Kelly Gruber turns 61 today.
Gruber was a Rule 5 pickup from the Rangers in 1983. Since we didn’t have 7 or 8-man bullpens back then, a Rule 5 pick could be hidden on the bench. Gruber had all of 16 at-bats in 1984 while staying on the roster all season. It took until 1986 that he played much at the MLB level, getting into 87 games mainly as a defensive replacement. 1987 was the first season Kelly had a real role on the team, taking Garth Iorg’s spot as the right-handed half of the third base platoon with Rance Mulliniks. He didn’t do well, hitting.235/.283/.399.
In 1988 he took over the full-time third base job when Rance became DH. Kelly was much better, hitting 278/.328/.438, with 16 home runs, 81 RBI and 23 stolen bases. 1989 was our first playoff season, and Gruber was a large part of our success despite a couple of trips to the DL (shades of things to come). Kelly got selected to the All-Star team and hit .290/.328/.448 with 18 homers and 73 RBI. Even his defense improved as he showed a bit more range. And on April 16th, he became the first Jay to hit for the cycle. Gruber hit well in our five-game series loss to Oakland in the ALCS with a .294 average
1990, Gruber’s best season, with 31 home runs and 118 RBI, hitting .274/.330/.512 for an OPS+ of 127. He had career highs in at-bats, runs, doubles, triples, homers, and RBI. He won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and made the All-Star game, taking a walk and stealing 2 bases in two plate appearances. He also was 4th in the MVP vote. He was 6th in the AL in slugging average, 2nd in total bases and 2nd in RBI.
After that, he had a couple of injury-filled seasons, but he picked up a World Series ring and was part of what should have been a triple play if it wasn’t for some lousy umpiring.
After 1992 Kelly was traded to the Angels. He only played 18 games for the Angels. Then injuries forced him out of the game. In total, he played ten seasons, hit .259/.307/.432 with 117 home runs. He also was an excellent defensive third baseman. Kelly was blond and good-looking, a fan favourite.
That favourite fan status took a beating when he was drunk at a Pitch Talks event and made an ass out of himself. Alcohol and an over-inflated ego (with more than a little sexism thrown in) are a bad combination.
Josh Towers turns 46 today (I had to double check that. Has it been that long?).
Towers pitched for us for five seasons, winning 37 and losing 42 from 2003 to 2007. His best season was 2005, when he went 13-12 with a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts. Unfortunately, the following year wasn’t as good, 2-10 with an 8.42 ERA. Towers, even at the best of times, gave up a lot of hits and a good number of home runs, but he kept the walks down and made guys hit their way on base. In 2009 he had a couple of appearances for the Yankees. He was your basic soft thrower, threw strikes, and got hit a lot, but he didn’t walk anyone.
Mark DeRosa turns 48 today.
Mark played for us in 2013, the last season of his 16-year career. Alex signed him to ‘fix the clubhouse chemistry’ and help Brett Lawrie mature. We went several seasons where we brought someone in to fix the clubhouse every year. I’m only a fan of bringing someone in, thinking he will fix the chemistry if he is also a good player. Mark hit .235/.326/.407 for us, not all that bad, in 88 games. However, he played more than we would have liked and was average.
In his career, he hit .268/.340/.412 with 100 home runs in 1241 games.
And Richard Ureña turns 27 today.
He was one of those guys I had high hopes for, but it never worked out for him. He had 263 games for us over three seasons, hitting .235/.300/.336 with 2 home runs. He was in the Nationals system last year.