With the recent acquisition of Ben Francisco from the Phillies, the Blue Jays have a crowded outfield. Fellow blogger The Blue Jay Hunter wrote an excellent piece on the outfield situation yesterday, and I highly encourage you all to go read it. Now. (But come back here after, please).
But apart from being a great article, it got me thinking and reminiscing, all at once. It’s true the Jays have a crowded outfield, with Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Eric Thames, Travis Snider, Ben Francisco, and Rajai Davis (and to a lesser extent Edwin Encarnacion, Mike McCoy, and Adam Lind) and only three positions. In reality, there is really only one position, as Rasmus and Bautista are locks in CF and RF.
Interestingly enough, that is the way that it is has been in Toronto for a seemingly long time. It has been many, many years since the Blue Jays have had a steady outfield. Look at the history of starters on baseball reference to see what I mean. Vernon Wells was a fixture in CF for nine years, and Alex Rios beside him for six of those. But LF was always up for grabs. Adam Lind played there, Frank Catalanotto, Reed Johnson, Shannon Stewart. The outfield wasn’t one synchronized unit.
Even in the World Series years, and the years just afterwards, the same could be said. Sure Joe Carter and Devon White were locks, but they were joined by Candy Maldonado, Rickey Henderson, Mike Huff (who?), and Shawn Green. No cohesiveness.
You have to go all the way back to 1985 to see the last time the Jays had a steady outfield. And what an outfield it was, probably my favourite in Blue Jays history. For four straight years, George Bell, Lloyd Moseby, and Jesse Barfield roamed the turf at Exhibition Stadium, meaning that for four straight winters Blue Jays fans didn’t have to worry / speculate / hope / wish that the front office would bring together three worthy outfielders. Those were good days.
But what made them good, apart from the stability, was the fact that each of those guys was productive. There wasn’t a bust in the bunch. If you throw out 1988, which was a bad season full of poor play and injuries, the Big 3 were outstanding. The average season for each of Bell, Barfield, and Moseby for the years 1985 – 1987 looked like this:
Barfield: .280 average, .356 OBP, .873 OPS, 32 HR, 92 RBI, 97 R, 11 SB, 6.17 WAR
Bell: .298 average, .343 OBP, .882 OPS, 35 HR, 112 RBI, 100 R, 11 SB, 4.17 WAR
Moseby: .265 average, .344 OBP, .783 OPS, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 96 R, 36 SB, 2.8 WAR
The three also added awards and honours as well:
Barfield: Two Top-7 MVP finishes, two Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and an All-Star nod
Bell: Three Top-8 MVP finishes including winning the 1987 AL MVP, three Silver Sluggers, and an All-Star nod
Moseby: 1986 All-Star
The total WAR provided by those three outfielders in each of those years was also pretty handsome: 13.2 in 1985, and 13.1 in both 1986 and 1987. For reference sake, the total WAR by the top players (by number of games played) in Toronto’s OF in each of the past three seasons look like this:
2011: Total = 8.4 (Jose Bautista 8.5, Eric Thames 0.8, Rajai Davis -0.9)
2010: Total = 10.0 (Jose Bautista 5.4, Vernon Wells 4.0, Fred Lewis 0.6)
2009: Total = -1.2 (yes, negative!) (Travis Snider 0.0, Vernon Wells 0.3, Alex Rios -1.5)
So you can understand a Jays fans longing for the days of yesteryear.
Oh – there’s one other thing that the Big 3 of Barfield, Bell and Moseby provided in the ’80’s.
A division title in 1985.
Bautista, Rasmus, and Future LF? You’re next.