Monday, March 07, 2011

Ultimate baseball league: Las Vegas 51s

Since entertainers well past their prime always end up in Las Vegas, it is oddly fitting a roster of the best of the rest from Blue Jays history is largely drawn from the '80s.

Ah, to be young again and believe that a team in powder-blue polyester uniforms playing on carpet in the corner of a CFL stadium represented the diamond game in its ideal form. No less than five of the nine starters, along with one of the starting pitchers, is drawn from that decade, when the Jays were usually awesomely good until October. Borderline Hall of Famer Fred McGriff, who had his best season in Toronto, anchors the starting lineup, while the good version of Juan Guzman is the staff ace.

Of course, by process of elimination, you might be able to figure out who is on the Jays' all-time team that will published at a later date.

The 51s' division includes Fresno (a Giants B team), Sacramento (an Athletics B team) and Reno. They might be up against it in a division with two original franchises, especially since the lineup isn't very deep.

  1. CF Lloyd Moseby,* 1984 (6.2). In another time, the Shaker might have been a 40-homer corner outfielder, but he fit well into '80s baseball, with all of its stolen bases and triples (he even tied for the league lead in three-baggers once). First Jay to score 100 runs in a season.

  2. SS Tony Fernandez,# 1987 (5.0). Was probably overrated in his prime since artificial turf makes middle infielders look better. It meant more to have one of the 1980s Jays around for the second World Series triumph. It's probably a surprise he is not on the A squad.

  3. DH Fred McGriff,* 1989 (6.6). Will the Crime Dog and his .377/.509 career ever earn entry to Cooperstown? Led the AL in home runs, bases on balls and OPS in 1989, which only him to sixth place in the MVP vote.

  4. LF George Bell, 1987 (5.0). Ol' Senor Ding-Dong himself, as the only Jay to be a league MVP shall be known retroactively. No wonder Manny Ramirez idolized him; Jorge being Jorge included karate-kicking pitchers, eating McDonalds in the clubhouse, driving in runs by the assload and not being able to field worth a damn. Also hit the other Blue Jays walk-off home run off Mitch Williams, which few remember since no one in Toronto watched baseball outside of the years 1989-93.

  5. RF Shawn Green,* 1999 (5.9). Well, there has to be one representative from the era of ArenaBaseball and the Jays being under an absentee owner that was not Rogers.

  6. 2B Aaron Hill, 2009 (5.4). Don't be silly and think he's as good as Roberto Alomar was in Toronto. Who does that?

  7. 3B Kelly Gruber, 1988 (4.8). Only Jay ever referenced on Kids In The Hall (Kevin McDonald: "But if Kelly Gruber makes one more mistake, he'll have to change his name to Kelly Boober.") . Enjoyed water skiing, according to Marty York.

  8. 1B Willie Upshaw,* 1983 (4.3). Be honest, you can still hear Murray Eldon calling his name at Exhibition Stadium.

  9. C Darrin Fletcher,* 2000 (2.3). Recorded a promo for CFRC 101.9 FM's The Sports Revolution in 2001, which in Neil Acharya's mind, makes him the seventh-greatest catcher of all time.
  • RHS Doyle Alexander 1984 (5.6). In hindsight, he must have been a smart pitcher since he thrived in Exhibition Stadium despite having nothing resembling a major-league fastball.

  • LHS Ted Lilly 2004 (5.0). Nothing against him, but it completely spoiled the summer that time when he was the Jays lone representative at the all-star game.

  • RHS Jim Clancy, 1982 (4.8). The original innings-eater.

  • LHS David Wells, 2000 (4.5). The Boomer in Vegas; honestly, that is just how it worked out.
  • RHS Shaun Marcum, 2010 (3.8). Good luck in Milwaukee, Marcum.

  • RHS Todd Stottlemyre 1991 (3.8). Eighteen years later, former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell is still a dillhole. The perception was that Stottlemyre never quit put it together in his Toronto years, but evidently he was decent.

  • OF Alex Rios, 2007 (4.5). It ended poorly for him in Toronto, but he did many things well, if never at the same time.

  • 3B-SS Tony Batista, 1999 (4.3). A guaranteed stumper among Blue Jays fans is to ask them to name all seven Jays who have had a 40-homer season. Bell, Jesse Barfield, Jose Bautista, and Carlos Delgado come to mind no problem. It might take a minute to recall Green and Jose Canseco, but Bautista, who had the world's most open batting stance, is a tough pull.

  • OF-1B Adam Lind,* 2009 (3.3). Lefty bat off the bench, if needed.

  • 3B Rance Mulliniks,* 1985 (3.0). Platoon partner for Gruber, plus there is undying respect for someone who got a World Series ring for basically hanging out in the bullpen all season.

  • C Gregg Zaun,# 2005 (2.1). Does anyone feel we are poorer for it that Rogers Sportsnet does not let Zaunie have a can of Skoal in his breast pocket when he's on air with Jamie Campbell during post-season telecasts?
  • CL B.J. Ryan, 2006 (4.0). A rare lefty closer, The Beej was sneaky fast before arm problems derailed his career.

  • RHR Pete Vuckovich 1977 (2.9). Old Clu Haywood himself (he played the Yankees slugger in Major League) was a swingman with the original 1977 Jays, pitching the first shutout in franchise history.

    This is how bad Cy Young Award voting was 30 years ago. Vuckovich won in 1982 with the Milwaukee Brewers even though the only categories in which he ranked in the top five of the league were winning percentages and bases on balls. Really. He

  • RHR Billy Koch 2000 (2.7). After The Wrestler came out, many ex-WWE stars claimed to be the basis for Mickey Rourke's character, The Ram. No ex-ballplayer ever claimed to be the basis for Kenny Powers — they're not typically so desperate for money — but Koch might have had a case. He burned brightly for a few years and slots in here as an eighth-inning reliever.

  • LHR Jerry Garvin, 1980 (2.6). Some acknowledgement has to made for the Jays early years. Garvin was a lefty who managed to have a high leg kick and a good pickoff move.

  • LHR Tony Castillo, 1995 (2.5). The last two spots in the 'pen are a bit of a weak point, but Castillo was either better than most people remember or he just got to work in all the low-leverage situations. Was credited with the win in Game 4 of the 1993 World Series, the 15-14 game, since obviously it is all on the pitching when a team scores 15 runs.
(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

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