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:
- Tim Wakefield 1966
- Omar Vizquel 1967
- Matt Stairs 1968
- Arthur Rhodes 1969 (October)
- 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.