If you’re a Blue Jays fan, and if you’re reading this I’m assuming you are, then second base has likely been on your mind the past several weeks.
First, there was the Robbie Alomar festivities. The greatest second baseman in Blue Jays history, and also one of the greatest second baseman in the history of the game, was celebrated in back-to-back weeks. Inducted into Cooperstown on July 24, he had his number retired by the Jays the following week.
That was the good.
But the bad is when all of the festivities came to an end and fans realized that the days of a dominating second baseman are long gone. We are now left with Aaron Hill. To say that is shocking considering his breakout 2009 season. An All-Star with 36 HR and 108 RBI, it looked like Hill was set to be the second coming of Alomar. But he was bad last year, and somehow, believe it or not, he is even worse this year.
A .228 average. A .591 OPS. 5 HR. 51 strikeouts and a ridiculous amount of pop-ups. It has reached the point where his inclusion on the 2012 roster is in question.
But with all of this second base talk, from the good, to the bad, to the ugly, it is important to remember that while Alomar might be Jays greatest second baseman he wasn’t the first. No, years before Robbie suited up for Blue Birds, Damaso Garcia was holding down 2B, and holding it down extremely well.
Garcia was acquired in 1979 from the Yankees and took over the Jays starting job in 1980.
His .278 average, 50 run, 13 SB, 0.6 WAR season was good enough for 4th place in the Rookie of the Year voting, and also good enough to prove to Toronto that he was the real deal. After a shortened 1981 season, Garcia came into his own in 1982 and took off.
He hit .310, stole 54 bases, had a .737 OPS, won a Silver Slugger award and finished 26th in MVP voting. His 4.4 WAR was the highest by a Blue Jay hitter – by far (second best belonged to Buck Martinez at 1.5). He made back-to-back All-Star teams in ’84 and ’85, helping the Jays reach the playoffs for the first time, where he hit four doubles in the seven game loss to Kansas City.
After the ’86 season the Jays traded Garcia to Atlanta, ending his seven year reign as Toronto’s second baseman. His final career stats with the Jays were solid:
.288 average, .690 OPS, 32 HR, 194 SB, 5.9 WAR
Sadly – or awesomely depending on your point of view – Garcia is best remembered as the dude who lit his Jays uniform on fire. It happened in 1986 after he went 0 for 4 in a game against Oakland. Instead of taking extra batting practice, or switching bats, or changing his pre-game routine to break out of a slump, Damaso decided to burn his uniform in the clubhouse. Insane. Yet, hilarious.
He is also fondly remembered for a getting in a fist fight with teammate Cliff Johnson later that season.
He was a great second baseman on the field.
And I’d take him over Aaron Hill (wacky off-field persona and all)in a heartbeat.