Shannon Harold Stewart | LF, CF | 1995-2003, 2008
Shannon Stewart was born February 25, 1974, in Cincinnati, Ohio. In the first round of the 1992 amateur draft, the Blue Jays drafted him, the 19th pick overall, out of Miami Southridge High School. He was a compensation pick for the Dodgers signing of free agent Tom Candiotti. He rose quickly thru the Jays farm system and was a September call-up in 1995 and 1996. In 1997 Shannon was called up in mid-August and was given the full-time CF job for the rest of the season after the Jays traded Otis Nixon to the Dodgers.
In 1998 Stewart spent the whole season with the Jays. He played 44 games in CF and 110 games in LF. Stewart had plenty of range to play in center but didn’t have the arm strength. I’ll admit, I’d rather have good range and a poor arm in center than poor (or average) range and a good arm. He mostly hit leadoff but did bat some in the 2 and 3 spots in the order. He had a very nice season batting .279/.377/.417, hit 12 home runs, stole 51 bases (third in the AL), scored 90 runs, and drove in 55. He was also 4th in the league in being hit by pitch with 15. He was just the 5th player in team history to steal 50 bases in a season.
1999 Stewart played 145 games and again hit very well .304/.371/.411, he scored 102 runs, drove in 67, and stole 37 bases 4th in the AL. Stewart seemed to battle injuries almost every year, this season, he hurt an ankle in September and missed ten games.
In 2000 Shannon had his best season with the bat setting his career-high in batting average (.318), slugging (.518), run (107), and homers (21). He also had 43 doubles, 69 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. Stewart started the season off right, hitting a leadoff home run in the first game of the year. He hit .381 when leading off a game that year with five homers. But again, he missed playing time being on the DL, playing in 136 games.
Stewart set his career-high for games played (155), at-bats (640), and hits (202, the fourth-highest total in team history) in 2001. He had another great season with the bat hitting .316/.371/.463 and scored 103 runs and received an MVP vote. He came in 8th in the AL in batting average, 3rd in hits, and doubles. And was only the 4th player in team history to get 200 hits.
In 2002 Stewart had another excellent season, batting over .300 (.303) for the fourth season in a row and scored over 100 runs (103). Again a terrific leadoff hitter getting on base at a .371 rate, though he wasn’t the base stealer he had been in the past, stealing only 14 bases. Shannon hit third in a handful of games as well. He did miss time on the DL list again with hamstring troubles. He played left field mostly though he DHed 38 times.
2003 he started the season well again, but on July 16, the Jays traded him to the Minnesota Twins for Bobby Kielty. Dealing him wasn’t a bad idea; he was 29 and did have injury issues, and he did everything well but didn’t do anything very well, and players like that tend not to age well. I thought, at the time, we could have done better than Bobby Kielty in exchange for him, but then we flipped Kielty for Ted Lilly after the season, so it turned out ok.
The Twins got a couple of good seasons out of him, but he lost time to injury, and his numbers declined quickly, but he did get into the postseason with the Twins in 2003 and 2004. From the Twins, he went to Oakland and had an ok season there. Then the Jays picked him up for the 2008 season. The less said about that, the better, though I still don’t understand what they thought they were getting, the man hadn’t slugged .400 since 2004. The only position Shannon could play was left field, where ok offense isn’t enough.
He had a good career: 14 seasons, 1653 hits, 853 runs, 115 home runs, 196 steals, and a .297 average. Without the injuries, his career could have been that much better, but then if wishes were horses then beggars would ride. As a Jay he .298/.365/.440, with 74 home runs and 166 steals in 10 seasons.
Another thing that could have helped his career out would have been if the Jays had a different manager. Cito Gaston, back in those days, didn’t like to go with young players, and Stewart is one of several that lost a season or two at the start of his career. In 1986 and 1987, the Jays had an aging Otis Nixon in center field. Now Nixon wasn’t a bad player, but he wasn’t the sort that should have kept Shannon Stewart out of the lineup. In fairness to Cito, the team was in ‘win now’ mode during his first stint with the team.
He’d have to be considered the team’s best-ever leadoff hitter for his time in the role from 1998 to 2003.
When you search for pictures of the man, you will find some interesting ones. There is a ‘model’ named Shannon Stewart. She looks somewhat different from our Stewart.
Shannon Stewart’s place among Jay batting leaders:
Batting Average (>2000 PA): 4th, .298
On base % (>2000 PA): 9th, .365
Slugging average (>2000 PA): 22nd, .440
OPS: 14th, .905
Games: 18th, 907
PA: 10th, 4052
Runs: 7th, 595
Hits: 7th, 1082
Doubles 6th, 222
Home Runs: 27th 74
RBI: 20th, 370
Walks: 13th, 337
Steals: 5th, 166
Hit by pitch: 4th, 57
Power/Speed Number: 4th, 102.4