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Jays Listed – Top 10 he was a Blue Jay?

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There are certain players you just associate with certain teams. When I say Cal Ripken you obviously think about the Baltimore Orioles. Tony Gwynn, the San Diego Padres. Ted Williams, the Boston Red Sox. Even players that have jumped around a few different teams throughout their career usually bring one team to mind. Kenny Lofton will always be a Cleveland Indian to me and Rickey Henderson is an Oakland Athletic in my mind whenever his name comes up.

There are plenty of players that have worn the Blue Jays uniform over the years that fit the bill. There are also plenty that don’t. This edition of Jays Listed is about the latter. They’re players that made their names with other teams and are never remembered as Jays when someone tells a story about them. You may not even remember that some of these players even were Blue Jays. Possibly because they made very little impact while with Toronto, or, more likely, because they made such a bigger impact elsewhere.

So, here’s our list of 10 guys that were Blue Jays, but you may not even know it. The list includes a pair of two-time World Series champions, an NL MVP, an AL home run leader, an AL Rookie of the Year, numerous All-Stars and even an NBA All-Star. None of the accolades came with the Blue Jays though. If you’ve been a fan for years and your memory is good enough you may have figured out a few of them already. Here we go…

 

10 David Eckstein

When you think of David Eckstein you likely remember him as a two-time World Series winner with the Los Angeles Angels and the St. Louis Cardinals. He was actually the World Series MVP for the Cardinals in 2006 when he .364 with a .391 OBP, four RBI and three runs scored in the series.

What you may not remember about Eckstein is his brief stop in Toronto during the 2008 season. On December 13, 2007 the Blue Jays signed Eckstein to a one-year $4.5 million contract. He started at shortstop on opening day and ending up playing 76 games, hitting .277, with a .354 OBP and a .711 OPS. For those who do remember Eckstein as a Blue Jay he’s likely best remembered for crashing into Aaron Hill which resulted in Hill suffering a season-ending concussion.

On August 31, 2008 the Blue Jays traded Eckstein to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Chad Beck.

 

9. Tony Phillips

When you hear the name Tony Phillips you probably see him in either a Oakland Athletics or a Detroit Tigers uniform right? After all, Phillips spent parts of nine seasons with Oakland and had the best years of his career with the Tigers.

Phillips also spent a few weeks with the Blue Jays in 1998. Phillips began the 1998 season with the Anaheim Angels, but never got into a game after being released on April 1. Flash forward a few months later and the Jays signed him as a free agent on Canada Day.

Phillips made his Blue Jays debut on July 17, going 0-for-5 against the Yankees. In the next game he recorded his first hit as a Blue Jay and would go on to hit safely in six-straight games. At the end of that short streak he had three consecutive three-hit games.

By the end of the month Phillips was hitting .354 with a .467 OBP and a .987 OPS in 13 games. That was it for his Blue Jay career though, as he was traded to the Mets for Leo Estrella on July 31.

 

8 Cecil Fielder

Cecil Fielder’s big claim to fame came in 1990 when he hit 51 home runs as a member of the Detroit Tigers. At the time he was the first batter to reach the 50-home run plateau in 13 years. Before entering the record books Fielder spent four forgettable seasons in Toronto.

Fielder became a Blue Jay on February 5, 1983 when he was traded from Kansas City for Leon Roberts. He made his Toronto debut a few years later in 1985 when he appeared in 30 games and hit .311 with a .358 OBP, four home runs and 16 RBI.

Fielder remained a backup during his four years with Toronto. The most games he played in a single season with the Jays was 82 in 1987. He started to flash his power potential that season with 14 home runs in 175 at bats. He also hit .269 with a .345 OBP and a .905 OPS.

After the 1988 season Fielder headed to Japan to play for the Hanshin Tigers. Not only did Fielder make a lot more money playing in Japan, but he also gained the opportunity to play everyday. He hit 38 home runs in his lone season in Japan which earned him another shot at the Majors with the Tigers. In his first season with the Tigers he hit 51 home runs and had 132 RBI.

 

7. Brian McRae

Brian McRae is the son of former All-Star Hal McRae, who was also his manager when he began his career in Kansas City. McRae spent most of his 10-year Major League career with Kansas City, the Mets and the Cubs, but he did make a short pit stop in Toronto at the end of his career in 1999.

The Blue Jays acquired McRae from the Rockies on August 9, 1999 in exchange for Pat Lynch. In his Toronto debut on August 10 he went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks. An inconsistent bat limited McRae to 31 games for the Blue Jays the rest of the season. He hit a pedestrian .195 with a .340 OBP and a .706 with three home runs and 11 RBI. After the season he became a free agent but drew no interest and retired not long after.

 

6. Marty Cordova

Marty Cordova’s biggest claim to fame was winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1995 with the Minnesota Twins. That season he hit .277 with a .352 OBP and a .893 OPS. He had 24 home runs, 84 RBI and a 3.0 WAR.

Cordova spent his first five seasons in Minnesota, but saw his numbers start to decline quickly in his last couple of seasons with the Twins. Following the 1999 season he originally signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox released him near the end of spring training and the Jays scooped him up the next day.

He spent the entire 2000 season in Toronto, appearing in 62 games while hitting .245 with a .317 OBP and a .657 OPS. He hit only four home runs, had 18 RBI and a lackluster 65 OPS+. Following the season Cordova signed with the Indians and he also spent two seasons in Baltimore before the end of his career.

 

5. Mike Bordick

Mike Bordick is best known for his years with the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles. He was an All-Star in 2000 and had a solid glove at shortstop, but never won a Gold Glove due to the award constantly going to Omar Vizquel. During his career he set a record for consecutive error-less games for a shortstop at 110 and consecutive error-less chances at 543.

Bordick finished his 14-year career with the Blue Jays in 2003. He saw action in 102 games that season, hitting .274 with a .340 OBP and a .722 OPS. He also posted a 1.5 WAR. He also had one of the most weird and awkward batting stances baseball has ever seen which I can’t find a picture of anywhere online.

 

4. Edgardo Alfonzo

If you remember Edgardo Alfonzo you probably remember him in a Mets uniform. Alfonzo began his Major League career with the Mets in 1995 and during his eight seasons with the organization was a feared hitter and solid fielder at second base.

Alfonzo didn’t arrive in Toronto until the 2006 season. He began the season with the Los Angeles Angels, but was released on May 21. The Blue Jays signed him on May 25 giving him the opportunity to continue his Major League career. It turned out to be a short opportunity.

He made his Toronto debut on May 29, going 0-for-3 against the Red Sox. He recorded his first hit as a Blue Jay in his fourth game after beginning his Blue Jay career 0-for-12. Alfonzo continued to scuffle at the plate with only four hits in his first 11 games, none of which were for extra bases.

The Blue Jays finally gave up on Alfonzo on June 12 when they released him. Through 12 games he hit only .163 with a .279 OBP and a .468 OPS. He had no home runs and four RBI while registering an OPS+ of 25.

 

3. Danny Ainge

If you’re old enough you may remembered Danny Ainge as an NBA All-Star who won a pair of NBA titles with the Boston Celtics in the 1980s. If you’re from the younger set you may know Ainge from his current role, President of Basketball Operations with the Boston Celtics. Well, before all of that for some reason Danny Ainge played baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays for three seasons.

The Blue Jays drafted the multi-sport playing Ainge in the 15th round of the 1977 draft. After a few seasons in the minors he made his Toronto debut in 1979. He appeared in 87 games that season, mostly at second base. He hit .237 with a .269 OBP and a lowly .554 OPS. He hit two home runs, had 19 RBI and scored 26 runs. His OPS+ was only 50 and he posted a -0.8 WAR.

Ainge’s second season with the Blue Jays wasn’t much better. He spent most of 1980 at AAA, but saw action in 38 games for the big club playing all three outfield positions as well as second and third. He hit .243 with a .263 OBP and a .578 OPS. He had only four RBI and scored 11 runs while posting a 55 OPS+ and a -0.3 WAR.

The 1981 season would be Ainge’s last in Major League Baseball. He played in 86 games with Toronto, hitting .187 with a .258 OBP and a .486 OPS. His OPS+ that season was a lame 38 and his WAR plummeted to -1.2.

During the 1981 baseball season Ainge decided to change sports and take up basketball. He was drafted by the Celtics in the 1981 NBA Draft in the second round. After a court battle between the Blue Jays and the Celtics, Boston had to pay a buy-out to the Jays to get Ainge out of Toronto. Ainge is one of only 12 people who have played in both the NBA and the MLB.

 

2. Dave Parker

Dave Parker spent 19 years in the MLB, but there probably aren’t very many people that would associate him with the Toronto Blue Jays. Parker started his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1973. In 11 seasons with the Pirates Parker was a four-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner, the NL MVP in 1978 and a World Series champion in 1979.

Parker left the Pirates in 1983, signing with the Cincinnati Reds as a free agent. With the Reds he was selected to two more All-Star teams, finished Top 5 in the NL MVP voting twice and won a pair of Silver Slugger Awards.

The Reds traded Parker to the Oakland Athletics in 1988 where he was another power bat alongside the Bash Brothers. Parker added another World Series ring to his finger in 1989 when Oakland defeated San Francisco in the World Series.

After leaving Oakland following the 1989 season Parker bounced around a bit. He was traded to Milwaukee for the 1990 season where he made his seventh trip to the All-Star game. In 1991 he began the season with the California Angels before being released on September 7.  The Blue Jays took a chance on the 40-year-old veteran, signing him on September 14.

In 13 games with the Blue Jays the rest of the season Parker hit .333 with a .400 OBP and a .844 OPS. He didn’t hit any home runs, but he had three RBI, and scored a pair of runs in 36 at bats. Since he was acquired so late in the season Parker was ineligible for the postseason and did not play against Minnesota in the ALCS. He retired after the season.

 

1. Phil Niekro

Phil Niekro was the first player to wear a Blue Jays uniform to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. However, if you blinked too long in 1987 you would have missed his short tenure with Toronto.

A knuckle ball pitcher with a rubber arm, Niekro pitched in the Majors for 24 seasons. In those 24 seasons Niekro recorded 318 wins while posting a 3.35 ERA and a .127 WHIP. He had an amazing 245 complete games, which included 45 shutouts. He also recorded 3342 strikeouts and posted a career WAR of 91.7.

In 1987 at the age of 48 Niekro began the season with the Cleveland Indians. He made 22 starts with Cleveland, posting a 7-11 record with a 5.89 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP when the Blue Jays acquired him on August 9 in a trade for Darryl Landrum and Don Gordon. At the time of the trade the Blue Jays were in first place in the AL East with a half game lead over the Yankees and a 1.5 game lead on the Detroit Tigers. Niekro’s veteran presence would be just what the Jays would need to push them over the top and hold on to that lead right?

If you know how the 1987 season ended then you know that wasn’t the case. In fact the Niekro trade was a complete disaster. In his first start with the Blue Jays against the White Sox on August 13 Niekro surrendered three runs on five hits over 5 2-3 innings. Not a horrible line, but Toronto still lost 10-3. In his next outing Niekro faced the Angels and was touched up for three runs on six hits in 5 2-3 innings .He again took the loss in a 3-1 Blue Jays defeat.

Niekro’s third start for the Jays was the end of his time Toronto. Facing Oakland, Niekro was hammered for five runs on four hits while getting only two outs in the first inning. Toronto would go on to lose that game 6-5.

After the game Niekro was given his release. His final stats with the Jays were a 0-2 record, an 8.25 ERA and a 1.83 WHIP. He allowed 11 runs, all earned and walked seven batters in 12 innings.

Honorable Mention:

Eric Lindros

Eric Lindros never really was a Blue Jay of course. That didn’t stop Score from releasing the above baseball card of him in the batting cage sporting a Blue Jays uniform in the 1990 Rookie/Traded card set. The back of the card says that Lindros was a two-sport athlete that played ball in high school and hit .400 with plenty of power. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but the part about Lindros receiving a try-out with the Blue Jays sounds like a loud of bull. Comparing Lindros to multi-sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders is also quite a stretch for what was likely just a photo-op in the batting cage for a soon-to-be-drafted Lindros.

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