Wow – did not see that one coming. AA strikes again with the acquisition of Kelly Johnson this afternoon from Arizona. Johnson was a target of the Jays on a few different occasions, so his pick-up isn’t the shocking part.
What’s shocking is who is gone.
Aaron Hill was seemingly on his way out of Toronto for a while now. With the Jays holding club options for the next few seasons and with Hill in the middle of another dire season the writing was on the wall. So to see him leave town in a swap of second baseman isn’t too surprising.
To see Johnny Mac leave is another story.
Johnny was the field general for the Jays, a master of defense and a fan favourite. He produced likely the greatest moment of all of 2010 with his Father’s Day HR just days after the death of his dad, and he also produced one of the top moments of 2011 with an extra inning walk-off blast to beat Tampa Bay.
But that isn’t why I’ll miss Johnny.
John McDonald was not my favourite player on the Blue Jays because of his bat. In seven seasons here he produced a .243 batting average and a .617 OPS. He hit only 17 home runs.
No, John McDonald was my favourite player on the Blue Jays because of his glove, because of the effortless way he played the field. Everytime he was introduced
either as a starter or as a late game defensive replacement, you knew you were likely to witness something spectacular.
A ground ball deep in the hole? No problem, Johnny’s got it. A flare pop-up? No worries, here’s Johnny. The range he showed both to his left and to his right, the way he would slide foot-first while throwing to first at the same time? I’ve never seen anything like that before. And the best part about Johnny was that he wasn’t slowing down with age. Now 36, his range hasn’t declined, and his offensive skills are actually looking better.
For those who read this blog often, you know that my favourite baseball player of all time is Tony Fernandez. I was awed and wowed by his defense as I grew up as a kid, and spent my days in youth baseball trying to emulate his underhand flip throw to first. It was only natural that my favourite player tranform from Tony to Johnny.
I’ll miss Johnny. I’ll miss watching him from the upper deck. I’ll miss cheering for him to go 5 for 5 in a game – something I’ve been dying to see for six years now.
But at the same time, I’m excited. He and Aaron are joining a first place ball club in Arizona, a team that is clinging to a one game lead over the Giants. Neither player has ever been close to the playoffs before. In 1999 Johnny played for an Indians team that made the postseason, but he was a 24 year old rookie who didn’t make the playoff roster. He’s never been anywhere near the playoffs since. If anybody deserves a shot at October baseball is McDonald.
So good luck Johnny. Good luck Aaron. Here’s wishing you playoff success and a return trip to Toronto for the 2012 season, complete with knowledge of what it takes to play on a winning team.
You will both be missed.
Johnny most of all.