Yesterday was Matt Stairs’ birthday. He turned 43 years old.
Part of the appeal of baseball is that at the Major League level it all looks so natural and normal that it’s not too difficult for human beings like me and you to convince ourselves that we could do it. We could play baseball. Of course, facing one pitch at 95 miles per hour and we’d quickly realize the truth behind that delusion. But players like Matt Stairs, who look identical to the guy who offers us advice at Home Depot when we’re picking out the proper lumber to use on our deck, or the guy we wait behind at our local donut shop as he carefully considers what his dozen should be comprised of, help us suspend reality for a little bit longer. That’s why we’re always pulling for Stairs, even this year as he tries to make the Washington Nationals opening day roster out of Spring Training.
Of course, you can’t write about Matt Stairs without bringing up the opinion of Bill James. The baseball statistician and historian had the following to say about Stairs as he discussed players that might have made the Hall of Fame under different circumstances with Joe Posnanski.
Look at it. Somebody decided he was a second baseman, he tears through the minor leagues, gets to Montreal, the Expos take one look at him and say, ‘He’s no second baseman, get real.’ He bounces around, goes to Japan, doesn’t really get to play until he’s almost 30, then hits 38 homers, slips into a part-time role and hits 15-20 homers every year for 10 years in about 250 at-bats a season. You put him in the right park, right position early in his career he’s going to hit a LOT of bombs.
What can you say? It’s all there. Stairs did not get 500 at-bats until he was 30 — he had a .370 OBP that year, hit 26 homers, drove in 106. The next year, he had the 38-homer season. His average dropped the next season, and he never got 500 at-bats in a season after that.
While any Hall of Fame ambitions that Stairs has will most likely go unfulfilled, he can take solace in having his record 23 career pinch hit home runs inspire one of the funnier baseball related t-shirt slogans of all time. Of course I’m writing about the infamous: “Use Stairs in case of emergency.”
And The Rest
We reference Bill James a lot in these parts, mainly because of his thoughts about baseball and the numbers he’s compiled to prove or disprove those thoughts, but there’s a whole lot more to the man who has inspired how a lot of us think about the game.
Will there ever be another 300 game winner? Will anyone ever care?
Jason Bay is playing baseball again.
The Chicago Cubs are considering going back to organ music for entry music for batters. Yes, please.
Tigers fans have received permission to be skeptical about Miguel Cabrera. Child, please.
Can Justin Duchscherer get any more frustrated? No, please.
Jody Gerut may have been a common player, but his retirement speech was anything but.
Jackie Robinson’s old Montreal apartment is going to get the plaque treatment. No word if gingivitis is present there or not.
Newsflash: The Yankees are interested in Francisco Liriano.
Not good for the Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley has tendinitis.
Pretty good for the Philadelphia Phillies: Roy Halladay is very good.
Is Brian Wilson descending into doucheyness? I think it’s been pointed out before, but when the inevitable happens, and Wilson isn’t able to maintain his control and velocity, how quickly are people going to blame it on the kookiness we all love right now.
Adrian Beltre could be out with injury longer than we first expected.
The Cleveland Indians have signed Chad Durbin. America will be able to sleep soundly once again.
Not so fast: Rich Harden will be off another week.
Swagger is the newest intangible.
Ozzie Guillen warns or threatens Bobby Jenks depending on your perspective.
The St. Louis Cardinals will be going from Adam Wainwright to Kyle McClellan.
Carlos Gonzalez will permanently patrol left field. I wonder if there’s any truth to claims that a player moving from center to left field will be able to extend his career.
Finally, Baseball Reference’s WAR explained in plain English.