I have been hearing all sorts of comparisons to the 1992 Blue Jays as of late. I’ve heard anything from the David Price trade being so similar to the David Cone for Jeff Kent trade and how the Tulo trade is so the Roberto Alomar trade of our time. The idea that both teams were built on a solid offense and pitching needed to be just enough. How we acquired an impact bat in the off season prior to the season in Josh Donaldson just like picking up Dave Winfield before ’92. All comparisons aside, this team here in 2015 is starting to look like a contender just like the 1992 team.
That being said I am going to point out a comparison that I have yet to hear anyone else mention. The Blue Jays bench has incredible depth and can play the game of baseball at a high level on their own. The 1992 World Series Camps had a bunch of character and talent that helped pick up their teammates whenever they were called upon. This cast of characters nicknamed themselves “The Trenches.” Lets look at how the ’92 cast compares to the Trenches 2.0 version that we are enjoying today.
In 1992 the Jays bench boasted players like Derek Bell, Alfredo Griffin, Pat Tabler, Rob Ducey, Jeff Kent, and Ed Sprague. There are a few names there that went on to be great baseball players. Some who became Blue Jays regulars even. This group played multiple positions and was able to have decent production as role players. I never realized that Ed Sprague had caught in 15 games and only played 1 game at 3rd base. That just shocks me having a player like him with that kind of versatility on the bench. Ed Sprague played in 22 games in ’92 and collected 11 hits. Nothing outstanding for the regular part of the season. As we all know he would go on to hit a a decisive home run off of Jeff Reardon in the 9th inning of game 2. Fellow Trenches employee Derek Bell had walked before Sprague to set up the what would become a Jays game 2 victory.
This group of “hard working cheer leaders” as Derek Bell explained were solid baseball players that were ready to contribute however they had to. Whatever Cito Gaston needed them to do they jumped off the bench like they were sitting on a spring. This depth was at the heart of the Blue Jays attack and made them very dangerous. So dangerous that rising star Jeff Kent was traded for David Cone to become the Trenches hired gun. At the time of the trade Jeff Kent was hitting .240 in 65 games with 8 home runs and 35 RBI. David Cone would help a hurting Blue Jays rotation make the final push into the playoffs. Cone would go on to pitch in 8 games for the Jays with a 2.55 ERA and strike out 47 in 53 innings.
Now that the history for this comparison has been laid out lets look at the team as it stands today. The Jays lineup is downright nasty for opposing pitchers to be looking at. What I find even scarier is the amount of depth we have sitting and waiting on the bench. There is speed, power, and some fine defense just ready to jump into the fire when needed. The Jays have players like Dioner Navarro, Chris Colabello, Ryan Goins, Justin Smoak, Ezequiel Carrera, and Munenori Kawasaki (and newest trade acquisition, Cliff Pennington) just waiting to help out. Some things have changed in the past few weeks as I would have loved to continue to write about Danny Valencia in this article, but seeing he was waved and now is a member of the Oakland A’s he will be only getting an honorable mention.
This group has provided excellent talent replacement for injured players and has also been full of contributors. Chris Colabello has been having a wonderful season and in this writers opinion should be playing everyday over Justin Smoak. Smoak provides a hard hitting switch hitter for late in the game with plus defense and would provide great support in late innings.
Ryan Goins has played pretty much everywhere on the diamond it seems and has been finding a way to flash more the just the leather of late. As I wrote earlier this week he has been able to produce hits in timely spots and has been getting on base to score a lot. His ability to get on base at the bottom of the order has given the top 4 mashers someone to drive in. This is why Tulo is batting lead off in you had to ask me. Colabello is only batting a mere .318 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI as a role player this season. He has also been able to find playing time at 3 positions which makes those offensive numbers look even better as he had to learn what it is like to be an everyday outfielder this season. Since the acquisition of Ben Revere he has been pushed to a back up role.
Having yet another switch hitter available off the bench in Dioner Navarro has been a welcomed deal for John Gibbons. Not only has Navarro been helping pitchers like Marco Estrada he has provided an ever improving bat off the bench. His early season injury definitely had him off to a slow start in the batters box but he has since provided some clutch at bats. Not trading Navarro has proven to be a wise decision for Alex Anthopoulos. He has provided much more value then his .226 batting average would show.
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So just like the ’92 Trenches the depth has been a very welcome change over the past seasons. This depth has helped the Jays offense and defense be one of the best in the league as there are few holes through this roster. Depth is one thing though but Derek Bell stated that the Trenches were the cheer leaders of the team. Look no further then the antics of the one and only Munenori Kawasaki.
Yes he has been up and down from Buffalo all season but a guy like him that is full of energy can really help ignite a club house. This ball of energy dances in the dugout and is always the first in line to high five or bow to his teammates after a solid play. He also might be the best interview in baseball just see the below clip from MLB Networks Intentional Talk shows. The team cohesiveness that is shown from the “Stirring the Pot” is becoming more and more prevalent through the Jays dugout. Seems like every hit Navarro collects is celebrated with the gesture.
The constant work effort and character of this 2015 team has been a very bright spot for most Jays’ fans. The team is building on that charisma and acting like a winner. That swagger should continue to build the Trenches and the Jays toward the division title as the wind shifts in their favor. Jays Fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about this team and we love making these comparisons to the glory days here at Jays Journal. This is the most fun that I have had watching baseball since I was a kid watching the ’92 and ’93 seasons with my dad. He might have had to sneak me out of my room to let me watch Joe Carter’s home run in ’93 seeing that I was supposed to be asleep on a school night, but it was totally worth it. Just enjoy the ride as Kawasaki said “this is too much fun” and “It’s not over yet.” Go Blue Jays Go!
If anyone has any new nicknames for “The Trenches 2.0” join us in the comment section
All information and stats provided from Baseball-Reference.com