If you are a fan of the Blue Jays teams from the glory years – the World Series years of ’92 and ’93 – there is a very good chance you remember Doug Linton. If you didn’t follow the Jays at that time, well you’re likely out of luck. Linton was one of the rare Blue Jays who had not one, but two separate cup-of-coffee stints with the club – 31 appearances (mainly out of the bullpen) in 1992/1993, and seven more relief appearances in 2003. Unfortunately for him, he did not fare well.
Doug was selected by the Jays in the 43rd round of the 1986 draft and toiled in Toronto’s minor league system for parts of six seasons before making his major league debut with the Jays on August 3, 1992. He came in from the bullpen in Boston’s Fenway Park, and had a succesful outing – 3.2 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, and 4 K’s. In fact, his first three relief appearances were so good (10 IP, 2 ER, 1.80 ERA, 10 K’s), that the Jays actually moved him into the rotation. He made his first major league start on August 13th against the Baltimore Orioles and dominated – 8 IP, 2 ER, 4 K’s, while picking up his first career major league victory. Things were looking good for Linton. The Jays had found another ace!
But just as soon as he appeared, he blew up. Figuratively of course, though if he literally blew up it might have saved the Jays a few losses. He made two more abysmal starts before being demoted back to the bullpen, and then was absolutely demolished in relief by the Brewers (6 ER in 0.1 IP). One more relief appearance was all she wrote for Linton in ’92. He was promptly demoted back to AAA Syracuse – rotten timing as he missed the World Series victory. But if you were Pat Gillick what would you do? In his final four appearances for the Jays Linton stunk. Badly. 2 starts, 2 relief appearances, 6 IP, 19 ER, 11 BB to 2 K, 3 HR allowed, for an 0-2 record, 28.50 ERA, 5.17 WHIP, and a .571 batting average against. Think about that: opposing batters hit .571 against him! Incredible!
Linton popped back up in 1993 with the Jays, making four appearances (0-1, 6.55 ERA) before somehow being claimed on waivers by the Angels. In 2003 he came back to the Jays and actually was fairly effective for the month of April, but was eventually deemed superfluous and sent back down to Syracuse. Again.
But as I have said before, I will say again – there is more to a major league player than the numbers he puts up. This rings true for Linton. Two things stand out about him. The first is that Doug Linton is the definition of a journeyman ball player. He made his professional debut in 1987 at single-A Myrtle Beach, and over the next 17 seasons bounced around a ton. Linton played for:
– 4 different professional levels (A, AA, AAA, MLB)
– 11 different minor league teams (Myrtle Beach, Knoxville, Dunedin, Syracuse, Norfolk, Omaha, Salt Lake, Rochester, Colorado Springs, Richmond, Wichita)
– 5 different major league teams (Toronto, California, NY Mets, Kansas City, Baltimore)
He was even a member of two teams that released him before spring training even ended – the Yankees in 1998, and the Dodgers in 2001. Tough luck.
The second thing that stands out about Doug Linton was the very first thing I noticed about him in 1992 when I was 13 years old. He did not have sideburns. No stubble, no faint trace of a sideburn – nothing. His hair was cleanly shaved above his ear. Not only did it look unnatural, it looked ridiculous. I was able to find a photo of a sideburn free Linton (looking rather dorky) on checkoutmycards.com. Judge for yourself:
The Doug Linton story is tough to tell due to his many failures, but it does have a happy ending. Despite his horrendous major league pitching statistics, Linton has found work and remains in baseball as the pitching coach of the AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox, minor league affiliate of the C0lorado Rockies.
There you have it. Doug Linton – Blue Jay legend.
Doug Linton: Career Major League Statistics
7 seasons (1992 – 1996, 1999, 2003)
5 teams (TOR, CAL, NYM, KC, BAL)
17-20 record, 305.1 IP, 5.78 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 206 K:125 BB
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