Tony Fernandez, the best shortstop to play for the Blue Jays (Bo might take a run at the title), would have turned 61 today.
Tony is our franchise leader in games played (1450) and hits (1583), among other things. He also holds our single-season record for singles (161) and triples (17). He also leads position players in bWAR at 37.5 (Jose Bautista is second at 37.0).
Fernandez had four different tours of duty with the Jays. He came up to the Jays in 1983 at 21 years old and played shortstop until 1990. Then he was part of the big trade, going to San Diego with Fred McGriff for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. You may have heard about that trade before.
Then in 1993, our shortstop Dick Schofield was injured in early May. The Jays tried Alfredo Griffin and Domingo Cedeno at the spot, but neither was up to the job, so they traded with the Mets to get Fernandez back. It worked out well. Tony hit .306/.361/.442 in 94 games with the team and got a World Series ring.
After the season, he signed with the Reds as a free agent. He played with the Reds, Yankees, and Cleveland before we signed him as a free agent before the 1998 season to be a utility infielder for us. He ended up playing many games at second and third base in 1998. Then in 1999, he was a full-time third baseman. He had a super year with the bat in 1999, hitting .328/.427/.449, though his defence left some to be desired.
In 2000 he went to play in Japan. Then the Brewers signed him as a free agent before the 2001 season. He played there for two months, was released, and we signed him again. He pinch-hit and DHed a bit for us and was able to retire as a Blue Jay.
Tony won four Gold Gloves. He was a very athletic shortstop and was always a favourite of mine. Tony had a remarkable ability to make that leaping jump-spin throw to first. And, of course, those sidearm throws to first were something I tried to copy. I remember him smiling and happy on the bench, but he was generally quiet with the media. It could be a language thing. Back then, I thought that Dominican players distrusted the media, but perhaps the media didn’t like talking to players through a translator. I had someone ask me why Vladimir Guerrero Jr. doesn’t speak English. I suggested he does but would prefer to interview in the language he was most comfortable using. I don’t think players got that choice back in Tony’s day.
He was the smoothest shortstop I have ever watched play baseball.
Fernandez is in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He would be in the MLB Hall of Fame in a more just world.
He passed away back in February 2020. His death made me sadder than I would have expected.
Bud Black turns 66 today.
We traded for Black on September 16, 1990. At the time, we were one game back of the Red Sox for first in the AL East.
Black got into his first game in relief and got the win on September 18, pulling us into a tie for first. His first start was a loss, and then he started our second last game of the season, picking up the win, keeping us a game back, and giving us a chance, but we lost (and the Red Sox won) on the last day of the season, and we finished two games back of Boston.
After the season, he signed with the Giants as a free agent.
Black had a 15-year MLB career. He had a 121-116 record and a 3.84 ERA in 398 games and 296 starts.
After his pitching career was over, he became a pitching coach and, later, manager of the Padres in 2007. And in 2017, he was hired to manage the Rockies, and he’s been there ever since.
Pat Venditte turns 38 today.
Pat pitched for the Blue Jays in 2016, getting into 8 games.
Pat’s claim to fame is that he pitched with both hands. As the headline said, he was an amphibious pitcher, which would even be more remarkable than being ambidextrous.
He’s pitched in 61 MLB games over five seasons with six different teams.