that good again.

In 2012, in 125 games, he hit .273/.324/.405 with 11 home runs (along with 13 steals, but caught 8 times), good for a 4.5 bWAR, but, after a great rookie season, it seemed a disappointment.

Brett had his share of controversial moments. On April 15th, with the bases loaded, two out, Jose Bautista at the plate with 2 strikes, Brett tried and failed to steal home. Jose defended him in the National Post:

Given that you were at the plate, shouldn’t he give you the chance to drive in the run instead of making a dash for home plate?

“He’s an aggressive player and that’s what led him here. So whenever he feels like he needs to take a chance on a play like that, he has to, in order to stay true to his nature. To be honest with you, if he slides with his feet a little more forward, he would’ve been safe. I don’t necessarily think that it was a bad idea because he would’ve been successful if he just slides the correct way. And he’ll be the one to tell you himself that he feels like his feet got caught a little bit backwards instead of being facing forward.”

I remember Jose saying that the problem with the play was that, with 2 strikes, if the pitch was a strike, he would be swinging at roughly the same moment Brett got to the plate. That could have been very bad.

He had another bad moment when he got angry at being called out on strikes by umpire Bill Miller. On a 3-1 count, Brett took a pitch (that was off the plate) and started down to first. Miller called it a strike (and was pissed at Brett for heading down to first). The next pitch was further off the plate, but Miller wanted to prove some sort of point (mostly that he shouldn't be a manager) that young players should wait for the call before going to first. I think that if an umpire feels his job is to teach players lessons above, you know, calling the game properly, they should be fired.

Lawrie, again on his way to first, yelled and was ejected (a rather quick hook). He took his helmet off, threw it down, it bounced and hit Miller, buying him a 4-game suspension. Brett should be in more control of his emotions, but umpires shouldn’t be making things personal.

2013 was another step down as far as numbers were concerned. Brett hit .254/315/.397 with 11 home runs, good for a 2.6 bWAR. He missed 50+ games with injuries, including a sprained ankle. And he played some second base.

2014 he again missed playing time with a broken finger after being hit by a pitch. After he came back from that injury, he went back on the DL with ‘back tightness’ which cost him the rest of the season. He played 70 games, hit .247/.301/.421 with 12 home runs for a 2.3 bWAR.

After the season he was traded to Oakland (along with Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman, and Sean Nolin) for Josh Donaldson. A deal that turned out to be one of the best (if not the best) trade in Blue Jays history.

Brett did not do well for the A’s and was traded to the White Sox after the season. Things didn’t go better for him with the White Sox and he was released after the 2016 season. after missing the 2018 season the Brewers signed him with the idea that he would get into shape, play in the minors, and then, maybe, get called up. He never did play a minor league game and was released.

When you start your career with great numbers, people expect more of the same, or better. Unfortunately for Brett, that didn’t happen and he was released again.

Brett, to me, played baseball with a football mentality. In football, you play once a week, go as hard as you can, and then have a week to recover before the name game. In baseball, there is a game tomorrow. Brett never understood that there would be a game tomorrow. He was ‘go as hard as you can all the time’. I’m sure you remember him tumbling into the camera well at Rogers Centre. Some of his injury troubles came from his all-out all the time mentality. I’m sure the 2 or 3 fracture fingers he had didn’t help his career numbers. It is hard to swing a bat with a sore hand.

Apparently, he had chronic pain. If you’ve seen video clips of his workouts, you can understand that he would have chronic pain.

The Red Bull fueled energy was just too much for baseball. I truly believe, if I ran things, I would have banned the Red Bull, though I don’t know if that would have slowed him that much.

I often say that Brett is one of two Blue Jays players who ran full out to first base on every ball. He likely won himself 2-3 singles a season doing that. But he also caused himself nagging injuries, which made it hard for him to live up to his potential. Fans say that they love players to go hard all the time, but then Lawrie didn’t seem to get that love. What we really love is guys that put up good numbers and stay in the lineup every day.

Straight by WAR numbers, he should be much higher on the list (he has a much higher bWAR with the Jays than Joe Carter), but he only played 345 games with the Jays.

It is always good to have someone on the list that everyone complains about.

He mostly gets on the list for his defense, here are a few of his plays.