Alfredo Griffin turns 65 today.
Alfredo Griffin was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Cleveland signed him as an amateur free agent in 1973 at 16. He made the majors with Cleveland in 1976 at 18 but only played a handful of games. In 77 and 78, he also appeared in a few games. Then, in December 1978, he was traded with Phil Lansford to the Blue Jays for Victor Cruz. Cruz wasn’t a lousy reliever, but we got the best of that trade.
Alfredo was put in as our full-time shortstop and was Co-winner of the 1979 AL Rookie of the Year, tied in the voting with John Casino, making him the first Jay to win a major award. He hit leadoff and did a pretty good job, batting .287/.333/.364, and played good defense at short. Griffin wasn’t a great offensive player, but Alfredo didn’t help himself on the bases. He had an abysmal stolen base percentage. He stole 21 bases but caught 16 times. On defence, Grifin made 36 errors but had good range at short. He set Blue Jay highs in hits (179), runs (81), triples (10), and stolen bases (21). He also led all AL shortstops in batting average, thanks to a 19-game hitting streak.
1980 he started to hit more like, well, he hit more like Alfredo Griffin. He had an OPS+ of 69 but was still batting leadoff despite a .283 on-base average. To add to the stupidity of having him leadoff, he stole 18 bases but got caught 23 times. And he made 37 errors. He did lead the league in triples with 15. In 1981, the strike season, he had an awful year hitting .209/.243/.289. You almost have to be impressed that he was caught stealing 12 times when he reached base just 99 times. He also led the league in errors with 31. And yet he played a team-high 101 games of the 106 the Jays played and 75 as the leadoff hitter. That Bobby Mattick was one heck of a manager.
1983 was our first season above .500, we finished 89-73, and Alfredo had his best offensive season since his rookie year. Once again, Griffin played in every game .250/.289/.348 and set a career-high in home runs (4, but still a career-high).
1984, his All-Star season, was likely his worst season during his first turn with the Jays. He hit just .241/.248/.298. He took only four walks all season, but he did have his best season as a base stealer, stealing 11 bases and caught only three times. The four walks in 140 games must be a record of some sort. I did a Baseball-Reference search. Alfredo is the only batter with more than 400 at-bats and less than five walks since 1909.
He played 140 games, with Tony Fernandez starting to take over at short. Alfredo played 21 games at second base.
I should explain the All-Star selection; in 1984, Damaso Garcia was chosen as the Jays’ representative to the All-Star team. We can laugh later at what a terrible pick for the All-Star team Garcia was, but this is Griffin’s birthday. MLB paid airfare for the All-Star and another person, generally the player’s wife or girlfriend. Garcia decided to bring Griffin along. All-Star shortstop Alan Trammell hurt his arm before the game, so manager Joe Altobelli named Griffin to the team because he was there anyway.
After the 1984 season, we traded Griffin to the Oakland A’s with Dave Collins for closer Bill Caudill. Caudill had one good season with the Jays and one lousy season, but the trade worked out for the Jays because it cleared the way for Fernandez to play short. Griffin played three seasons for the A’s, leading off too much for the team’s good. He won the Gold Glove in his first season with the A’s, in a ‘what the hell are they thinking’ vote. He hit better for the A’s than he had for the Jays, still not great but better than he had. After his three seasons in Oakland, he was traded to the Dodgers.
He was the player that Kirk Gibson pinch-hit for when he hit his game-winning home run in game 1 of the 1988 World Series. After four seasons in LA, he signed back with the Jays as a free agent. Griffin was with the Jays for both World Series wins as a utility infielder. He was on deck when Joe Carter hit the series-winning home run off Mitch Williams in the 1993 World Series, and that was the end of his major league career.
He had a long career for a pretty marginal player, playing 18 years in the majors. Any player with 3 World Series rings has to be considered a success. He had consecutive games played streak of 392 games that ended May 27, 1984. He is also remembered for his kamikaze base running style, scoring from 2nd on a fly ball or going first to third on a ground out or just as often getting thrown out trying to do the same.
He had one of the all-time great Chris Berman nicknames: Fettuccini Alfredo Griffin. Bill James listed him as the 108th-best shortstop of all time in his ‘New Historical Baseball Abstract’. However, since the book is copyrighted 2001, he’s likely to have dropped several spots since then.
His line as a Jay: .249/.280/.327. Ranks last on Jays’ list for OPS at .307 of players with 2000 or more plate appearances. He was a coach for the Angels from 2000 until 2018.
Happy Birthday, Alfredo. I hope it is a good one.
Robert Person turns 53 today.
His biggest claim to fame, as least as far as Jays fans are concerned, was that he is who we got from the Mets in the John Olerud trade.
Person pitched parts of 3 seasons with the Jays. He went 8-13 with a 6.18 ERA in 22 games, 21 starts with the Jays.
In early May, we traded him to the Phillies for Paul Spoljaric. Person was much better for the Phillies, pitching in 108 games, 99 starts over four seasons. He had a 38.24 record and a 4.23 ERA.
He played nine seasons in the MLB, with a 51-42 record and a 4.64 ERA in 206 games, 135 starts.
Happy Birthday Robert.
Ruben Sierra turns 57 today.
Ruben played 14 games, of a 2186-game career, with the Jays. We signed him as a free agent on May 11, 1997, and released him on June 16. He hit .208/.250/.354 in 14 games for us.
In total, he played for 9 MLB teams and hit .268/.315/.450 with 306 home runs over a 20-year MLB career.
Happy Birthday, Ruben.
Darren Oliver turns 52 today.
Oliver spent the last two seasons of a 20-year MLB career with the Blue Jays. He filled the LOOGY role for us in 2012 and 2013, pitching in 112 games, and had a 2.90 ERA as a 41 and 42-year-old. He had 24 holds and 2 saves in those two seasons.
In total, he pitched in 766 games, 229 starts. He had a 118-98 record and a 4.51 ERA, pitching 1915 innings.
Happy Birthday, Darren.