Former Blue Jays slugger Tony Batista turns 50 today.
In 2.5 seasons, Tony hit 80 home runs for us. Batista had one great season, hitting 41 home runs and 114 RBI in 2000. He hit .263/.307/.519.
2000 was a good season for watching Jays hit home runs. Carlos Degado also had 41 home runs. Brad Fullmer and Jose Cruz hit 32 and 31 home runs, respectively. And three others (Darrin Fletcher, Shannon Stewart, and Raul Mondesi) were in their 20s for home runs.
Batista had one of the strangest batting stances you will ever see. He waited for the pitch in an extremely open stance. Tony stood facing the pitcher, then stepped forward towards the plate with his lead foot as he started his swing. Batista swung hard, and he didn’t worry too much about whether the ball was in the strike zone. But when he connected, the ball went a long way. I wish we had a good picture of his stance.
I’ll admit, I tried to copy his swing. First, if you are playing in a men’s fastball league, it drives the pitcher crazy that you are standing there looking at him. Then, getting the timing of the step towards the plate isn’t easy. Following the pitch while your body is making a quarter turn adds another degree of difficulty. It didn’t take long for me to return to my more Tim Wallachish stance (very dull, standing straight, almost no bend in the knees or the back).
There were few players I liked watching in the batter’s box more.
When we picked him up in a trade from the Diamondbacks, he played shortstop in the middle of the 1999 season (along with John Frascatore for reliever Dan Plesac). He wasn’t great at the position. He didn’t have much for range. So, the following year, we moved him over to third. He still wasn’t great defensively, but we will overlook that if you hit 41 homers.
Tony’s 2001 season didn’t start well; he was hitting .207/.251/.399 and making pretty good money, so the Jays put him on the waiver wire, and the Orioles picked him up.
Batista had an 11-season MLB career, playing for six teams, including the Expos. He hit 221 home runs and drove in 718 runs with a .251/.299/.453 batting line.
Happy Birthday, Tony. I hope it is a good one.
Here is the best video I could find of Tony’s batting stance. The home run he hits (wait for its replay) shows just how amazing it was that he could make contact.
It’s Juan Samuel’s 63rd birthday today.
We signed Juan as a free agent in 1996 when he was 35 and winding down an excellent MLB career. Gord Ash liked signing older former stars. It was one more thing that drove me up the wall about him. I always wanted to see the young guys get a chance.
Juan was very good at hitting left-handed pitchers, and the Jays wanted him for that skill and to be a DH/utility guy. He could play most of the infield spots and the corner outfield spots. So he was platooned with Carlos Delgado at DH until Cito was finally convinced that Carlos should be allowed to hit lefties.
Samuel played three seasons for us, the last two mainly as a pinch-hitting. He hit .252/.328/.447 with 12 home runs and 27 steals in 157 games as a Jay. After the 1998 season, he retired from baseball when he hit .18/.293/.280 in 59 PA for us.
In his career, he hit .259/.315/.420 with 102 home runs in a 16-year career, playing for seven teams. He played seven seasons with the Phillies. In his rookie season, he hit .272/.307/.442 with 19 triples and 72 steals in 737 PA. The downside was a league-leading 168 strikeouts (with just 28 walks). He was the prototype ‘you don’t walk off the island’ player. Juan came in second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Mets’ pitcher Dwight Gooden.
Happy birthday, Juan.
Fred Lewis turns 43 today.
Fred played one season with the Jays, hitting .262/.332/.414 with 8 home runs and 17 steals in 110 games back in 2010. He was a fan favourite for some and disliked by others.
He, somehow, forgot how to play defense for us. After being, at least, average with the glove most of his career, he had a -15.1 UZR/150 for us in left field.
Lewis left as a free agent after the 2010 season and would play 99 games over the next two seasons before the end of his major league career.
Happy Birthday, Fred.
Mat Latos is 36 today.
Mat made three spot starts for us during the 2017 season. One was quite good, 6 innings of shutout ball against the Cardinals, the other two weren’t. He ended up with a 6.60 ERA.
He had a pretty good career going until he tore cartilage in his left knee during spring training in 2014 when Mat (one t) was just 26, and he wasn’t the same pitcher after that. He had a 3.35 ERA in 137 starts over five seasons until then. After that, he had a 4.45 ERA in 60 games, 52 starts.
Happy Birthday, Mat.