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Happy Birthday Manuel Lee

Toronto Blue Jays Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images

It is Manny Lee’s 56th birthday. Yeah, I’ve heard he didn’t like the name ‘Manny’, but that’s the way I remember him.

Manny was an infielder for the Blue Jays for eight seasons. He didn’t have much of a bat, he hit .254/.304/.323 in 753 games as a Blue Jay, but he could play short, second, third, and even a couple of games in the outfield.

Lee was signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic, by the Mets, back in 1982. He and a couple of others were traded to the Astros for Ray Knight. Knight would go on to be a big part of the Mets’ 1986 World Series-winning team.

We picked him up in the 1984 Rule 5 draft.

He would be a utility infielder for us in 1985-1987.

In 1988 Lee played 116 games for us, mostly at second base, but all over the infield. He had his best offensive season, hitting .291/.333/.365 with 2 home runs. He was good enough defensively that he could be a helpful player with that sort of batting line. Baseball-Reference has him at a 1.8 WAR that year.

In 1989 he didn’t hit as well, .260/.288/.340 in 99 games. We made it to the playoffs, but lost out to the A’s in the ALCS. Lee would have 2 singles in 8 at-bats. He would hit much the same in 1990 (.243/.288/.340 in 117 games, mostly at second base).

Before the 1991 season, the Jays made their most significant trade ever, sending Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff to the Padres for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, and that would be the end of Lee’s playing days at second base. Fortunately for Lee, there was no one else to play short.

Lee would hit .234/.274/.288 in 138 games. The Jays would make the playoffs again, but they lost out to the Twins in the ALCS. Lee didn’t help much, hitting .125/.176/.125.

In 1992, we won our first world series. Lee hit .263/.343/.316 in 128 games. He had a great ALCS, hitting .278/.300/.444, but then didn’t hit in our World Series win against the Braves, .105/.150/.105.

After the 1992 season, Lee left the team as a free agent, signing with the Rangers. He spent two seasons with the Rangers, hitting .256/.312/.322 in 168 games. After the 1994 season, he signed with the Cardinals, but he only played one game there before being released, and he didn’t play in the majors again.

I wouldn’t say I liked Lee, back in the day. He didn’t hit much, and I didn’t appreciate how good his defense was. As a Jay he had a 7.4 bWAR, most of that coming from his defense.

Lee is mainly remembered for his part in our collapse in 1987, when we lost our last seven games, finishing two games back of the Tigers. You might remember, on September 24th, Tigers’ DH Bill Madlock rolling block into Tony Fernandez and knocking him out of the lineup for the rest of the season. Lee hit .200/.243/.286 playing short in Fernandez’s place, over those last ten games, and he made a costly error in our 12 inning lost to the Tigers in our second last game.

I am sure that we would have won the AL East that year had Fernandez not been injured, but it was a tough spot to put a 22-year old rookie. It wasn’t his fault. It was a team collapse. I blame Madlock, it was a nasty slide.

Manny had a longer career than I remembered, playing 922 games over 11 seasons.

Happy birthday Manuel. I hope it is a good one.