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Archive for April, 2011

Matt Stairs

Matt Stairs is a man of many uniforms.

Months ago, when this site was still active, a reader suggested a post on Matt Stairs.  Since the writers of the blog took an unannounced 10 month break, it is doubtful that reader is still active here on the site, but if you are, this one is for you.

Everything I have ever read or heard about Matt Stairs is awesome.  I know that’s a big statement, but I mean every word.  Stairs has taken about the least likely path to big league success and is practically the definition of a journeyman.  Odds are, if you are a baseball fan, Matt Stairs has probably played for your team or at least hurt the team you root for.  When you play for twelve Major League teams over the span of 19 seasons, that’s bound to happen.

Matthew Wade Stairs was born in New Brunswick, Canada in 1968.  There are currently only five active Major League players who were born in the 1960s:

  1. Tim Wakefield  1966
  2. Omar Vizquel  1967
  3. Matt Stairs  1968
  4. Arthur Rhodes  1969 (October)
  5. Mariano Rivera  1969 (November)

So, as it stands, our friend is the third oldest player in all of baseball and is the oldest player in the National League.

Stairs crew up playing baseball and hockey (obviously) as a kid in Canada.  He played the equivalent of Independent League ball in Canada when he was in his teens and signed as a free agent with the Montreal Expos (obviously) in 1989.  Stairs got only 38 at-bats over two seasons in Montreal before he left and played in Japan for a year.  He then signed as a free agent with the Red Sox.  It was with the Red Sox that he hit his first home run in 1995, a solo shot off of Tom “Flash” Gordon.  Stairs didn’t stick in Boston though either and became a free agent after the ’95 season.

Prior to the 1997 season, Stairs signed a deal to join the Oakland A’s.  In 1997, Stairs saw his first real playing time, hitting 10 homers in only 137 at-bats and posting an OPS+ of 127.  Stairs’ strong play in 1997 earned him 352 at-bats in 1998.  Matt did not disappoint as he slugged 27 homers and a career-high OPS+ of 153.  Stairs was a full-time player the next three seasons in Oakland as he crushed 85 HR, including a career-high 38 in 1999.  While Stairs never made an All-Star team, he did finish 17th in MVP voting for his 1999 campaign.

Following his five season run in Oakland, Stairs never spent more than 2.5 years in any one city, which he did in Kansas City.  Despite moving all over the country, Stairs continued to mash hitting over 100 HR and having an OPS+ of 117 from 2001-2006.

Stairs’ biggest moment on the national stage came in 2008 when he was with the Phillies.  The Phillies were up against the Dodgers in the NLCS.  Philadelphia held a 2-1 series lead over Los Angeles.  However, the Dodgers were leading in game four and were threatening to tie the series.  With the score tied at 5 in the 8th inning, Stairs came in as a pinch-hitter to face Jonathan Broxton.  Stairs sent Broxton’s 3-1 pitch into the seats to help give the Phillies a commanding 3-1 series lead.  Interestingly, the Dodgers and Phillies would meet again in the 2009 postseason.  Stairs again faced Broxton, and the big reliever walked Stairs on four straight pitches.

Stairs is currently a pinch-hitter for the Washington Nationals and is 0-11 in this young season.  I really hope this isn’t the end of the line for Stairs.  The 5’9”, 200lb slugger has been a fixture in big leagues for the last twenty seasons and it just doesn’t seem like it’s time to go just yet.

As I wrap up this post, enjoy some of these terrific figures:

  • 265 career HR (2nd most by a Canadian)
  • 23 pinch hit HR (MLB record)
  • OPS+ of 118 (4th highest by a Canadian)

Now a list of some of the pitchers Stairs has homered off of with the career homer leading the way:

1.  Tom Gordon

20. Hideo Nomo

100. Sidney Ponson

108. Dwight Gooden

155. Roy Oswalt

180. Roy Halladay

183. Johan Santana

200. Carl Pavano

265. Matt Cain

His 265 home runs came against 29 different teams.  Awesome.

Finally, a few smart baseball minds have suggested that if Stairs had been a regular his entire career he would have been a star and MAYBE a Hall of Fame type player.  Check it out.

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Mark Brunell

Once a quarterback GOD, Mark Brunell holds onto footballs for kickers so that the ball won't fall over.

Mark Brunell was a special kind of player.  I know it’s a little bit early to say “was” since the dude is still playing, but he is certainly past his prime.  When Brunell was at the top of his game he sported a cannon for an arm and a sprinters gift of speed and agility.

Brunell played his college ball at the University of Washington.  While a pretty good college QB, he was not a constant at QB for the Huskies.  He split time with a couple of other guys, but was part of some great teams that featured the legendary Lincoln Kennedy.  Brunell left UW and was part of one of my favorite NFL Drafts ever in 1993.

The 1993 Draft featured top picks Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer.  Brunell didn’t get selected until the 5th round when he was selected by the Green Bay Packers.  Here are the QBs taken in the ’93 Draft:

1. Drew Bledsoe

2. Rick Mirer

58. Billy Joe Hobert (Hobert often started ahead of Brunell at UW)

118. Brunell

192: Gino Torretta

216: Alex Van Pelt

219: Elvis Grbac

222: Trent Green

Not a bad draft, actually.  Anyway, back to Brunell.  Mark went to Green Bay in the fall of 1993 and spent two years sitting on his ass behind Brett Favre (seriously, how many lives can that guy ruin?).  Despite throwing only 27 passes in his two years with the Packers, Brunell was in demand around the league.  He was traded prior to the 1995 season to the Jacksonville Jaguars for 3rd and 5th round picks.  Brunell was the club’s starting QB from 1995 to 2003 and set almost every team record you can think of.

Brunell was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Jags and was actually named the MVP of the 1997 Pro Bowl.  The Jags were competitive during most of his time as QB, highlighted by a 14-2 season in 1999 in which the club lost in the AFC title game to Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans, 33-14 on their home field.  Ouch!

Mark eventually lost his job to the slowest QB ever, Byron Leftwich.  He was traded to the Washington Redskins and started a few games for them early in the 2000’s.  He has spent the last four or five seasons as a back up QB for Drew Brees in New Orleans and sex-maniac, Mark Sanchez with the Jets.

A few quick career highlights:

  • 14-2 season in 1999
  • Led the conference in yards in 1996, he could really air it out.
  • He loved getting sacked.  He led the league in sacks a few times.  He just craved that contact.
  • Owns the NFL record for most consecutive complete passes (22) in a single game.

In addition to his action on the field, he’s got a few things going off of the grid iron as well.  According to an anonymous tipster, Mark’s daughter is pretty hot.  She was named Miss America’s Outstanding Teen back in 2008.  He and his wife also have three sons who we can probably assume, are not as hot as their sister.

Mark declared bankruptcy last season which is surprising since he’s earned over $50M playing football.  He lists that he does have over $5M in assets, but he also owes over $25M in liabilities.  This would explain while he is still attempting to play in the NFL even though he turns 41 later this year.

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