So many expectations for this year’s team, and thus so much anxiety and worry abound. Even more so now, with news of Josh Donaldson’s calf troubles. What is it about the Jays’ recent camps? Injuries to Marcus Stroman and Michael Saunders a couple of years ago still seem to haunt Auto Exchange Stadium, the Blue Jays spring home.
In view of all this, I thought why not lighten our baseball spirits a bit, and share in the successes of past Blue Jays who have recently been hired in key roles as members of coaching staffs around the league.
The most recent former Blue Jay hiring is none other than Saint John, New Brunswick’s own Matt Stairs who is now tasked with being the hitting coach of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Stairs provided analysis from the outside-in for the Phillies as part of their broadcast team most recently. The club decided his expertise be put to better use working directly with their players.
The Phillies choice of Stairs for their hitting coach is nothing to scoff at: Stairs enjoyed a long career in the show, playing for just shy of 20 seasons. During that time he compiled a batting average of.263 while slamming 265 hits over the outfield walls, and driving in 897.
I was surprised during my research that he was only with the Jays in 2007 and part of 2008, finishing that season on the roster of the World Series winner that year, the, you guessed it, Philadelphia Phillies. He mostly served as a dangerous bat off the bench, with the ability to provide game-changing, late-inning power on occasion. Perhaps we might even say “clutch” power. Key post-season homers by Stairs led to the Phillies printing promotional material and wearables with the catch phrase “In Case of Emergency Use Stairs.”
It’s funny the way baseball works sometimes, though: without Stairs’ short but successful time in Toronto, he might not have had the opportunity to be such an impact bat in Philly. While in Toronto Stairs ended up getting a lot of playing time due to some injuries of core players such as Reed Johnson and Lyle Overbay. Getting reps every day likely allowed him to hone his natural ability to hit for power. A bit of trivia which illustrates that is Stairs’ Blue Jays record of hitting 5 doubles in 5 consecutive at-bats on August 8th, 2007.
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The other former Blue Jay who is currently coaching is almost a polar opposite of Stairs, known for his defence at short: Alfredo Griffin.
Griffin spent 6 years with the Jays, holding it down at shortstop from 1979 – 1984. He made a splash his rookie season, sharing rookie of the year honors with John Castino. He also has a gold glove on his mantle for his 1985 season with Oakland.
Let’s fast forward, though: Griffin, a much beloved Jay is a bit of a household name with Angels fans now too, after serving as their first-base coach since 2000. Last year Mike Scioscia chose to mix things up a bit by making Gary Disarcina the first base coach, thereby allowing Griffin to devote full-time duties as the Angels infield coach. This year, though, Griffin has been moved back to his usual spot on their coaching staff.
Something nice about seeing prominent, at least in my mind, former Jays still working full-time in the bigs nurturing current talent.
Am I missing anyone? Feel free to enlighten us in the comments if so.