Former Blue Jay, Mariner, Diamondback, Dodger, Ray, Giant, Padre, Astro and Red Sock, Jose Cruz, Jr. turns 49 today.
Jose was a good player but never became the star we figured he’d be. However, considering we picked him up, from the Mariners, for a couple of middle reliever types, Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric, he did pretty well for us. He was a 30/30 guy in 2001, with 34 homers and 32 steals; the following year, he dropped to 18 homers and 7 steals.
With the Blue Jays, he played 698 games, hit .250/.331/.462 with 122 home runs (good for 13th on our all-time list. Vlad will pass him with 17 more).
Cruz had a decent eye at the plate. He took 102 walks, in 2003, with the Giants, but he never hit for as high an average as we expected, and he never had the consistent power that we hoped would develop. Two seasons of 30+ homers and then back to the 18 to 20 level.
He had the bloodlines. His father, Jose Cruz, was a great player for the Houston Astros in the Astrodome days.
Junior finished his career with 204 home runs, 624 RBI, 113 steals, and a .247/.337/.445 line. It is a good, but not a great, career, and we expected great.
Happy Birthday, Jose.
There are a couple of other birthdays:
Curtis Thigpen turns 40 today. The Jays drafted Thigpen in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft. He was one in the long line of ‘catchers of the future’ who didn’t turn out for us. He played 47 games with a .238/.294/.287 line in 2007 and then 10 games in 2008 for the Jays. He was picked up by the A’s in March 2009 and released in April 2010. He has been out of baseball since.
Willis Otanez turns 50 today. Otanez played 42 games for us in 1999, hitting .252/.307/.433 with 5 home runs. We picked him off waivers from the Orioles at the end of May that year. He played third, first, and DH in his 2 MLB seasons. I can’t say I have any real memory of him.
And Frank Viola turns 62 today. Frank played for the Jays in 1996, his last season in the MLB. He went 1-3 record with a 7.71 ERA in 6 starts. Frank had an excellent MLB career, playing 15 seasons and finishing with a 176-150 record in 421 games and 420 starts. He threw over 230 innings nine times, which might be why he didn’t do well after his 30th birthday. He won the AL Cy Young in 1988 with the Twins, with a 24-7 record and a 2.64 ERA in 35 starts.
Happy birthday to all three.