By In Stuff

Ballot 33: Matt Stairs


Matt Stairs

Played 19 years for a record 13 different teams (counting Washington and Montreal seperately), hit 265 homers and drove in 899 runs, 14.3 WAR, minus-6.2 WAA.

Pro argument: Mashed a lot of home runs

Con argument: Just about everything else

Deserves to be in Hall?: No

Will get elected this year?: No

Will ever get elected?: No

OK, admission time … and for those of you who are quick on the trigger, you probably already know something about this. I got my Baseball Hall of Fame ballot a couple of days ago, but didn’t really look at it before starting this absurd project. Instead, I went to the Baseball Reference site and looked at what I thought was the 2017 ballot and worked off of that.

I did not notice that it very clearly says POTENTIAL Hall of Fame Ballot. *

*Don’t worry Sean Forman, I am taking all the blame for this one.

This is why, if you were quick, you might have noticed that I actually wrote something about Danys Baez yesterday. Baez is listed on the Baseball Reference ballot, so I wrote a whole thing about how ridiculous it was to have a marginal player like Baez on the Hall Ballot (along with writing some nice things about Baez — I did find that his 41 saves for Tampa Bay in 2005 in a record for a Cuban pitcher).

Anyway, after I published it, I had this thought that I should have had much earlier: “Hey, maybe I should look at the ACTUAL ballot to be sure Baez is on there.”

He is not. Yeah. So that was a waste of time and sort of embarrassing. I raced back to my computer, deleted the Baez entry, took a cursory glance at the ballot and determined that I would write about Arthur Rhodes.

It was only after that Rhodes piece was up on the site that I decided (finally) to take a hard look at the ballot and see who exactly is and who is not on there.

Surprise No. 1: Matt Stairs is on it.

Surprise No. 2: Javier Vazquez is not.

The rest of this article will deal with Stairs, so let me take a few seconds to write about Vazquez: I am thoroughly stunned that he is not on this ballot. I feel quite confident in saying that he’s the best player in memory — with the inapplicable exception of Pete Rose — to simply be left off the Hall of Fame ballot. On the simplest level, Vazquez has pitched 2,840 innings. There are only two active pitchers — CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon — who have thrown that many innings. As Tom Tango points out, it’s unlikely that anybody within A THOUSAND INNINGS of Vazquez has simply been left off the ballot.

It is confounding.

Now, here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. I mean, you know and I know that Javier Vazquez is not a Hall of Famer. He is not close to being a Hall of Famer. His place on the ballot would have been purely for show; he probably would not have gotten a single vote. And if he actually DID get any votes, that would have been even worse, it would have been used as fodder to point out the cluelessness of Hall of Fame voters. Yes, there’s an  argument some make that just being included on the ballot is a lower-case honor, but I tend to side with Bill James’ view that it’s just a ballot, not meant as a way to honor players.

Still, leaving Vazquez off is WEIRD. That’s the part that’s hard to get around. It’s weird. You look at some of the starters who have been on the ballot the last few years — Mike Hampton, Jason Schmidt, Woody Williams, Aaron Sele, Terry Mulholland, Kirk Rueter, Shane Reynolds, etc. — and Vazquez had a better career than any of those guys. I mean, he struck out 2,500 batters in his career. His 43 WAR is better than a half-dozen Hall of Fame starters including the patron saint of such arguments, Catfish Hunter. How did they overlook him?

I don’t think this is something to get angry about — there’s enough of that already. It’s just very curious.

Matt Stairs was, in the words of my friend Jeff Garlin, a big bowl of wonderful. I’m a little bit surprised to see him on the ballot (he was not on the Baseball Reference potential ballot), but I’m glad to see him there. He had a beautiful career.

When Stairs retired, I relayed the astounding (if irrelevant) similarities between Matt Stairs’ rate numbers and those of a Hall of Famer — let’s see if you remember:

Matt Stairs: .262/.356/.477

Hall of Famer: .262/.356/.490

You got it? The Hall of Famer is Reggie Jackson, and before you take this too seriously and start crafting an angry email in your head, let’s just get this down: I AM NOT SAYING THAT MATT STAIRS WAS AS GOOD AS REGGIE JACKSON. Even the seemingly similar rate statistics are not at all similar because they played in very different run-scoring environments. It’s just a quirky and fun thing.

But, I AM saying that so much of what we come to see as inevitable baseball history is, in fact, a combination of talent and timing and circumstances. Reggie Jackson as a young man was an athletic marvel with an overpowering ambition to be a superstar. That ambition — perhaps unmatched in American sports history — is what defined Reggie. He was going to be a star, whether it was baseball, football, television, whatever. He was like Harry Houdini that way.*

*And before you ask: Yes, I DO plan to include Harry Houdini in every single thing I write until my book about Houdini is published in early 2018. Sorry.

Jackson was the second pick in the Major League Draft. He negotiated himself a (relatively) big-money deal before he took his first big swing. He knew home runs would get him where he wanted to go and so he swung for the fences and took all the strikeouts that came along with it. He endured various minor league trials — including a rough season as a black man in Birmingham in 1967.

After Jackson failed in the big leagues as a 21-year old (hitting .178 with just one homer in 135 plate appearances), he went back to work on his swing. The next year, 1968, the year of the pitcher, he mashed 29 homers and struck out 171 times (just four shy of the record) . The next year, at age 23,  he crushed 47 homers and became a full-fledged star. His team, the A’s, became the bad boys of baseball as they swept through three consecutive World Series victories. Then, not long after that, Reggie signed with George Steinbrenner’s Yankees, fought with Billy Martin, had a candy bar named for him, mashed three homers in a World Series game and heard them chant “Reggie! Reggie!” wherever he went.

OK, now look at Matt Stairs. He grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, which is near, um, Noonan, New Brunswick, Canada and so on. His game was hockey, of course. “I had a wicked slap shot,” he used to say. When he made it to the big leagues in 1992 for a cup of coffee with the nearby Montreal Expos (nearby as in an eight-plus hour train ride), some of his friends showed up after the game and remarked: “Hey, Matty, I didn’t even know you played baseball.”

The Expos had signed him as a free agent after he played on the Canadian baseball team that finished seventh of eight at the 1988 Olympics (they did finish ahead of Chinese Taipei, for what it’s worth). At the time, the Expos were just sort of interested in signing ANY Canadian players they could find. And they thought that Stairs, with enough seasoning and effort, might turn into a scrappy little second baseman (Stairs is only 5-foot-9). He even had a bit of speed back then (he had 10 triples in his best minor league in Harrisburg one year).

The Expos gave him a brief shot in 1992 (he hit .167 in 13 games) and then, seeing that he just wasn’t scrappy enough, sold him to the Chinichi Dragons in Japan. That wasn’t a very nice thing to do. Stairs did not like Japan one bit, so he played out his season and then raced back to Canada where in desperation he signed right back with the Montreal Expos. Maybe this time they  would give him a real chance.

Two months later, they sold him to Boston.

He was 26 years old by this point, and he played Class AA ball in New Britain. At this point, the odds against you or I ever hearing of Matt Stairs were pretty staggering.

Stairs played 39 unmemorable games for the Red Sox at which point they just said: “Thanks for coming. Please tip your waiter or waitress on the your way out.” He was 28 when he joined the Oakland Athletics.

And that THIS point, the odds against you or I ever hearing of Matt Stairs were so high that Vegas took them off the board.

Now, pause right here. By the time he turned 28, Reggie Jackson had hit 189 career homers, made four All-Star Teams, won an MVP award and was one of the biggest stars in sports. He was not yet called Mr. October, but the groundwork was laid.

Matt Stairs career, meanwhile, had not yet begun. But more significantly, he still did not know who he was as a baseball player. That changed one foggy moment in Edmonton in 1996. To clarify, the morning itself was not foggy; it was Stairs. He’d had a rough but enjoyable night. He could barely keep his eyes open in the sunshine. And so that day,  in retaliation to the hangover hammers banging on his head, he dropped his hands and swung really hard. And something amazing happened. The ball started rocketing off his bat.

Up to that season, he’d hit one — count ’em ONE — big league homer. It was off Tom Gordon in Kansas City. But when the A’s called him up on Independence Day, 1996, Matt Stairs knew who he was. Matt Stairs was a MASHER. In his second game back in the big leagues, he cranked a homer off Ryan Hancock. In his third, he clubbed one off Shawn Boskie. In all, Stairs slugged .566 after getting the call, and he hit nine homers in 51 games. Look out world.

The next year, at age 29, Stairs hit .298 and 27 homers in just 352 at-bats.

At age 30, he hit 26 more homers.

At 31, he hit 38 home runs.

That’s when Matt Stairs got his first big money contract. He liked that. Stairs bought cars. He bought a television for every room in his house. Yes, this was living. Stairs had finally learned the lesson that Reggie Jackson had understood implicitly: Life is good for the home run hitters.

And once Matt Stairs realized that … there was no going back. He spent the rest of his nomadic baseball striking out and hitting home runs. He didn’t do much of anything else. Well, he walked some and he was a versatile, if ineffective, fielder who could play four or five different positions in various emergencies. Oh, and he was a funny locker room presence, someone everyone liked. Once, when the Kansas City Royals were in the midst of one of their famous swoons, Royals manager Tony Pena jumped into the shower with his clothes on in a bizarre effort to loosen up the team. After that, Stairs suggested to teammates that they might want to just get drunk.

The thing that always struck me about Matt Stairs was that he brought an oddly admirable professionalism to the game. I call it “oddly professional” because Stairs was not exactly sculpted. He did not give rah-rah speeches. He did not make grand pronouncements.

No, Stairs knew exactly why he was there and what they were paying him to do. If the managers benched him, he sat on the bench. If the manager put him in, he swung for the fences. If reporters came up to ask him a question, he answered it. If a teammate wanted a hitting tip, he offered it.. When he got traded (as he was three times) or let go (granted free agency, they generously call it), he quietly packed up his stuff and went to the next town where again he sat on the bench until he was called and then swung for the fences when he got his chance.

In all, he hit 265 home runs which is more than 93 Hall of Famers including some surprises like Robin Yount (251), Roberto Clemente (240) or Paul Molitor (234). This comparison, like the one to Reggie Jackson, is only meant to point out that it was a helluva career for a guy who should have dropped out of baseball a dozen times before he hit that first hangover home run. What if his circumstances had been different? What if he’d grown up in the United States and gone to play college baseball somewhere like Arizona State and figured things out when he was much younger?

Eh, who knows? Maybe if that had happened he would have flamed out in someplace like Des Moines and never hit any big league homers. Life is what happens. I think Stairs understood that better than most. When he was playing for Philadelphia, he got one at-bat in the 2008 National League Championship Series against the Dodgers. It was Game 4, tie score in the eighth, Dodger Stadium. Stairs was sent in to face the behemoth Jonathan Broxton who, at that time, threw 289 mph.

Stairs crushed a 3-1 fastball into the night to give the Phillies the lead they would not relinquish.

“I just happened to barrel it,” Stairs said after the game.

Thirteen days later, he got his one and only at-bat in the 2008 World Series. This time he faced Tampa Bay’s Dan Wheeler. He struck out swinging.  And this, he would tell you, is the natural order of things. You swing and miss. You swing and homer. You swing and miss again. It wasn’t a Hall of Fame career, no. It wasn’t Reggie Jackson’s career, no. But sometimes Matt Stairs did barrel it.

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62 Responses to Ballot 33: Matt Stairs

  1. Johnny P says:

    Vazquez not being on the ballot brings to mind the age-old question: who are the best players not to be on the HOF ballot?

    My contenders include:
    *Ramon Martinez (26.1 WAR)
    *Edgardo Alfonso (28.7 WAR)
    *Jesse Barfield (39.3 WAR)
    *Bob Allison (33.9 WAR)
    *Joe Adcock (33.5 WAR)
    *Willie Davis (60.5 WAR)
    *Ugueth Urbina (13.7 WAR, but 237 saves)

    None of these guys are HOFers, but they should have at least been given a shot.

    • invitro says:

      You are THE MAN for this research. Awesome!

    • Ajnrules says:

      Willie Davis, easily

    • Rob Smith says:

      So Willie Davis. When I moved to LA, it was right after Koufax retired and the Dodgers were about to become really bad for a few years. Drysdale was still around for a couple of years & Don Sutton was there. But the every day lineup was just pitiful. Wes Parker and Ron Fairly were two of the stars and you probably don’t even remember them. Anyway, the thing they had going that provided the most entertainment was Willie Davis. The 3-dog (self named because he wore #3 and hit a lot of triples). 138 lifetime triples. 75% success rate at stealing bases. And he had a habit of saying pretty entertaining things. Like one year he came into spring training and said he was going to hit 50 HRs that year. And, though it seemed improbable based on his 10/12 per year HR rate, he seemed like a guy that could do it if he put his mind to it. Definitely a fan favorite during a tough time to be a Dodger fan.

      A few years ago I looked him up on BBR and saw the 60 WAR and thought, whoa, he’s actually not that far off from being a HOF candidate. The baserunning, and to some extent defense, has to be a big part of it. But all the triples and the 182 lifetime HRs are too. Willie Davis is the type of player that should head up the Hall of Very Good if they get around to it some day. He was a lot of fun.

      • invitro says:

        Bill James said something about how Willie Davis was a player who would’ve been a superstar if he played in a different park and era. But his lifetime 106 OPS+ doesn’t really support that idea.

        I’m looking at Davis’s b-ref page now, and boy he was horrible in the World Series. He played in 3 WS, had 60 PA, and slashed 167/179/204, for an OPS of .382. Wow. That’s bad. That’s bad even in Dodger Stadium in the 1960’s in October. But the Dodgers won two of those… maybe his fielding helped some.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Of course, his fielding helped them lose one of those World Series. He was a good player but I think people remember him more for the three errors in one inning in the 1966 World Series than anything else, unfortunately.

          I think Tommy Davis is the guy that might have been a superstar if he had stayed healthy. He had a huge year in 1962 and another very good year in 1963 and then, I believe, he broke his ankle and was never the same. Now, he is probably more remembered for being a character in Bouton’s “Ball Four.”

          • Rob Smith says:

            The errors weren’t good, but it wasn’t a competitive World Series. The Orioles swept the Dodgers and the Dodgers were shutout three times and scored only two runs. Two games were lost 1-0. Davis made the 3 errors in the game on two consecutive plays when they lost 6-0. He lost one ball in the sun, dropped one & compounded it by throwing the ball away.

            There was a lot of pitching power in that series. Jim Palmer, Sandy Koufax, and Don Drysdale along with Claude Osteen and Dave McNally. After that season, Koufax retired & the pathetic Dodger offense couldn’t handle the blow. They were bad until the Garvey, Lopes, Cey, Russell, Sutton group came up in the early 70s.

          • Rob Smith says:

            Also another tidbit. That 3 error game for Davis was Sandy Koufax’s last game. The errors led to 3 unearned runs. Koufax allowed one earned run in the sixth and yielded to Ron Perranoski who gave up the final two runs. That might have been a great pitchers dual between Koufax and Jim Palmer if not for those errors. But since the Dodgers were unable to score any runs, it’s probably all the same in the end.

          • invitro says:

            Wikipedia blurb on Tommy Davis: ‘He occasionally expressed resentment for his numerous moves, remarking late in his career: “I’m very bitter, bitter as hell. Why do I keep getting released? Don’t ask me no reason why.” But he conceded his reputation as having a casual style of play, noting, “the lazier I felt the better I hit”, and admitting that he often went into the clubhouse to read and even to shave between at bats as a DH with Baltimore.’

            And wikipedia on his ankle: ‘On May 1, 1965, against the visiting Giants, he broke and dislocated his ankle sliding into second base while trying to break up a double play and was lost for the remainder of the season.’

      • invitro says:

        “Willie Davis is the type of player that should head up the Hall of Very Good if they get around to it some day.” — Well… no, sorry, I know you’re just talking, but no. Looking at the JAWS rankings for CF, there’s a trio of recent CF’s well ahead of Davis that aren’t in the HoF. You know them… Kenny Lofton, Carlos Beltran, and Andruw Jones. Maybe Beltran will make it, I doubt it, and Andruw won’t. Willie played a really long time and compiled it up, but there are a lot more players who smash him in WAR7: Edmonds, Wynn, Cedeno, Pinson, and of course Dale Murphy. I’d put every one of these guys in the Hall of Very Good ahead of Davis. Maybe we can put Davis in the Hall of Above Average for a Really Long Time? (He has 15 seasons with a positive WAA.)

        • invitro says:

          (FWIW, I’d put Beltran, Lofton, and Murphy in the HoF without thinking twice. I’d have to look at Andruw a bit, but he’d be next.)

          • Marc Schneider says:

            I agree with you entirely about Willie Davis and the better players ahead of him. Andruw Jones as a potential HOFer has been a subject of debate among Braves fans. He was, obviously, a fabulous centerfielder and a productive hitter with a lot of power. What hurts him in some eyes is that he came up with so much hype and never quite lived up to it, largely because he couldn’t lay off low and away sliders. And, then he put on weight and fell off the cliff. Murphy was a great player and the only reason I wouldn’t put him in is that his peak was so short, basically six very good years and little besides that. But, man, at his peak, he was good.

          • invitro says:

            Andruw is also singlehandedly responsible for me learning what Curaçao is.

        • Rob Smith says:

          Yeah, I saw the low OPS+. I was more reflecting the fact that he was a very good player, a lot of fun and a fan favorite. To me, the Triple is a very exciting play. Stolen bases are a lot of fun too. That’s what Davis did, in addition to his speed in the outfield & some power. Jimmy Wynn, on your list, is another that’s a lot of fun but really doesn’t quite put together enough of a case. Beltran might make the HOF, who knows? He has a case. I think Andruw Jones might have had 500 HRs and been in if he hadn’t gotten fat and completely stopped hitting at a fairly young age. In his prime, I made the argument that he was a better center fielder than Willie Mays. I watched a replay one time where you could actually see Andruw break on a ball before it was even hit. His quick read and quick first step on balls hit his way are unprecedented. Surreal even. Anyways, I’m not disagreeing with your point that there are others not in that are more deserving than the 3-Dog.

  2. Jay says:

    Also he has the record for most pinch hit home runs

    • SDG says:

      Matt Stairs is interesting to me. I agree with Joe that he had one of the biggest “what if” careers. I wonder what would have happened if Sabrmetrics were accepted practice just a bit earlier. Because he’s the prime example of a great player underrated for bullshit. He’s kind of fat and strikes out a lot and doesn’t give interviews like he vomited up a Successories poster (like the late-90s Yankees) and not many great players came from Canada. But none of that should matter. He had great hitting stats and more than decent fielding and running.

      But he didn’t have a success-story image. I wonder if a more data-driven and organized approach to scouting will mean fewer Matt Stairs in the future.

  3. Craig says:

    One of my favorite Royals. Fun to watch. Had my kids convinced that he signed with the Royals because he thought KC stood for Krispy Creme.

  4. DSE4AU says:

    Joe, I missed the Baez article! If you wrote it, you should put it back up! Add a first sentence explaining the mistake! Unless it costs you money to have articles on here or something. Sorry, I just like reading your stuff, and hate that I missed one! 🙂

  5. SB M says:

    Vazquez is generally underrated because he put up about half of his career value for the Expos, and no one was paying any attention. Your typical casual observer probably never really formed an opinion of him until he went to the Yankees, where he was seen as a failure.

    • SDG says:

      This is why it took Gary Carter forever to get in. Unrelated, I want Montreal to have a team again.

      • invitro says:

        Normally I’d be skeptical of a reason like that, but it looks like you guys have a point. It’s kind of strange to me, because I was heavy into baseball in the early 1980’s and the 1990’s, and the Expos were super-popular at that time. Maybe just among the young fellows who were my buddies and acquaintances, I dunno, but they were the cool, hip team, the team the trendsettin’ kids liked. And everyone loved Raines, Dawson, Carter, and later Vlad. I mean, those guys were WILDLY popular, and still are… Raines and Dawson were probably the most popular players at my school, after Rose and maybe Schmidt. So I may have a biased perception, but it’s real strange for me to think of the Expos players as being underrated.

        • invitro says:

          Sorry, I forgot Murphy… I grew up in Appalachia, so Murphy was most popular by a long shot, then the other guys. (blushing :))

          • Rob Smith says:

            Regarding Murphy: There are currently only two multiple MVP winners, eligible for the HOF, who are not in. Murphy and Roger Maris. Murphy also is at HOF level according to Black Ink, Gray Ink and HOF Monitor. He does fall a little short on JAWS, especially for his career. So, he’d definitely have to be near the top of any list of non HOFers.

          • invitro says:

            I’m giving Murphy credit for character. I don’t expect other people to. His WAR isn’t good enough. Even his WAR7 ranks only #19. I want to give him bonus credit for playing at catcher, but he started only 77 games there, and less than half his games are in CF.

  6. Donald A. Coffin says:

    I wondered about Vasquez, so I poked around a little. As recently as 2013, he was apparently still looking for work as a major league pitcher–unsuccessfully, of course. But maybe he’s not on the ballot because he did not officially retire in 2011?

    • invitro says:

      I found this: “The candidate must then be nominated by two members of the BBWAA’s six-member screening committee.” at . And I read the same at Bill James’ website. So he probably just didn’t get the two nominations. (That link above is worth reading, for a chuckle. The author is Jaffe, the creator of JAWS. He goes on an absolute tirade about Vazquez and Stairs that is quite ridiculous.)

      • Gary says:

        Thanks for the Jaffe article link. He mentions a few others who were left off the ballot. One was “Shannon Stewart (who finished fourth in the AL MVP vote in 2003)”. I didn’t know who Stewart was at all. And when I looked up his stats that year, compared to others in the MVP voting, I can’t understand why he was fourth. He even got three first place votes. Can anyone explain his MVP votes that year?

        • invitro says:

          I remember Stewart, but not that MVP vote. Ok, he was traded from TOR to MIN at the All-Star break in 2003. The Twins were 44-49 before Stewart, but went 46-23 with him, to finish 90-72, 1st in the AL Central. And Stewart had an OPS+ of 105 with TOR, but 124 with MIN, and this happened mostly by his upping his BA from .294 with TOR to .322 with MIN. (The top 2 in WAR for the Twins in 2003: A.J. Pierzynski and Doug Mientkiewicz.)

    • KHAZAD says:

      I remember wondering at the time (2012) whether there was something I didn’t know about that was messing with Vazquez’ ability to get a job, whether there was a personal or injury issue that didn’t get publicized, or whether he wanted way too much money to sign. His last year (2011) He won 13 games, pitched 192 innings with a 3.69 ERA and a 3.57 FIP. How does that guy not get signed by someone in 2012?

      As A Royals fan, in 2012 they paid $4.5 million for Bruce Chen and started out the season paying $5.6 million to Jonathan Sanchez while Vazquez couldn’t get a job. It was inexplicable to me.

      I will always remember Vazquez’ 2009 season (16 wins, 238 Ks, 2.77 ERA, 1.026 WHIP) for fantasy reasons. Bought him cheap and rode him to a title.

  7. William says:

    Matt is from my hometown and is naturally a hero in these parts. There are three things I remember vividly about Matt’s career. First was his first postseason with Oakland and he was mic’d in the dugout and hollered to the announcers to get him the hockey scores. Canadian much. The second was Matt’s 1500 career game when he happened to be in a Blue Jays uniform. I was there to watch the masher hit three doubles and take a walk. Impressive. The last is Matty playing for his hometown Fredericton DQ Royals and mashing home runs at 43 and leading his team to the finals. Always fun to watch and great with the fans.

  8. Tom says:

    According to Wikipedia, on February 4th, 2015 Stairs was elected into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Although I’m pretty sure the standards of entry for the CBHOF are less stringent…

  9. MisterMJ says:

    Remember Vazquez being the most desired pitcher after 2003 and when the Yankees landed him in a trade, a bummed out Boston was left with option B … Curt Schilling. Vazquez had a weird 2004 (only year with the Yankees). I remember being at a surreal home 22-0 shellacking by the Indians – I was with a Aussie buddy attending his first game and had to convince him that these things DO NOT happen. But crazy splits for Javier in 2004 – at the end of June, he was 10-5 with a 3.42 ERA, 1.12 WHIP … all good enough to make the AL All-Star team. And then he fell off the cliff completely in the second half and whatever relationship he had with the Yankees and their fan base was irrevocably broken.

    • ajnrules says:

      Not quite irrevocably broken. They did trade for him before 2010 after he had a monster season with the Braves. Then he went and had one of the worst seasons of his career (5.32 ERA, 81 ERA+, -0.7 bWAR) and was left off of the postseason roster.

      He had a pretty good 2011 season with an awful first half (5-8, 5.23 ERA) followed by a terrific second half (8-3, 2.15 ERA) then sat out 2012. I guess his spotty performance in his past few seasons scared teams from signing him. I still can’t believe it’s been five years since he last pitched.

  10. Frank says:

    Favorite Matt Stairs memory: August 1, 1998. Beanie Baby Day at the Oakland Coliseum. Third largest regular-season paid attendance in Coliseum history. A’s were playing the Indians. Our seven-year-old daughter, an avid Beanie Baby collector, already had Peanut the Elephant (the giveaway), so at her suggestion we walked past the long line of people waiting for the Beanie Baby. We went into the Coliseum (at least one security guard thinking I was trying to jump the line with our daughter), got our food and drinks, and sat down. Our daughter was probably the only kid in the stadium who didn’t receive the Beanie Baby at the game, and didn’t care. (She’s still earning points for my not having to wait in that incredibly long line for that Beanie Baby.) This was also the year of the A’s “98 in ’98” promotion, so kids got in for 98 cents.

    That day, we had plaza level seats down the right field line. Gorgeous, cloudless blue skies. One third of the seats were empty before first pitch. Parents came in with vans full of kids, got their Beanie Babies for the price of a 98 cent ticket, and left. By the end of the game, the stands were nearly empty. Our daughter asked me why everyone had left when it was such a nice day. Anyway, it was an extra inning game. Bottom of the 10th, Steve Karsay on the mound, Matt Stairs at the plate (he was DH that day). I call a buddy in Detroit and, as I’m leaving a voicemail for him, bemoaning the lack of fans on a beautiful day in an extra-inning game, I scream into the phone, “Oh my God! Stairs just hit a walk off!” Since we were in plaza level seats down the right field line, the dinger flew right past us.

    Link to the box score:

    PS I had forgotten that Dwight Gooden started that game for the Indians.

  11. steve says:

    Plus Matt was a pretty good TV announcer for the Phillies until a month or so ago when they hired him to be the next hitting coach.

  12. ajnrules says:

    Here’s all the players I can find within 1,000 innings of Javier Vazquez that didn’t make it on the ballot since I started following the Hall of Fame vote in 1999. It appears to be a lot common than you think. And yes, Javier Vazquez is the leader in innings and bWAR among those left out.

    -Javier Vazquez (2840 innings, 43.3 bWAR)
    -Mike Moore (2831.2 innings, 28.2 bWAR)
    -Mike Morgan (2772.1 innings, 28.9 bWAR)
    -John Burkett (2648.1 innings, 21.6 bWAR)
    -Andy Benes (2505.1 innings, 31.4 bWAR)
    -Steve Trachsel (2501 innings, 24.8 bWAR)
    -Kevin Gross (2487.2 innings, 26.0 bWAR)
    -Tim Belcher (2442.2 innings, 26.9 bWAR)
    -Scott Erickson (2360.2 innings, 24.9 bWAR)
    -Kevin Tapani (2265 innings, 29.2 bWAR)
    -Greg Swindell (2233.1 innings, 30.3 bWAR)
    -Mark Gubicza (2223.1 innings, 37.7 bWAR)
    -Jon Lieber (2198 innings, 25.4 bWAR)
    -Pedro Astacio (2196.2 inhings, 28.4 bWAR)
    -Esteban Loaiza (2099 innings, 23.1 bWAR)
    -Jaime Navarro (2055.1 innings, 9.9 bWAR)
    -Bud Black (2053.1 innings, 21.1 bWAR)
    -Jeff Fassero (2033.2 innings, 25.2 bWAR)

    -Chan Ho Park (1993 innings, 18.2 bWAR)
    -Ken Hill (1973 innings, 22.9 bWAR)
    -Pete Harnisch (1959 innings, 19.0 bWAR)
    -Charles Nagy (1954.2 innings, 25.1 bWAR)
    -Zane Smith (1919.1 innings, 20.9 bWAR)
    -John Smiley (1907.2 innings,. 20.0 bWAR)
    -Jose DeLeon (1897.1 innings, 17.5 bWAR)
    -Ramon Martinez (1895.2 innings, 26.1 bWAR)
    -Denny Neagle (1890.1 innings, 22.5 bWAR)
    -Bob Ojeda (1884.1 innings, 24.7 bWAR)
    -Jarrod Washburn (1863.2 innings, 27.9 bWAR)

    A who’s who of “He was a pretty good pitcher back in the day!”

    And just for fun, here are some starters who made it onto the ballot with less than 1,000 innings than Javier Vazquez

    -Bob Tewksbury (1807 innings, 21.5 bWAR)
    -Shane Reynolds (1791.2 innings, 18.1 bWAR)
    -Alex Fernandez (1760.1 innings, 27.9 bWAR)
    -Jim Abbott (1674 innings, 19.8 bWAR)
    -Jim Deshaies (1525 innings, 13.7 bWAR, and he got a pity vote)

  13. shagster says:

    These are great. Stairs was an absolute pleasure to watch w the A’s teams that also featured ‘G’ and a couple no name young pitchers.

  14. Rick Rodstrom says:

    I didn’t know that Matt Stairs was 5’9″. He seemed like a bigger guy to me, what with his girth and his power. But it makes him a member of one of my favorite sub-groups in baseball: Little Guys with Pop. Here are the Top 10 guys listed as 5’9″ or shorter who hit the most home runs in their career:

    Mel Ott 511
    Yogi Berra 358
    Ivan Rodriguez 311
    Joe Morgan 268
    Matt Stairs 265
    Hack Wilson 244
    Roy Campanella 242
    Kirby Puckett 208
    Ray Durham 192
    Tim Raines 170

    • Dano says:

      Would Kirby Puckett have been a shoo in HOFer if he wasn’t thought of as a really nice guy? Albert Belle was somewhat similar and didn’t get a sniff at the HOF. Both had to stop playing fairly early due to health issues. Belle was a jerk at times but Kirby ended up being one too.

      • invitro says:

        Puckett was flat out beloved. I don’t know if there’s anyone like that in the game now, now that Ortiz is retired.

      • KHAZAD says:

        I think if Puckett was not a media favorite and didn’t have to retire “early” he might have been a more borderline case, but he would have gotten in. Not on the first ballot though.

        When the media loves a guy, it pushes him over the top. That is why DH Ortiz will sail through in 5 years while the Superior Edgar Martinez has had the same people not vote for him because he was mainly a DH. (And have said so in writing)

      • Rick Rodstrom says:

        Puckett also led the Twins to 2 World Series victories, his Game 6 heroics in 1991 being one of the great clutch performances in WS history.

        Belle was not only suspended for corking his bat, he was also a poster boy for the steroid era, not only for his epic feats at the plate but also for his seemingly permanent ‘roid rage. His sudden retirement due to arthritis in the hip was widely speculated to be the result of damage from steroid injections.

        Puckett’s early retirement due to glaucoma was viewed more sympathetically, all though it should be noted that glaucoma can be the result of steroid abuse.

    • KHAZAD says:

      Six Hall of Famers on that list, plus Irod who will probably make it, and Raines, who should already be there. Pretty good company.

      I was completely unaware that Ray Durham had that many home runs.

  15. Hudson Valley Slim says:

    “The Wonder Hamster” is his nickname on BR. That’s worth something. If hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports, as some have said, hitting 265 homers and driving in 899 runners at the top level is damn sure pretty amazing. So I tip my cap to Matt Stairs. You don’t have to be Reggie to have an interesting story. So I tip my cap to Joe.

  16. Bob Forer says:

    I will leave it to you stat geeks to write knowledgeable responses. I will simply say this: great story Joe. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  17. Michael C Lorah says:

    As a Phillies fan, I distinctly recall a time when Javy Vazquez was one of the three or four pitchers I most dreaded facing (maybe not one of the three or four best in baseball, but we saw him so often when he was in Montreal and he was so hard to beat!)

    And Matt Stairs – yeah, Broxton. I still watch that clip a few times a year.

    Echo the comment above that he’s been a good color guy for the Phillies over the last few seasons. I’ll miss his presence in the booth, but look forward to seeing what he can do with Maikel Franco.

  18. Lee Summit says:

    I remember when there was a pitching change and he was in the outfield, he would duck into the bullpen and light a heater until warms ups were finished and run back into position. Classic

  19. Zach says:

    Ah, the Royals’ black uniforms. Not a bad looking uniform, but it had the bad luck to coincide with some of the worst teams in their history.

    Though I have to say, they were bad but never boring. They were sort of like the ne’er do well friend who always has a scheme to get back on top but never actually makes it.

  20. Brad says:

    I remember being kind of mad that Trot Nixon was left off the Hall of Fame ballot one year. Jacque Jones was on it but Nixon was not. Not that I had any delusions that Nixon was a Hall of Famer, or even deserved a single vote, but I could not believe he did not even make it on the ballot.

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