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Happy Birthday Manuel Lee

USA TODAY Sports-Historical USA TODAY Sports

It is Manny Lee’s 58th birthday. I’ve heard he didn’t like the name ‘Manny’, but that’s how 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.

The Mets signed Lee as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1982. The Mets traded him and two other players to the Astros for Ray Knight. Knight would become 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 from 1985 to 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. In addition, 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 to the A’s in the ALCS. Lee had 2 singles in 8 at-bats.

In 1990 he hit .243/.288/.340 in 117 games.

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. Similarly, 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 before being released and 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. Although, 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, which knocked Tony 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 loss to the Tigers in our second-last game.

We would have won the AL East that year if Fernandez was not 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.

It is also Yusei Kikuchi’s 32nd birthday.

Yusei is in the second year of a 3-year, $36 million contract. The first year didn’t go well.

This year is better so far. He is 6-2 with a 4.31 ERA in 14 games, with a league-leading 19 home runs against.

Happy Birthday, Yusei. I hope it is a good one.