September 05, 2007

Everything Man

Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Jamie Campbell hit the nail right on the head with this one: "Where would the Toronto Blue Jays be this season without Matt Stairs?"

His signing was an afterthought. It came in December, the middle of the off-season, to no fanfare and certainly no press conference. In fact, it was only a minor league contract worth $850,000.

Yet here we are in September, with the
Toronto Blue Jays wrapping up another season, and Matt Stairs has hit two fewer home runs than Frank Thomas, the $10 million dollar man and the Jays' big-ticket signing of the off-season.

Stairs has done everything and more for the Jays this season. He's been phenomenal. At 39 years old, he's hitting a career high .311 with 19 home runs and 55 runs batted in. It's his best statistical output since he clubbed 27 home runs and batted .294 with the
Oakland A's back in 1998. It's official, Matt Stairs has found the fountain of youth.

Not bad for a journeyman outfielder who was only supposed to see limited action this season with Toronto. He's actually appeared in over 100 games now, and I'll tell you where the Jays would be without him, Jamie Campbell - in third place in the AL East division. Oh, wait, they are in third place, never mind. In all seriousness, they'd be in a whole lot of trouble without the clutch-hitting Matt Stairs. He and
Alex Rios have been the only two sluggers to hit consistently on a team that was supposed to score a lot of runs.

Reed Johnson had back surgery, Stairs took over in left field. When Lyle Overbay went down with a broken hand, Stairs took over at first base. When Frank Thomas was swinging his bat like a 12-year-old school girl, Stairs gave him the night off. When the Jays needed a pinch hit, Stairs stepped up and delivered.

He's a Canadian boy who always dreamt of playing at home, and he's made the most of his opportunity. He leads the Jays in batting average (.311), on-base percentage (.384), slugging (.611), and OPS (an out of this world .995). I like to think of Stairs as a
Frank Catalanotto type hitter, only with power. A "professional hitter." But he's also got a mean streak - and I love a good mean streak. When the Jays and Yankees cleared benches last month, Stairs looked like he was going to bust a cap in A-Rod's $25 million dollar behind. He's fiery, and I dig that.

With the Jays sitting six and a half games out of the wild card, and dreams of the post-season hanging by the thinnest of threads, it's getting harder to support the JP Ricciardi regime. I keep trying to stay positive, and envision a playoff spot, like in "The Secret." If I think about it long enough, it will happen, or so the logic goes, right?

I'll take the positives out of this season, Matt Stairs being one of them, and I know a lot of teams are going to go hard after him when this season is said and done, but Ricciardi better bring back Stairs next year, otherwise he's going to have a lot of 'splainin to do.

Talib Kweli, the world's greatest rapper, has got a track off his new album Eardrum called "Everything Man." I hope my man Matt Stairs gives it a listen.

Give it up for Matt Stairs - in a season full of struggles, he's one of the few guys who deserves it.