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George Bell turns 60 today.
George Bell was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. His brother Juan Bell also made the majors as a utility infielder for 7 seasons for several different teams. He has 2 other brothers that played professional baseball. George was signed as an amateur free agent by the Phillies in 1978. The Jays picked him up in the 1980 rule 5 draft. It must have been one of the best rule 5 pickups ever.
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Rule 5 draft pickups have to spend the season on the major league roster or they get offered back to the team that they were drafted from, so George played with the Jays in the strike shortened 1981 season. He didn’t do terrible, though a little over-matched at the major league level; he got into 60 games and hit .233/.256/.350. But somehow, he got a couple of Rookie of the Year votes. Yankee Dave Righetti won it that season.
George felt he had earned a spot on the Jays the next season, but the Jays didn’t and sent him off to Syracuse. He had a pretty tough year, he contacted mononucleosis in April and then wrecked his left knee in June. When he got back from that he had his jaw broken by a pitch. Getting hit by that pitch might explain why he was overly sensitive to being hit by pitches; he was ejected a number of times for charging the mound. He started 1983 in the minors again but was called up for good in July of that season.
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In 1984 Bell became a full timer with us. He was part of a pretty complicated platoon system Bobby Cox used in the outfield, against left-handed pitchers Bell would play left field and Jesse Barfield would play right, against right-handers Bell would play right field and Davey Collins would play left. As a young player Bell had a decent arm and ok range as an outfielder, course Barfield had a better arm and Collins a terrible arm. George played 159 games, hit .292/.326/.498, with 39 doubles and 26 homers, 87 RBI and 11 steals. He received some MVP votes. He was 8th in the AL in total bases and 3rd in doubles.
After the season Dave Collins was traded to Oakland to allow Bell, Moesby and Barfield all to play full time and the best outfield in Jays history was born, they played together until Barfield was traded early in the 1989 season. They were a great unit, all three were terrific offensive players, all three had good to great arms. Moesby and Barfield were good defensive players, Bell, far less so, he didn’t have much range as he aged as his knees suffered from playing on the hard artificial surface in Toronto. He also made too many errors
Bell had another very good season in 1985 hitting .275/.327/.479, 28 homers, 95 RBI and 21 stolen bases, the most in his career. Bell won the Silver Slugger award for batting and came in 8th in MVP voting, one spot behind Jesse Barfield. Don Mattingly won it that season. Jays made the post season for the first time that year, likely many remember Bell catching the last out in the game that clinched the AL East title and fell to his knees. Bell did ok in the 7-game series hitting .321, 9 hit, 3 doubles, no homers, but the Jays lost to the Royals.
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Bell’s bat improved a little again in 1986, he hit .309/.349/.532, had 31 homers, 108 RBI, 101 runs, won the Silver Slugger award again and this time came in 4th in the MVP voting, this time one spot above Barfield in the voting. Our favorite player Roger Clemens won that year.
1987 was the big season for Bell. He hit .308/.352/.605, had 47 home runs, 134 RBI and 111 runs. He again won the Silver Slugger award and made the All-Star team for the first time. And, of course, he won the MVP award, just beating out the Tigers Alan Trammell, the first league MVP from a Canadian team. The vote was a little controversial because that was the less than fun year that the Jays fell into a bad slump at the end of the year, losing their last 8 games and the Tigers past them by at the finish to win the AL East. Those last 8 games were a train wreck; Bell hit just .111 over them, but then the only Jay to hit well over that period was Lloyd Moesby.
The next season was an interesting year for Bell and the Jays. Jimy Williams became manager and he decided that Bell would DH and top prospect Sil Campusano would play in the outfield. Only two things went wrong with the plan. One, Bell didn’t want to DH and Bell wasn’t one to be unhappy quietly and two, Sil Campausano was terrible. Williams’ time as manager didn’t last long and it wasn’t happy at least partly because of George. Bell’s numbers fell off a lot that year despite becoming the first major leaguer to hit 3 home runs on opening day.
1989 saw some bounce back in Bell’s offensive numbers, he hit .297/.330/.458 with 18 homers, 41 doubles, and 104 RBI. He came in 4th in MVP voting in a very tight 4-way race for the award. Robin Yount won the award with 256 vote points, Bell in 4th had 205 points. The Jays made the playoffs again that year, but Bell didn’t do well in our 5 game series loss to the A’s hitting just .200 with one home run.
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1990 was his last season with the Jays and it wasn’t very good, he hit .265/.303/.422 with 21 homers and 86 RBI. After the season he signed with the Cubs as a free agent, had one good season there and then was traded to the White Sox for Sammy Sosa. The Cubs won that trade. George played for 2 seasons with the White Sox and was released after the 1993 season after making some nasty remarks about Sox manager Gene Lamont when Lamont replaced him in the playoff lineup with Bo Jackson.
The Blue Jays sign Russell Martin to a 5-year, $82 million contract. I was on holiday at the time, but I remember being surprised that we spent that much money. It seemed out of character for the team. At the time we were pretty happy with the trade:
Seven Year Ago:
With the unveiling of the new Blue Jay uniform, Minor Leaguer took a look at the franchise history of uniforms and logos. Part two came along a the next day.
Also a year ago, Marc Hulet suggested Casey Janssen ‘Could Be the Key Man in the 2012 Bullpen’. Turns out he was right.
Eight Years Ago:
The Jays traded for Rajai Davis, sending Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar to Oakland. Both Magnuson and Farquhar have made it back into the Jays system, at one point. It turned out to be a pretty decent
Ten Years Ago:
Hugo and some guy with the unusual name of Rincewind talk about the problem spots that Jays needed to fix before the 2009 season.
Also ten years ago, Hugo talked about who the Jays should pick up to fill the shortstop position. J.J. Hardy would have been a heck of a pickup. I mostly point it out for the headline, possibly the longest headline in BBB history.
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Eleven Years Ago:
Actually, eleven years ago tomorrow, but close enough, J.P. Ricciardi traded Kristian Bell (gone to the Good Place?) and Graham Godfrey to the A’s for Marco Scutaro.
Thirty One Years Ago:
Long before Bluebird Banter, back in 1987, George Bell became the first Blue Jay to win the AL MVP award for his .308/.352/.605 seasons, with 47 home runs and a league leading 134 RBI. Bell had finished 19th, 8th and 4th in the voting the 3 previous years, and would finish 4th in 1989. And 20th in 1992 with the White Sox.
He likely wouldn’t win the award with today’s voters. He finished 10th among AL hitters with a 5.0 bWAR. Even if you take just offensive bWAR, Bell was still 10th in the AL. Wade Boggs had a 8.3 bWAR and Alan Trammell an 8.2. Boggs hit .363/.461/.588 with 24 home runs and 105 walks. Trammell .343/.402/.551 with 28 home runs, playing a good defense at short.
But Bell had all those RBI.
Bell wasn’t so terrible defensively, at that point in his career. His knees would play the price for playing on the carpet covered cement in Skydome and his defense would suffer from it.
Bell had a good 12-year career, finishing with 265 homers, 1002 RBI, .278 BA. He was a free swinger, didn’t walk much and his defense was best described as terrible. His arm was underrated, he had more outfield assists from 1984-1987 than any players other than Barfield and Glenn Wilson. He wasn’t a terrible outfielder when he came up to the big leagues but playing on artificial turf wrecked his knees and he lost his speed, costing him range. Of course, it didn’t help that he considered it an insult to his manhood when they wanted him to move to DH.
But he could rake. He held the Jays single season record for home runs with 47 until Jose Bautista his 54 in 2010. Gene Mauch who was manager of the Angels called him “the intimidating hitter in baseball”. He was your basic first pitch fastball hitter, if he could reach the first pitch, he’d hit it and he was good at it.
Bill James had him as the 62nd best left fielder of all time in his New Historical Abstract, likely he has dropped a few spots since then. Rob Neyer in his Big Book of Baseball Lineups has him as our best left fielder ever. And he is up on the Roger Center’s Level of Excellence.
He also had, how to put it, a bit of a temper. Likely most of you remember him taking a flying kick at pitcher Bruce Kison after Kison hit him with a pitch. He was ejected from 13 games in his career. He didn’t get along with the media or with managers. And there was the time he ‘invited’ Canadian fans to “kiss his Dominican ass”. Likely some of his troubles with umpires, opponents and almost everyone else, had to do with the difference between the Dominican culture and ours, but most of it was because he was a hot head. Likely his career would have been longer if he hadn’t had such a bad reputation. But from everything I’ve read he was a great teammate, great friend.
Bell helped with the Dominican’s World Baseball Classic team and apparently has become a good golfer. He is married with four sons.
Bell’s place on our all-time leader’s lists:
WAR among position players: 12th (21.3).
Offensive WAR: 8th (22.5).
Slugging average: 7th (.486).
Games Played: 7th (1181).
Home runs: 6th (202).
RBI: 4th (740).
Happy Birthday George. I hope life is good.
Original Blue Jay lefty pitcher Jerry Garvin turns 63 today.
He was our 4th pick in the 1976 expansion draft, taken from the Minnesota Twins.
Jerry started our 3rd game (and our 7th and ….). He was a rookie in 1977. His first start he went 8 innings in a 3-1 win over the White Sox. He allowed 5 hits, 4 walks with 2 strikeouts. Pete Vuckovich got the save. Canadian Dave McKay drove in 2 runs and Gary Woods drove in the other.