Glaus Has the Advantage at Third Base
Interest in the 2006 Blue Jays is at perhaps an all-time high. Ticket sales are peaking, and short of the championship years, there has never been real waiting lines in place. This new season of baseball promises much excitement for the Blue Jays. General Manager J.P. Ricciardi is not done tinkering with the roster, and according to information still has a couple million to play with.
The Blue Jays 2006 roster may not feature Shea Hillenbrand, Corey Koskie or Frank Catalanatto, but the roster will be very formidable and will compete in the powerful American League East. With this excitement peaking, many are going to sleep with visions of post-season in their heads. Let’s compare the "glory days" to “Version ‘06.”
At catcher was a durable 29-year-old - who had converted from third base in the minors. Pat Borders supplied years of excitement for Jays fans in his peak years. Borders, who was durable and in both World Series years, caught 138 games. His OPS hovered in the mid 600s and although he was not overly flashy with the glove, he was a workman. Version ‘06 features a veteran who is also very durable. Gregg Zaun will match, if not improve, on Borders offensive production, and Zaun calls a great game as well. Borders was not known for power, but neither is Zaun. This position may provide a slight edge to Version ‘06.
At first base, the World Series Champions benefited from a very outstanding bat in John Olerud. Also known as Hobbs, Olerud, had a natural beautiful swing. Don Mattingly once said he tried to emulate Olerud's swing in his later years. At 23-years of age in 1992, Olerud only posted an OPS of .825, but in 1993 he peaked at 1.072 - as he flirted with a .400 batting average all year. Olerud was an improving glove, but was not known for homerun potential. Very similar comparisons are found in version ‘06 Lyle Overbay. The current first base with his likewise sweet swing and dandy glove is a good comparison to Olerud, but likely won’t match the high OPS. Both players lack the power many want in a first baseman. Overbay is close, but you are talking career years for Olerud. Advantage Glory Days.
At second base was Roberto Alomar - nothing more really needs to be said. This 24-year-old manned second base as Canada won its first World Series. Alomar had it all- grace and poetry in motion, not to mention charisma, an amazing glove, and a very good bat. Version ‘06 really can't be predicted with Aaron Hill. 2006 will be Hill’s second season in the majors. Hill has his first full time gig, and replaces a gold glove winner in Orlando Hudson. Hill is flashy with the glove and can hold his own with the bat. However, no one will compare to Alomar. Huge advantage to the Glory Days.
At third base, the championship years brought two faces. In 1992 a 30-year-old, Kelly Gruber played well, played gritty and did his job. At the end of his career, this former winner of ABC's Superstars didn't hit all that well any more, but looked flashy at times with the glove. In 1993 a young 25-year old, who was back from his trial at catcher, and was better known for his pinch-hit World Series home run the previous year, took the field. Ed Sprague became known as “E5.” Sprague had some sporadic power, and sporadic plays of brilliance, but in reality was a low point on a champion team. Version ‘06 brings Troy Glaus. The newly acquired third baseman brings a better glove, a better bat, and brings experience. Advantage is big here to Version ‘06.
At shortstop the Jays had two familiar names. In 1992 Manny Lee took the reigns. Lee who had been platooning at second base with Nelson Liriano handled the task. Lee was nothing spectacular on the field or at the plate, and will not evoke many memories. In 1993, long time Jay Tony Fernandez returned via trade from the National League after Dick Schofield went down. Fernandez who came for Darrin Jackson in a ‘we'll take your trouble if you take ours trade,’ was a pleasant surprise. Fernandez played hard, and was key to success. Version ‘06 nets Russ Adams. The second year shortstop does nothing amazing with the glove or bat, and compares closer to Manny Lee than to Tony Fernandez. No real clear advantage as Adams has a higher ceiling, but advantage goes to the Glory Days..
In left field, Candy Maldanado joined a large cast, which included Darnell Coles, Mike Huff and in 1993 a late addition that didn't really produce as expected in Ricky Henderson. Maldanado did hit some home runs and Henderson did have a big reputation, but nothing amazing in terms of production. Version ‘06, currently nets Frank Catalanatto, Reed "tripod" Johnson, and possibly Eric Hinske. The left field committee will not strike terror in anyone's hearts but should do the job. Maldanado was nice, but the overall package in ‘06 may top that. Slight advantage to Version ’06.
In center Field, Devon White was poetry in motion. What stride as he went after a ball. White had surprising power, but nothing to match his speed and glove. Version ‘06 nets another gold glover in Vernon Wells. His glove and poetry match White's at times, but his power super-cedes. Advantage Version ‘06.
In right field was the hero - Joe Carter. He brought the clubhouse presence, and the leadership to the team. Carter was the only 30 home run hitter on the team, and netted a low .800 OPS in both years. Version ‘06, could net Alexis Rios or even Frank Catalanatto. It is this writer's opinion to not make Rios into something he isn't. Don't compare him to the average right fielder. Rios can potentially hit for a higher average than Vernon Wells, but when asked to hit for power, his swing opens up too much. Let him play his game or get rid of him. Advantage Carter and the Glory Days.
At the Designated Hitter position, two Hall of Fame Names manned the spot. In 1992 General Manager Pat Gillick surprised the world by grabbing up 40-year-old Dave Winfield. Winfield hit 26 homeruns, and had a .858 OPS, and was followed by Paul Molitor at 36-years of age. Molitor matched the production with 22 homeruns and an OPS of .911. Molitor had the heart and more speed to be the better of the two. Match that to version ‘06 of Shea Hillenbrand or Corey Koskie, and you get no match any way the coin is flipped. Advantage history and the Glory Days.
The 2006 Blue Jays have the advantage at the catchers’ positions, third base, left-field, and center field
The “Glory Day Jays” have the advantage at first base, second base, shortstop, right field and designated hitter.
That is four for Version ’06 and five for the Glory Days, however, how does the pitching stand up?
Stay tuned for Part II of this series!