With the latest news that Eric Thames has been recalled and will take over RF (with Bautista moving to 3B), I was filled with a sudden longing for the past.
Don’t get me wrong – I am in agreement with this move. Third base has been disastrous for the Jays this year. I would bet that the 3B position has cost Toronto a few wins. Inserting Thames into RF results in, if not an upgrade over EE / Nix / Johnny, then at least a change to the batting order. When you can’t score runs or get on base, change is good.
No, I’m filled with a longing for the past because anytime any reference is made to RF I can’t help but think of the greatest rightfielder in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise.
We have had some good ones. Obviously Bautista has been one of the best over the past few years. Rios performed well when he was here, and to a lesser extent so did Raul Mondesi. Shawn Green and Joe Carter were All-Stars.
But none of them were anything when compared to the man, the myth, the legend Jesse Barfield.
He was drafted by the Jays in 1977, and made his debut in ’81 as a 21-year old.
For nine seasons he played RF for Toronto, roaming on the brutal artificial turf of ghastly Exhibition Stadium. In that time he put together quite a stat line:
.265 AVG, .817 OPS, 179 HR, 527 RBI, 27.2 WAR, and 117 outfield assists.
He lead the AL in HR with 40 in 1986.
He finished in the top-10 in Rookie of the Year voting in 1982, twice finished in the top-7 of AL MVP voting, won two Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger, and went to an All-Star game.
But there was more about him than his stats. There was an aura about him,
especially the way he played the field. I remember pretending I was him during little league games, trying to throw a runner out from the outfield at home on a line. Watching him make 320 foot throws without a bounce convinced me that I could.
Who knows. Maybe Eric Thames will make some highlight reel plays
and provide some more comparison to Barfield.
But even if he does (or doesn’t), one thing’s for sure…
There will never be another Jesse.