He Ain’t Coming Back

According to a report from Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona, infielder John McDonald has re-signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for $3 million over the next two years. The defensive specialist was traded by the Toronto Blue Jays along with second baseman Aaron Hill to Arizona in August for Type A free agent Kelly Johnson. Not unexpectedly, manager Kirk Gibson became a fan of McDonald during his two months in the desert.

The deal was something of a surprise to Blue Jays fans, who despite his limited play and weak batting numbers, treated McDonald as though he was a superstar. If any solace was taken in losing the fan favourite, it was the way in which his eventual return to the club in 2012 was presented as a foregone conclusion by management in the press conference announcing the deal.

There is something special about John McDonald. Of this, there is no doubt in my mind. I abhor the idea of the scrappy, specialized veteran who receives more praise for intangible things like effort and attitude than an ability to get on base or hit for power. But even this stone cold heart of mine was melted at the sight of McDonald making the impossible seem regular with his glove, proving his sense for the game on the basepaths and unfortunately, far too often, running out his weakly hit ground balls as fast as his legs could muster.

While his career in Toronto lasted for parts of seven seasons, his play 2007 stands out in particular. That season I saw more live baseball than in any year of my life. It was the second year in a row in which McDonald won the shortstop’s job over the opening day starter with his play in the field. And when the Toronto Blue Jays fell further and further back of the lead in the AL East, the promise of a spectacular play in the field, which seemed to happen every game, was the only thing bringing me back to the ball park. In many ways, McDonald saved a season of baseball for this city.

The Prime Minister of Defence, as he is affectionately called in Toronto, will provide a level of insurance for Arizona after regular shortstop Stephen Drew missed a large chunk of 2011 on the Disabled List, where he finished the season after surgery on his right ankle in July. McDonald also provides the Diamondbacks with a late inning defensive replacement at third or second base if necessary.