Category Archives: Blast From the Past

Blast From the Past – Tom Candiotti


With the acquisition of R.A. Dickey, the Toronto Blue Jays now have the last true knuckleballer in the major leagues at the front of their rotation.  When one thinks of a knuckleball pitcher, what generally comes to mind is an old guy who is just trying to hang on in the big leagues, fluttering a 60 MPH pitch to the plate with hopes that it won’t be hit.  In fact, the Blue Jays had one of those guys before – a 48 year old Phil Neikro in 1987.

Dickey, of course, is different.  He is an older pitcher, but he throws the knuckleball with authority, and dominated the NL last season.  He is, in short, a much different pitcher than Neikro was when he donned a Jays uniform.

But the Blue Jays also employed another knuckleball pitcher in their history, one who was much closer to Dickey’s stature than people remember.  Tom Candiotti never won a Cy Young, but with a career ERA of 3.73 he was a highly effective pitcher, especially in the prime of his career, which is when he made a stopover in Toronto.  So, inspired by R.A. Dickey, this edition of Blast From the Past takes a look at the Candy Man, Tom Candiotti.

Thomas Caesar Candiotti was born August 31, 1957 in California.  and made his major league debut on August 8, 1983 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.  After two up-and-down seasons with the Brewers, Candiotti spent the entire 1985 season in AAA Vancouver before signing with the Cleveland Indians for the 1986 season.  It was in Cleveland where his career took off. 

Playing for some very, very bad Indians teams, Candiotti put up some great numbers.  In the five seasons from 1986 – 1990, he went 65-59 with a 3.66 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and 667 strikeouts.  In the early stages of the ’91 season he was 7-6 with an oustanding 2.24 ERA and 1.07 WHIP for Cleveland, before being dealt to Toronto.

On Thursday June 27, 1991, Juan Guzman shutout the Minnesota Twins 1-0 to give the Jays their 41st win of the season.  With a record of 41-32, Toronto was in first place in the AL East with a 3.5 game advantage on the Red Sox.  Though things were looking pretty good on the surface, not everything was running smoothly.  Dave Stieb, Toronto’s longtime ace, lasted only nine starts before being shut down for the season in late May.  Without Stieb, Toronto was left with Jimmy Key as the staff ace, and three younger pitchers without a lot of experience – David Wells, Todd Stottlemyre, and Juan Guzman.  The Jays turned to a variety of arms to fill Stieb’s spot, including relievers Mike Timlin (three starts) and Jim Acker (four starts), journeyman Willie Fraser, and Canadian Denis Boucher.  None were great long term solutions.  With a first place team that featured Alomar, Carter, and White, the Jays were primed for big things, but GM Pat Gillick knew that another pitcher was necessary.  And he struck later that night.

The Jays acquired Candiotti from Cleveland, along with Turner Ward, for Denis Boucher, Glenallen Hill, and Mark Whiten, giving the Jays an experienced starter to anchor the rotation.  And anchor it he did.  In his very first start in a Blue Jays uniform, Candiotti tossed a quality start (3 ER in 6 IP), and then took off from there.  His first five starts looked like this: 2-3, 1.64 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 27 K.  In his three losses, Toronto only provided him with four runs of support.

In all, Candiotti made 19 starts for the Blue Jays down the stretch in 1991, using his knuckleball to earn a 6-7 record, 2.98 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 81 strikeouts.   With his help, the Jays clinched the division, setting up a showdown with the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS.  However, in one of the most disappointing series in team history, the favoured Blue Jays lost in five games to the Twins, with one of the main goats being none other than Mr. Candiotti.  Starting both Game 1 and Game 5, Tom couldn’t replicate his regular season success.  In Game 1 he lasted only 2.2 IP, surrendering 8 hits, and 5 runs in the loss.  In Game 5 he pitched a bit better (5+ IP, 4 runs – 2 earned, and 9 hits) but couldn’t hold a 5-2 Toronto lead as the Jays lost the series.  In all, his 8.22 ERA and 2.48 WHIP left a lot to be desired.

At the end of the 1991 season Candiotti became a free agent, eventually signing with the Dodgers where he spent the next six seasons before finishing his career in Oakland and Cleveland.  While his time in Toronto was short, you can’t deny that it was effective.  As a knuckleballer, he set the bar fairly high for R.A. Dickey, but here’s hoping Dickey does much, much better.

Especially in the playoffs.

Tom Candiotti: Career Major League Statistics

16 seasons (1983 – 1999)

5 teams (MIL, CLE, TOR, LAD, OAK)

151 – 164, 3.73 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 1,735 K : 883 BB

*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better.  If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.

Blast From The Past – Jesse Barfield

A special guest post today from the man, the myth, the legend Alexander “Jesse Barfield For Life” Yarwood, the very same man who predicted that Toronto would win 92 games in 2012 in 500 Level Fan’s readers poll.

Luckily, as you are about to see, his writing and his love for Mr. Barfield are much better than his prognostication skills.



As young men, we all dream of doing great things.

Some of us want to follow in our parents’ footsteps, or become movie stars, or doctors, or astronauts, or like the lawyers we watch on television.

For me, it was a little more complicated than that: I wanted to be like Jesse Barfield. In fact, I wanted to BE Jesse Barfield.

Over the course of my hit-and- miss (get it?) youth baseball career, I patterned my swing after his, I threatened physical violence upon teammates who refused the give up the cherished #29 (with the exception of those who were larger than I) and although I was more suited to catcher and third base, I’d often request to play right field. Why? Because that’s where Jesse plays, coach.

*Steps away from keyboard as single tear streams down cheek*

Right, enough about me: On to the man in question.

Jesse Lee Barfield was a 9th round pick in the 1977 amateur draft. Given his obvious talents (That arm, that power, that base running prowess, that arm!) and natural good looks, it is far beyond my understanding as to why he was not chosen 1st overall.

The teenaged Barfield excelled in the field but struggled with the bat in the minors until a breakout 1981 season whereupon he earned a call to the big club. By 1982 he had earned a regular spot in right field and quickly developed a reputation as a threat with both his arm and his bat. A home run title, gold gloves and an all-star selection followed. Soon enough, Barfield, Lloyd Moseby and George Bell formed what many at the time considered the best outfield in baseball. Sadly, despites some tremendous individual seasons between them during the years of 1983-1987, they would never see past the ALCS of 1985.

April 30th, 1989 was a sad day. I woke up to find that he had been traded to the Yankees for a man I had never heard of. His name was Al Leiter. Al Leiter? Who the fuck was Al Leiter? April fool’s had passed. Was I the victim of

a nation-wide media joke? Was Pat Gillick simply trying to be funny? It turned out none of the above was true. Jesse was gone and I was a broken young man.

While Al Leiter did nothing but aggravate with arm and blister problems for years, Jesse had a couple solid, if unspectacular years with the Yanks when his body began to betray him. Jesse’s major league career would wind down with the Yankees after an injury-plagued 1992 season. He was granted free agency and was reunited with Lloyd Moseby in 1993 as a member of the Yomiyuri Giants for a single underwhelming season. He attempted to return to the majors with Houston in 1994, but alas – his knees were shot and has bat had slowed to the point where he was a shadow of his former five-tool self.

Although it saddens me that Jesse wasn’t around when the Blue Jays won their first title, and saddens me even more so that his career ended via an outright release with Houston, I take solace in the fact that I witnessed him at his very best. The greatest outfield arm in baseball history. A powerful Bat. A fantastic Blue Jay.

We miss you, Jesse.

Blast From The Past – Otto Velez

I’m depressed.  This season, this beautiful season that was filled with so much promise, is quickly going straight to hell.  Five sttaight losses.  Three games under .500.  Enough injuries to break a teams soul. 

Looking for something to cheer me up and get my mind off of the troubles on the field, I went to a place where any good baseball fan would – Baseball Reference, taking refuge in page after page of Toronto’s glorious history. 

After stumbling around the franchise encyclopedia for a while, I took a look at the Blue Jays all time leaders, and was surprised by a few things I saw.  For instance, Shannon Stewart has the 10th highest career offensive WAR in team history, along with the 4th best career batting average.  The 6th highest single season batting average in team history belongs to Rance Mulliniks of all people, a .324 mark in 1984. 

But one name caught me more off guard than others, and it has inspired me to bring back a popular series that 500 Level Fan used to run – Blast from the Past, where we take a look at some of the less famous players in Blue Jays history.

This man had 1,843 plate appearances with Toronto, more than Paul Molitor, and ranks 7th in team history in career OBP (.372), 7th in team history in OPS (.834), and 6th in team history in Adjusted OPS+ (127).

The man is Otto Velez.

While I’ve heard his name before, I never expected to see him on team leaderboards (unless those leaderboards were for moustaches.  Seriously – what an incredible moustache!  It’s almost like two separate moustaches on either side of his lip, combined into one.  I’ve never seen anything so fantastic!!!).  I would have never placed him in the top-10 of any offensive category – maybe not even in the top-30.  But there he is, hanging out above Roberto Alomar and Jesse Barfield in career OPS as a Blue Jay.

Otoniel Velez Franceschi was born in 1950 in Puerto Rico, made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1973, and came to the Blue Jays with the 53rd pick of the 1976 Expansion Draft.  He made club history by playing in Toronto’s inaugural game against the White Sox on April 7, 1977, serving as the DH, and made quite the debut.  He singled and scored in the 5th, walked in the 6th, and hit a second single in the 8th.  In fact, while Doug Ault gets all the hype for his multi-HR game, the Jays MVP in their first month of existence was none other than Otto Velez.

Velez won the AL Player of the Month Award for April, putting up obscene numbers – especially for an expansion team.  He went 23 for 52, good for a .442 AVG, and hit 5 HR, 7 2B, with 18 RBI, 10 Runs, and a 1.397 OPS.  In the next 11 years, only two Blue Jays would win a Player of the Month Award, making Velez’s achievement all the better.

Though the rest of his ’77 season wasn’t quite as good, he still finished with 16 HR, a .256 average, and a .824 OPS.  Pretty solid numbers for a team that went 54 – 107.

His career highlight came with the Blue Jays in 1980.  That season was one of his best as a Jay as he slugged 20 homers with an .852 OPS, and his best day came on May 4th against Cleveland.  In a doubleheader he hit for the cycle of home runs, hitting a solo shot, two-run shot, three-run shot, and a grand slam as part of a 10 RBI day.

He stuck around in Toronto until the end of the 1982 season, when after appearing in only 28 games he was released.  He was picked up for the ’83 season by the Indians, but was so pathetically bad that he was let go after only 10 games of hitting .080.

Overall, Velez was a very useful  Blue Jay in the early years.  From 1977 through 1980 he put up WAR’s of 1.6, 2.1, 2.7, and 1.3, right up there in the top players on the team.  In fact, his 2.7 WAR in 1979 was good enough for T-43rd in the American League, ahead of players such as Rod Carew and Carl Yastrzemski.  He’ll always have that.

So hats off to Otto Velez.  He is a man who I think deserves a little more credit from Jays fans.  He is one of the original members of our great team, and though two members of that original Expansion Draft went on to have better careers (Jim Clancy and Ernie Whitt),Velez was still one of the best players on a few very sorry Jays teams.

Cheers Otto, and thanks for helping to take our minds off the 2012 woes, for a few hours at least.

Otto Velez: Career Major League Statistics

11 seasons (1973 – 1983)

3 teams (NYY, TOR, CLE)

.251 average, 78 HR, 272 RBI, 244 R, 6 SB, .810 OPS

*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better.  If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.

Remembering The Best Outfield Ever

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.

The Day That Everything Changed…

December 5, 1990.

Twenty years ago today.

It was likely the most important day in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays.

And it was also the day that the Toronto Blue Jays broke my heart.

Flashback to September 25, 1990.  Toronto was in first place in the AL East, a game-and-a-half in front of Boston.  Only seven games remained.  A second consecutive trip to the ALCS looked likely.

But the Jays lost that day, 8-4 to the Brewers.  That loss kicked off a four game losing streak, and the Jays finished the season by dropping six of eight, including two of three to the Red Sox.  The 1.5 game lead turned into a 2-game deficit, and a second place finish.

Toronto was one year removed from losing to Oakland in the ALCS.  The wounds inflicted by the 1985 ALCS collapse against Kansas City, and the stretch run collapse in 1987, were still fresh.  Now came yet another collapse.  

It was too much.

It was time for a change.

On November 5th, George Bell was granted free agency.  He would not return.

On December 2nd, Junior Felix and Luis Sojo were sent to the California Angels.  In return the Jays picked up a speedy centrefielder who would hit leadoff – Devon White.

But the biggest news came on December 5th. 

Twenty years ago today. 

Toronto traded two of its best players to the San Diego Padres.  Gone were Fred McGriff (1990: .300 avg, .930 OPS, 35 HR, 88 RBI, 4.9 WAR, 10th in MVP voting) and four-time gold glove winner Tony Fernandez (1990: .276 avg, .742 OPS, 4 HR, 84 RS, 26 SB, 3.9 WAR).

Coming back to Toronto was a 30-year old, 8-year veteran named Joe Carter (1990: .232 avg, .681 OPS, 24 HR, 115 RBI, -1.4 WAR), and a 22-year old, third year player named Roberto Alomar (1990: .287 avg, .721 OPS, 6 HR, 60 RBI, 24 SB, 2.9 WAR, All-Star).

Nevermind that McGriff and Fernandez were two of Toronto’s best players.  They were my two favourite players.  I was eleven years old.  And I was a wreck. 

The Fernandez poster on my wall had to come down.  My collection of McGriff baseball cards went in a binder, then went under my bed.  I had always pretended to be Tony Fernandez when playing baseball.  I played shortstop because he did.  Now I couldn’t pretend to be him anymore.  He was gone.  And I sure as hell wasn’t going to replace him with Manny Lee.

I even toyed with the idea of becoming a Padres fan, but in the end stuck by the Jays.

Good thing I did.

Everybody knows what happened afterwards.  The Jays won the AL East division in each of the first three seasons after the trade.  They won the whole effin’ thing in ’92 and ’93.  The Padres never finished higher than third, and by ’93 both McGriff (to Atlanta) and Fernandez (back in Toronto) were gone.

But December 5th represents more than just the trade.  It represents the day that the Toronto Blue Jays put themselves on the baseball map.  Sick of being a perennial contender that falls short, GM Pat Gillick proved to the world that he would do whatever it takes to win.  Long known by the “Stand Pat” moniker, Gillick blew apart the lingering doubt that the Jays would always be a bridesmaid and never the bride.  He reinvented the Toronto Blue Jays on the fly.

From that day forward the team became baseball’s best, on the field and off.  Toronto set attendance records, attracted the best free agents (Morris, Winfield, Molitor, Stewart), and continued to trade aggressively (Cone, Henderson).

Most importantly, from that day forward, Toronto won.

I consider it the turning point in franchise history.

And it happened twenty years ago today.

Happy anniversary Jays fans.

Blast From the Past – Phil Niekro

Through two games, the 2010 World Series has been a complete disaster for the Texas Rangers.  Their pitching, especially their bullpen, has been atrocious.

And everybody knows – you need pitching to win in the playoffs.

But you also need pitching to get to the playoffs in the first place, something the 1987 Blue Jays found out first hand.  We all remember the ’87 Blue Jays.  They were 3.5 games up on Detroit with only 7 games left to play, but lost all 7 – including 4 to the Tigers.  It was a complete collapse.

But what if the Jays would have had three extra wins before that stretch?  What if they would have been 6.5 up with 7 to play?  They very well could have been if not for this week’s feature in Blast From the Past, Mr. Phil Niekro.

Phil was a phenomenal pitcher in his day.  Over 300 career wins, a 5-time All-Star, a 5-time Gold Glove winner, and a member of the Hall of Fame.  He pitched, and pitched well, late into his career – his fifth All-Star appearance came in 1984 with the Yankees when he was 45 years old. 

But in August of 1987 Niekro was 48 years old.  He had been awful with Cleveland (7-11, 5.89 ERA).  The Jays were in the heat of a pennant race.  I have no idea why they thought a 48 year old knuckleball pitcher would be the final piece of the puzzle, but apparently they did, acquiring him from the Indians for Darryl Landrum and Don Gordon.

What happened next was complete and utter disaster.

Three starts.  Two losses and a no-decision.  Three Blue Jay losses.  12 innings pitched.  11 earned runs.  An ERA of 8.25 and a WHIP of 1.83.  Seven walks.

He made his third and final start on August 29th, and was released on August 31st. 

A disastrous tenure on a team that desperately needed solid pitching and wins.

In fact, according to Baseball Reference, 272 different players have pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Phil Niekro’s 8.25 ERA is 29th worst in the history of the franchise.  Of those 272, 216 have pitched at least 12 innings.  Phil Niekro has the 4th worst ERA of those men. 

But those pitchers were terrible when Toronto wasn’t a contender.  Niekro failed in the heart of a pennant race.

So for you Ranger fans who are angry and upset with Darren O’Day and his 7.36 ERA, or Mark Lowe and his 67.50 ERA, we feel your pain.  Though we never made the playoffs in 1987, we are fully aware that it takes only a couple of brutal performances to ruin a season. 

For us, Phil Niekro was your Mark Lowe.

Phil Niekro: Career Major League Statistics

24 seasons (1964 – 1987)

4 teams (ATL, NYY, CLE, TOR)

318-274 record, 5,404.0 IP, 3.35 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 3,342 K : 1,809 BB

*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better.  If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.

18 Years Ago Today…

It’s cold and rainy in Toronto today.  Winter is coming.  The Blue Jays are once again watching the playoffs on television.  This is what October has become.

But there was a time when October was the best month of the year for Jays fans.  And this day in particular, October 14th, has special meaning.

Because 18 years ago today, on October 14th, 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Oakland A’s in the SkyDome 9-2 to win the ALCS and advance to their first ever World Series.

Toronto was coming off a loss in Game 5 in Oakland, blowing a chance to advance, and a loss in Game 6 would have set up a do-or-die seventh game against their playoff rivals.  Jack Morris, coming off a 20-win season, but 0-1 with a 6.57 ERA in two starts in the series, would have been on the hill.  The team, and the fans, knew that the series would be won or lost in Game 6.

The game was a rare 3:08 PM start in Toronto, and I remember being at school – and hating the fact that I was missing the beginning.  I remember somehow getting an update that Rickey Henderson dropped the opening fly ball from Devo, and that Joe Carter homered to make it 2-0.  The Jays had lost the ALCS in 1985, 1989, and 1991, but hearing about that dropped ball made me think that this year would be different.

By the time I got off the bus and into my house it was 7-1 Jays in the 8th inning, and the game was essentially over.  Candy Maldonado had gone deep, Juan Guzman had pitched seven strong innings, and the Ward / Henke combo was coming on. 

When Ruben Sierra hit a lazy fly ball to Maldonado with two outs in the ninth, the city exploded.  I was 13 years old, and can still remember seeing the celebration. 

For the first time ever, Toronto was headed to the World Series. 

It was an amazing moment.

And it was 18 years ago this very day.

Blast From the Past – Dennis Lamp

This week’s edition of Blast From the Past is inspired by the playoffs, a time of year that we used to know well here in Toronto.

There is an old saying that applies to most sports, that says offense wins games, but defense wins championships.  In baseball, that can be extended to pitching and defense.  Though the starting rotation is an extremely important part of a team’s pitching (see Halladay, Roy; Lee, Cliff; Lincecum, Tim), a team needs a good bullpen to succeed.

In 1985 the Blue Jays made the playoffs for the first time.  They had a very good bullpen, and though there may have been bigger names in the ‘pen that year (Tom Henke, John Cerutti), the biggest piece was the man we are featuring this week – Dennis Lamp.

Lamp pitched in the major leagues for 16 seasons, and though he tasted success before and after 1985, nothing could ever match the magic he produced that year.

He was originally drafted in 1971 by the Cubs and after four fairly successful seasons as a starter, he was involved in a rare Chicago to Chicago trade, as the Cubs dealt him to the White Sox for Ken Kravec.  He pitched very well for the Sox from ’81 – ’83, as a “half and half” man – half the time as a starter, the other half as a reliever.  The Jays signed him as a free agent in 1984 and converted him to a full-time reliever.  It was a move that would pay huge dividends in ’85.

Who can forget 1985.  I was only six years old, but I can still remember George Bell catching the clinching fly ball on his knees in lef field, and Tony Fernandez charging out to him to celebrate Toronto’s first playoff spot.  Many remember the heroics of Bell, Moseby, Barfield, and Whitt, the dominating pitching of Stieb and Key, and Henke asserting himself as a top-notch closer.  But what many forget is that one of the MVP’s of that squad was none other than Dennis Lamp.

His stats speak for themselves.  53 games, 52 as a reliever.  A bullpen leading 105.2 IP.  An 11-0 record, with a 3.32 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 68 strikeouts.  He even had two saves during the course of the season.

But his biggest contribution came in the playoffs.  The 1985 ALCS represented the first taste of the potseason for many of the Blue Jays, while the Kansas City Royals were a seasoned squad.  Lamp was one of the few members of the Toronto bullpen with prior experience, getting into three games in the 1983 ALCS with the White Sox.  Not sure if he used that experience as a catapult, or if he was simply on a roll, but with the Blue Jay bullpen crumbling around him, he held strong.

Lamp pitched 9.1 innings, and blew away the Royals.  Two hits, one walk, zero runs allowed, ten strikeouts. A 0.00 ERA with a 0.32 WHIP.  Outstanding.

In the end it wasn’t enough to vault the Jays to the World Series, but it cemented the thought that there is heavy importance in a strong bullpen.

For his efforts in 1985, Dennis Lamp finished 21st in AL MVP voting, one of six Blue Jays to receive votes.

Sadly for Lamp the magic ended in ’85.  A poor 1986 lead to his release from Toronto.  He moved on to Oakland, spent four years with the Red Sox, and finished his career in Pittsburgh.  Though he had good seasons, nothing ever came close to 1985.

But when Jays fans think of the glory years, and the dominant Jays bullpens lead by Henke, Eichhorn, Ward, and Danny Cox, they should also remember where the dominant bullpen force came from – Mr. Lamp.

Oh – and if that wasn’t enough, he had a glorious moustache.

Dennis Lamp: Career Major League Statistics

16 seasons (1977 – 1992)

6 teams (CHC, CHW, TOR, OAK, BOS, PIT)

96-96 record, 1,830.2 IP, 3.93 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 857 K : 549 BB

*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better.  If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.

Blast From the Past – Luis Aquino

This week it’s all about the ‘stache.

Inspired by “Thank You Cito” night, where many of the Jays players donned fake moustaches to salute the skipper, I bring you this week’s edition of Blast From the Past, featuring possibly the greatest moustache in Blue Jays history.

Though he only played for Toronto for a VERY short period of time (likely why I couldn’t find a picture of him in a Jays uniform), Luis Aquino sure knew how to rock the ‘stache.

Aquino came to the Jays in 1981 as an amateur free agent from Puerto Rico.  In his first few years in the minors his role was undefined, alternating between starter, closer, and long reliever.  Not even a no-hitter against the Columbus Clippers was enough to prove that he belonged in a rotation.

When he finally made his major league debut with the Jays in 1986 it was as a reliever.  The Jays were defending AL East champions, but 1986 was not going their way.  A rough start left them back in the pack, and by August, though they were above .500, they sat 5th in the division, 7 games back.  That meant it was Aquino time.

He came into relieve Dave Stieb in the bottom of the 4th inning in Texas, and the Rangers were instantly blinded by his sterling moustache.  He retired the first three batters he faced, with the ‘stache disguising the ball as it left his hand.  But Pete Incaviglia (a man with a horrendous ‘stache of his own) ended Aquino’s dream start by launching a solo home run in the fifth.  Things would never be the same.

Aquino found his way into seven games as a Toronto reliever, and gave up runs in six of them, including his first four appearances in a row.  When 1986 came to an end, though his face looked great, his numbers did not: 11.1 IP, 1-1 record, 1 blown save, 6.35 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 4.0 K/9.  He never pitched for Toronto again, starting ’87 in Syracuse before being traded to KC for Juan Beniquez.

He pitched fairly well in his five seasons in KC, but again his role was undefined: 114 games, 55 starts.  Though the constant uncertainty surrounding his position on the team may have impacted his performance, he never let it get in the way of his ‘stache.  He maintained it as well as anybody in all of baseball, keeping it thick, lush, dark, and clean.

In 1993 Aquino left Kansas City and was part of the inaugural Florida Marlins franchise before making short stops in Montreal, San Francisco, and Japan, then calling it a career.

His numbers were not outstanding, but somehow his short time with the Royals landed him at #80 on a list of the Top 100 Royals of all-time.

Even though he only played 11 innings with the Jays, because of the moustache I would be willing to bet he would make our top 100 as well.

Remember – it’s all about the ‘stache.

Luis Aquino: Career Major League Statistics

9 seasons (1986, 1988 – 1995)

5 teams (TOR, KC, FLA, MON, SF)

31-32 record, 678.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 318 K:224 BB

*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better.  If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.