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So there I was on the last Blue Jays off day thinking - I didn't prepare on off-day time waster, for a day without baseball. How will I ever look anyone in their virtual eyes again?

Oh quite easily, I assure you.

It's an off-day, but the trade deadline is nigh upon us. I thought I should supply a time-waster while we wait to See What Happens.

Alas, none of those Large Projects I occasionally crank out are anywhere close to being ready, or even close to attracting much of my attention. So I looked over the Jays roster and I thought - that Bradley Zimmer sure is one skinny fellow. He's listed at 6-4, like Gurriel, which makes the two of them the tallest people on the team (pitchers are not normal people, they're enormous creatures genetically engineered in some underground lab for one specific purpose...) Anyway, Zimmer weighs just 185 pounds, and only Raimel Tapia (6-3, 175) could reasonably be said to be skinnier than Brad.

That's right - it's not just Windy Baseball Lore - it's Windy Blue Jays Lore!

Our man Zimmer has an unsual role on the team - defensive sub and pinch-runner. It's unusual, at least in Blue Jays lore, for the team to carry a player and use him in such narrow and specific roles. Zimmer has been used as a pinch-runner 12 times, and a defensive replacement 43 times. He's only started 21 games, and I wondered - have the Jays ever had a player who was used more often as a pinch runner than he was in the starting lineup?

Because that seems like it would be just so, so disrespectful. Doesn't it? You're pretty much saying "look here my dude, you're not good enough to actually play, but at least you can run, so we'll make use of that." The 1973 Oakland A's used a veteran minor league outfielder named Allan Lewis as a kind of Designated Runner back in 1973. Lewis appeared in 35 games without ever once making a plate appearance, entering all of them as a pinch runner (he finished up one game in left field.) Finley was so proud of his cleverness that he went and hired a track star named Herb Washington to be his Designated Runner in 1974. Washington had never played pro ball, and didn't really know how to play baseball. He stole 29 bases but was caught 16 times, and picked off 4 times. In the second game of the World Series, with Oakland having just scored twice in the ninth inning to cut the Dodgers' lead to 3-2, Washington came out of the dugout to run for Joe Rudi - and Mike Marshall promptly picked Washington off first base and struck out Angel Mangual to end the game. After that fiasco, Finley went back to humiliating actual baseball players like Don Hopkins and Larry Lintz by making them into Designated Runners during his final years running the show out in Oakland.

Zimmer is obviously not one of those guys. He's a superb defensive player, and he hasn't always hit like a pitcher, that's just something weird that's happened to him this year. Zimmer's just the guy who sent me tumbling down this particular rabbit hole.

And of course the Jays have had players who made more appearances as a pinch runner than they ever did in the starting lineup. Of course they have.

So who was the most disrepected Jay of them all, who made far more appearances in the lineup as a pinch-runner than he was selected to be in the starting lineup? I shall pause a moment whilst you all write "Tom Lawless" on your answer forms...

And then I can tell you that it wasn't Tom Lawless.

It was Joe "J.J." Cannon.

Cannon was an outfielder who came to Toronto from Houston in the trade that made the legendary Mark Lemongello a Blue Jay. Cannon has gotten to play a little bit in 1979 - he started 33 games in the outfield while pinch-running 16 times. In 1979, the Jays had a very young outfielder named Ted Wilborn, whom Roy Harstfield clearly didn't believe was ready for prime time. Well, Harstfield, this one time, was correct. Wilborn wasn't ready. He never would be ready. Hartsfield used Wilborn as a pinch runner 15 times while starting him just twice.

But by 1980, Bobby Mattick was the manager, Ted Wilborn was a Yankee and Joe Cannon was still a Blue Jay. Cannon spent the entire 1980 season on the active roster, and Mattick wrote his name into the starting lineup just 7 times, while calling on him as a pinch runner 42 times. No Blue Jay has ever pinch run as often. Cannon's ratio of 6 pinch running appearances to each game start is also worthy of some respect. It can really only be challenged by Wilborn the year before (15 to 2), and the dozen or so guys who appeared as pinch runners while never starting at all, led by Ron Shepherd who pinch ran 9 times and finished a few games in LF without ever once appearing in the starting lineup back in 1984.

Shepherd is the man with the second most single-season pinch-running appearances in a single season, with 29 in 1986. Here is the single season leaderboard:

Joe Cannon 1980     45
Ron Shepherd 1986 29
Manuel Lee 1985 28
Tom Lawless 1989 26
Tony Johnson 1982 25

Lou Thornton 1985 23
Kelly Gruber 1986 23
Willie Upshaw 1978 22
John McDonald 2009 21
Juan Samuel 1998 20

The list overflows with young kids who hadn't yet established themselves as major league players, some of whom never would. Like Joe Cannon. Ron Shepherd was another tall, thin outfielder who showed a lot of promise at AAA in Syracuse in 1983. Shepherd played centre field between George Bell and Mitch Webster, and of that trio it was actually Shepherd who had the best season with the bat. He was also the youngest of the three. But Shepherd would struggle to hit as well as he had in 1983. He had a poor season in AAA in 1984, hit just .167 in three cups of coffee with the Jays, and was released in 1987. Bell, of course, made it to the majors to stay the following year and had a well remembered career. The Jays traded Webster to Montreal in 1985, and he would play in the majors until 1995. I think the Jays would have lost Webster to free agency after six years in the minor leagues, he was never going to crack that Toronto outfield, and the Jays system was overflowing with young outfielders - Sil Campusano, Rob Ducey, Glenallen Hill, Geronimo Berroa, and Lou Thornton.

Thornton makes our list, along with Manuel Lee, for his 1985 season - Thornton and Lee were both Rule 5 picks, nowhere near ready to play in the majors, but Bobby Cox had to carry them on the roster all season long as he fought with the Yankees for the AL East title. Lee was just 19 years old when the season began, not even particularly fast, and while he'd hit .330 in the minors the year before that had been in the South Atlantic League, A ball. Lee would at least have a career in the majors ahead of him. Thornton, who had also been in A ball the year before, wouldn't. Tony Johnson was already 26 years when he had likewise been a Rule 5 pick on the 1982 team - he would play two more years in the minors but never appeared in the majors again after his one season with the Blue Jays. Willie Upshaw was another Rule 5 pick, on the 1978 team - he would eventually establish himself as a quality major leaguer but that was four years down the road in 1982. Kelly Gruber had also been acquired in the Rule 5 draft, but the Jays made some kind of deal with Cleveland (history does not seem to record the terms of the arrangement) that allowed them to send him to the minors, where he spent most of 1984 and 1985. His first full season was 1986, and he hit just .196 while filling in at five positions and pinch running a lot.

There are also three veterans here - Tom Lawless, of course, is best remembered by Jays fans for being the pinch running specialist on that fondly remembered 1989 team - he only started 16 games while pinch running 26 times - and for spending a single inning catching Tom Henke's heater when the Jays ran out of catchers, the only time in franchise history that the team has ever had to put a position player behind the plate. He did his primary job very well, stealing 12 bases and getting caught just once. Lawless was a 32 year old career utility player by this time, best remembered for the three run homer he hit off Frank Viola to break up a 1-1 tie in Game 4 of the 1987 World Series. Lawless, filling in for an injured Terry Pendleton, had at this time hit exactly one homer in the majors, and he would hit just one more over the rest of his career. Nevertheless, he marked this one with one of the first truly memorable bat flips ever seen.

Juan Samuel had been a great base stealer when he was a young Phillie, but by 1998 he was 37 years old and it would be his final year in the majors. He could still motor, though, if not much else. He started just 12 games for Tim Johnson that year. And John McDonald - I was surprised to see him here. But this was the year that Marco Scutaro established himself, at age 33, as a major league quality shortstop. And with Aaron Hill established at second base, there really wasn't much else for McDonald to do, besides pinch run for the catchers and the DH.

So... who have the Blue Jays used most often as a pinch runner over the years? I admit, I was a little surprised. Here's the leaderboard:

John McDonald      61
Joe Cannon 58
Willie Upshaw 54
Ron Shepherd 53
Kelly Gruber 41

DeWayne Wise 40
Ezequiel Carrera 37
Manuel Lee 34
Tom Lawless 34
Lou Thornton 33

Oh, I'll give you the next ten guys as well!

Alfredo Griffin    31
Garth Iorg 31
Juan Samuel 30
Mike McCoy 30
Chris Woodward 28

Rob Ducey 27
Tony Johnson 25
Rajai Davis 24
Ken Williams 22
Tim Johnson 20

Yes, down there at the bottom of the list is the future White Sox GM, and the Jays 1998 manager.

While I was engaged on this stupid pursuit, I thought I'd look into pinch-hitting while I was at it. The Blue Jays Media Guide provides a disappointingly tiny bit of help here. It merely lists every pinch-hit homer ever hit by a Blue Jay. But that's all. It's nice to know that Ernie Whitt, Adam Lind, and Jesse Barfield each hit 4 pinch-hit homers as a Jay, and that Willie Greene and Colby Rasmus are the only Jays to hit three pinch-hit homers in a single season, but it doesn't tell us who pinch hit most often. Or most effectively.

Both of those questions may very well have the same answer. It just might be the one you were expecting to hear. No one has pinch hit more often than Tony Fernandez in his 2001 swan song with the Jays - he made 45 pinch hit appearances, and went 16-44 (.364) with his one career pinch hit homer and drove in 10 runs. The PApps, At Bats, Hits, and RBIs are all single season team records.

The other name you might expect to come up is, of course, the immortal Cliff Johnson. Heathcliff was famous for many things in his day, besides being the handsomest man who ever played in the majors. He broke Goose Gossage's thumb in a clubhouse brawl, which quickly punched his ticket out of New York. He was notorious for using anybody's bat, without ever bothering to ask, whenever he felt like it. This drove all his teammates absolutely crazy. Major league players rend to be a little weird about their bats. And of course he hit 20 pinch hit homers in his career, which stood as the major league record for many years until it was surpassed by Matt Stairs in 2010.

Johnson's 1984 season rivals Fernandez' work in 2001 for outstanding performance by a pinch-hitter. Johnson made 42 pinch-hitting appearances and went 11-34 (.324) with 1 HR, 8 rbi, and he also drew 7 bases on balls. No Blue Jay pinch hitter has reached base as often in a single season. The only other Blue Jay to have 11 pinch hits in a season was Wayne Nordhagen, who was the best of a pretty sorry bunch of DHs in 1972 (Dave Revering, the ghost of Otto Velez, Leon Roberts) but who did manage to go 11-26 (.423) as a pinch hitter. Seven times, a Blue Jay has had 10 pinch hits in a season: Garth Iorg (twice), Rance Mulliniks, Rick Leach, Hosken Powell, Steve Braun, and Sam Ewing.

As for the worst work ever turned in by a Jays pinch-hitter - well, Rick Leach's 1-19 in 1988 certainly merits our scorn. Obviously there's nothing good to be said about Shawn Green's work in 1997 (0-12), Ernie Whitt (1988) and Frank Menechino (2005) each managed an 0-11 season pinch-hitting. But I think the no-prize should go to Steve Tolleson in 2014. It started out well enough. Tolleson joined the team in May, and on July 6, he hit a pinch hit homer against Oakland. At that point had made 16 pinch hit appearances since joining the team and had hit .273/.500/.545, with 4 walks and a hit by pitch. John Gibbons may have concluded that Tolleson had an actual gift for the job. He did not. Tolleson went 1-23 as a pinch hitter over the final three months, leaving him a distinctly bad 4-32 mark for the season as a whole.

Those who made a habit of pinch hitting regularly over the years generally had their ups and downs, as one should probably expect. Cliff Johnson, who was so good in the role in 1984, had gone a not-so-good 4-24 as a pinch hitter in 1983 (he did draw 12 walks, easily the most by any Jays pinch hitter in a single season.)  Sam Ewing went 10-28 (.357) as a pinch hitter in 1977, and 5-29 (.172) the following year. Garth Iorg went 10-22 (.455) in 1982,  4-28 (.143) in 1984, and 10-28 (.357) in 1986. 

The career leaders in pinch-hit appearances by Blue Jays are, as you would expect, full of the various components of Bobby Cox's platoon packages from the early 1980s. The two third basemen gave a very good account of themselves - good thing too, because no Blue Jays have pinch hit as often as Mulliniks and Iorg. The catchers were not so great, Heathcliff was Heathcliff... and Adam Lind has a very good case for being the greatest Blue Jay pinch hitter of them all.

                 PH App   H   AB   BB    HR   RBI  BAVG
Rance Mulliniks 245 58 198 37 2 36 .293
Garth Iorg 174 42 151 20 1 26 .278
Ernie Whitt 155 27 135 18 4 22 .200
Rick Leach 139 27 106 16 1 19 .255
Cliff Johnson 106 22 77 22 3 20 .286

Pat Borders 103 23 81 12 1 13 .284
Otto Velez 90 18 70 16 3 19 .257
Jesse Barfield 78 23 72 4 4 16 .319
Buck Martinez 75 14 62 11 2 13 .226
Adam Lind 71 22 63 7 4 14 .349

Tony Fernandez 68 23 64 2 1 13 .359
Sam Ewing 60 15 57 2 1 11 .263
You will have noticed, I trust, a discrepancy in the PH Appearances and what appear to be times at bat. I've just included the At Bats and Walks. The most important of the missing items are the Sac Flies - there were more of them than Hit By Pitch or Sac Hits, although there were a few of those as well. In addition, there are Pinch Hit Appearances that do not actually result in a Plate Appearance. For example, Rick Leach had 26 Pinch Hit Appearances in 1988 but only came to the plate 22 times (1-19, 3 walks.)  How can this be? Well,  three times the other side changed pitchers, and Leach in his turn was pinch hit for by another pinch-hitter. The other time was quite unusual - Leach replaced George Bell in mid at-bat when George got himself ejected after getting angry with Tim Welke for not granting him time.  Leach finished a strikeout that was charged to Bell and went on to  finish the game in left field without coming to the plate again.

And finally... we miss you, Tony.

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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
jerjapan - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 08:26 AM EDT (#418510) #
Great read Magpie.  I remember listening to Lawless catch that inning on a crappy radio in cottage country as a kid. 

DeWayne Wise is definitely one of those 'who' guys.  Willie Canate has to be the king of that role.  Dude got a ring in 93, his one season in the bigs.  The rule v jackpot right there. 
Ducey - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 08:41 AM EDT (#418512) #
With any luck Zimmer will be DFA'd in the next 24 hrs.
bpoz - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 08:43 AM EDT (#418513) #
Thanks Magpie for the stroll down memory lane.

The game has changed. We need a lot more pitchers now. I suppose most teams have a defense specialist OF now.

For the Jays a PR for Kirk seems to be a regular strategy late in the game. Our OF turf causes leg and back issues for our OFs therefore they use the DH for health reasons. Gurriel at 1B should also help his legs/back.

Jonathan Davis and Zimmer are the 2 latest CF substitutes for elite defense. The farm has O Lopez and C Young for elite speed. Young has a much better arm than Lopez and Young only plays the OF (maybe better than Lopez, don't know). Lopez (2 options burned) is a utility player with good hitting ability but little power.
Mike Green - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 09:02 AM EDT (#418516) #
The list of Blue Jay career pinch-running leaders is filled with players who had average speed.  It might indeed be that if you created the same list for the Yankees, or Red Sox, or Tigers, you would notice the same efffect.  I mean, John McDonald was a good baserunner but he wouldn't be your first (or second, or third) choice if you had to pick somebody to win a 40m dash. 

John Northey - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 12:01 PM EDT (#418525) #
Top 100 lists are being updated now. So who do the Jays have on that list thus of high value in trades?
  • Gabriel Moreno #5, Orelvis Martinez #34, Ricky Tiedemann #61, Jordan Groshans #82
  • Keith Law (top 60 + 10): #5 Gabriel Moreno, #41 Ricky Tiedemann, #49 Yosver Zulueta,
  • Baseball America: #1 Gabriel Moreno, #34 Ricky Tiedemann - that's it.
Interesting that 2 lists dropped Orelvis Martinez despite his being 20 with oodles of power in AA while playing SS. Kind of surprised Groshans is on any lists. Zulueta I suspect is on the edge of a call-up to help the pen with his flame throwing arm - 8 2/3 IP in AA with 8 walks but 15 K's and 1 HBP. Between 3 levels he has 4.5 BB/9 vs 14.0 K/9 - ie: exactly what the Jays are looking for. If the Jays can't get a fireball guy in a trade expect to see Zulueta (age 24) up here if he can find the strike zone.

This all suggests Martinez' value has dropped drastically while Tiedemann's is climbing sky high. If the Jays make any trades involving these guys the farm will be seen as empty outside of kids miles from the majors. So temper those dreams of Soto or Ohtani as well as dreams of other higher end guys. the more I look the more I suspect the Jays will only do tinkering unless that killer Arizona prospect challenge trade I keep pushing happens.
uglyone - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 12:03 PM EDT (#418528) #
Yeah i feel jays fans aren't high enough on Moreno - especially when people talk about his being a C as some sort of bad thing in comparison to, say, a CF prospect. That's not true at all - C is still the rarest defensive skillset and Moreno seems to be very good at it. Even better, he clearly has the athleticism and the arm to play other positions, too.

I definitely think he's tradeable, (mostly because I think most every top ranked prospect might actually have more trade value than actual value), but downplaying him in relation to other top prospects seems very wrong to me.
John Northey - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 12:17 PM EDT (#418530) #
Interesting to read this - I remember Lawless more for the trivia answer he is - who is the only player to be traded for Pete Rose? The Expos got him for Rose.

For Jays stolen bases the top 50 is dominated by guys who played a long time - Moseby #1 with 255, Alomar the only other one over 200, 100+ for Damaso Garcia, Tony Fernandez, Shannon Stewart, Devon White, Rajai Davis, Alex Rios, and Otis Nixon.

Nixon was mainly a runner/defense guy with a 77 OPS+ lifetime - only 228 games here but stole 101 bases. 620 lifetime steals in 1709 games going 26-7 in his final season at age 40 (41 OPS+ explains why he didn't play at age 41). An Expo for 3 years he probably is the only guy with 100+ SB for both teams.

Rajai Davis was here from 2011-2013, and is the only 100+ SB guy from this century with the Jays. 81 OPS+ as a Jay suggests running was his skill, mainly in LF with a fair amount of CF time here plus some in RF. He played until age 38 then COVID hit and his career was over (the 65 OPS+ in 2019 didn't help, nor did his 53 the year before). His final season was the only one he didn't get a SB in (he was caught so at least he tried).

Reading down the list Anthony Gose catches my eye - 34-11 in SB_CS despite only playing 202 games. A good CF but just couldn't hit (82 OPS+ lifetime) and now is a relief pitcher for Cleveland (12 K/9 vs 6 BB/9 this year over 21 IP but on the IL right now).
Gerry - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 12:43 PM EDT (#418537) #
That was a great trip down memory lane Magpie. Thanks.
Eephus - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 01:09 PM EDT (#418540) #
He was notorious for using anybody's bat, without ever bothering to ask, whenever he felt like it. This drove all his teammates absolutely crazy. Major league players rend to be a little weird about their bats.

Not just major leaguers! About a decade ago in the Mighty TMBL I played with a dude who would just grab any bat (without asking the owner of course) and he wasn't exactly the best hitter around either... so the risk of a saw job off the handle was always very high. I remember once he grabbed my bat without asking and that whole AB I was just watching him, gritting my teeth and hoping the pitcher didn't jam him.

Really great read. I remember Tony's swan song in 2001 as a very young baseball fan at the time, just in awe of his legend. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he pinch hit against Mariano Rivera that year and decided to bat RH against him? That's one way to combat the cutter....  
ISLAND BOY - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 01:25 PM EDT (#418547) #
He wasn't a Blue Jay but Herb Washington was the definition of a pinch runner, and, in fact, his 1975 Topps baseball card was the only such card released with " pinch runner" as the position label.

Washington was a track and field star sprinter who was signed 1n 1974 by Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley. Washington had a clause in his contract that required him to grow facial hair. He had difficulty doing so and had to use an eyebrow pencil to simulate a full mustache. Reggie Jackson commented that Washington " was a great athlete, but he's not a baseball player."

In 105 MLB games, Washington never batted, pitched or fielded once. He stole 31 bases in 48 attempts. His lack of baseball experience showed up in Game 2 of the 1974 World series as he was picked off first base in a crucial ninth inning situation by Dodgers reliever Mike Marshall. Washington was released early in the 1975 season by the A's.
John Northey - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 03:06 PM EDT (#418555) #
Tony Fernandez' last year was a weird one - 13 games at 3B, 3 as DH, and 60 as a pinch hitter. He did hit well as a pinch hitter though - 340/400/453 overall that year. I was at his final game and got the T-Shirt. Very exciting. There was talk the Jays might put him in at shortstop for a final hurrah but he felt he'd embarrass himself after so much time away from shortstop so he was just used as a pinch hitter and got a generous scoring call to get a final hit. It was a fun game, the way local fan favorites should end their careers - given a final time at bat in September in a game that doesn't matter just so fans can cheer them on. I'd love for MLB to create a slot for that in September - where a guy who is retiring can be called up for a final game without using a 40 man or even a 26 man roster slot. Can only be used in the final homestand of the season and the player can only play in that game. It wouldn't be used often, but would be popular I'm sure when used.
John Northey - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 03:18 PM EDT (#418556) #
Latest rumors are the Nationals are demanding Bo be the centerpiece of any Soto trade with the Jays (makes sense to me - I proposed that awhile ago as you could move Espinal to SS, Biggio to 2B, and not lose on defense or offense given how Bo is hitting so far this year). Latest rumors have it down to Cardinals/Padres/Dodgers via Jim Bowden - I could live with any of them getting him just not the Yankees.

Also reported that Ohtani is off the market via Jon Heyman.
Magpie - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 04:44 PM EDT (#418561) #
So the Yankees are getting Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino from Oakland for pitchers Ken Waldichuk, J.P. Sears, Luis Medina and second baseman Cooper Bowman.

And Trey Mancini to Houston.

dalimon5 - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 04:44 PM EDT (#418562) #
Since this is a deadline thread I like to refresh the page… constantly. The article and photos make it long to scroll down every time to get to the comments each time.
dalimon5 - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 04:48 PM EDT (#418563) #
Cashman outcashing every one
Magpie - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 04:48 PM EDT (#418564) #
Fair point. (I forget people use their phones and such. Dedicated deadline thread in 3...2...1... BOW!)
hypobole - Monday, August 01 2022 @ 04:50 PM EDT (#418565) #
I post from a PC, so don't know how it works on a phone, but I close it up and instead of clicking on the post, I click on the comments , bottom right. don't have to scroll each time.
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