Matt Stairs

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Matt Stairs
Matt Stairs 2011.jpg
Stairs with the Washington Nationals
Outfielder / First baseman / Designated hitter
Born: (1968-02-27) February 27, 1968 (age 46)
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
May 29, 1992 for the Montreal Expos
Last MLB appearance
July 22, 2011 for the Washington Nationals
Career statistics
Batting average .263
Home runs 265
Runs batted in 897
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Matthew Wade Stairs (born February 27, 1968) is a Canadian former professional baseball outfielder, first baseman, designated hitter, and pinch hitter who holds the record for most pinch-hit home runs in Major League history with 23.[1] His pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning of Game 4 in the 2008 National League Championship Series off the Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Jonathan Broxton was called "one of the most memorable home runs in Phillies history" by MLB sportswriter Todd Zolecki in his May 11, 2009 MLB.com article titled Revisiting top 10 moments of '08 NLCS.[2]

In his career, Stairs played for more major-league teams than any position player in major league history (12 (technically 13 teams but 12 franchises as he played for the Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals); Octavio Dotel holds the record for pitchers and all players at 13).[3]

He was the second Canadian-born player ever to hit more than thirty-five home runs in a season and only the second to hit more than 25 home runs and drive in more than 100 runs in back-to-back seasons. He ranks either first or second in power hitting categories for Canadian major leaguers. Stairs also holds the all-time MLB record of home runs hit as a pinch-hitter with 23. His ability to pinch hit has made him a valuable asset to several teams and earned him the nickname "Matt Stairs – Professional Hitter". Stairs, Larry Walker, Justin Morneau and Jason Bay are the only Canadian MLB players to hit at least 200 career home runs.[4]

Early life[edit]

Growing up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Stairs showed athletic ability at an early age, playing Beaver League baseball a year before his age eligibility and excelling in hockey. After playing Bantam & Midget baseball, at age 16 and 17, he played for the local Marysville Royals of the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League and was voted "Rookie of The Year" in 1984 and the league's Most Valuable Player in 1985. He was also named Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League MVP in 1987 and '88 while playing for the Fredericton Schooners.

He attended the National Baseball Institute (NBI) in Vancouver, British Columbia for one year and played for Canada at the 1987 World Amateur Championships in Italy where he was named to the "World All-Star" team. In 1988, he joined the Canadian Junior National team after graduating from Fredericton High School. From there he went on to play for the Canadian Olympic Team at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

Minor league career[edit]

On January 17, 1989, Stairs was signed as an international free agent by the Montreal Expos. Stairs was then assigned to low single-A Jamestown Expos where he played second and third base. He played Double-A ball in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the Harrisburg Senators where he led the league in hitting and was voted the Eastern League's 1991 Most Valuable Player. In 1992 and 1993, he moved up to Triple-A (Indianapolis and Ottawa, respectively), with only brief appearances in the majors. Over his career, Stairs has played for six other minor league teams: The Indianapolis Indians (Triple-A) in 1992, the Ottawa Lynx (Triple-A) in 1993, the New Britain Red Sox (Double-A) in 1994, the Pawtucket Red Sox (Triple-A) in 1995, the Edmonton Trappers (Triple-A) in 1996 and a few rehab games for the Nashville Sounds (Triple-A) in 2003. His totals in the minors include a .291 batting average with 46 home runs and 237 RBI.[5]

On June 8, 1993, Stairs's contract was purchased by the Chunichi Dragons of the NPB.

Major league career[edit]

Montreal Expos[edit]

Stairs began his Major League career in 1992 with the Montreal Expos, with whom he played sporadically throughout the season. On December 15, 1993, he was re-signed as a free agent by Montreal. He ended up only playing in 19 games for the Expos from 1992 to 1993. He was sold on February 18, 1994 to the Boston Red Sox and assigned to Double-A New Britain for the 1994 season.

Boston Red Sox[edit]

He started the 1995 season with the Pawtucket farm club until being called up to the major leagues in June 1995. He played in 39 games for the Red Sox, hitting .261 with 1 HR and 17 RBI. At the end of the season, he accepted an offer to play with the Oakland Athletics after becoming a free agent.

Oakland Athletics[edit]

Stairs had the best years of his career playing for the Athletics. He was called up from Triple-A Edmonton in 1996, after crushing International League pitching to a tune of a .344 average with 8 homeruns and 41 RBI over the first 51 games. In 1998, he finished 17th in the American League in the MVP race with a .258 batting average, 38 home runs and 102 RBI. He played mostly in right field and as a designated hitter, alongside superstars Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, and Jose Canseco, throughout his tenure in Oakland.

In his July 5, 1996 debut with Oakland, Stairs tied a major league record with six runs batted in during one inning. That first inning performance included a grand slam and a two-run single.[6] (subsequently broken by Fernando Tatís in 1999). In 1998, he finished 17th in the American League in the MVP race with a .258 batting average, 38 home runs and 102 RBI.

After five seasons with the Athletics, during which he hit 122 home runs and drove in 315 RBI, he was traded on November 20, 2000 to the Chicago Cubs for minor league pitcher Eric Ireland. The trade was largely seen as a cost-cutting move by the cash-strapped Athletics—Stairs was set to earn $3.2 million for the 2001 season, and his production had dropped in 2000, hitting just .227 with 21 home runs and 81 RBI.

Chicago Cubs[edit]

He was the first baseman for the Cubs in 2001. He had an OBP of .358 and hit 17 HRs and drove in 61 runs in 128 games. After 2001, he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers as a free agent for the 2002 season.

Milwaukee Brewers[edit]

In 2002, Stairs had a similar season to the previous one with the Cubs. He finished the season with 16 home runs, but still had a low batting average, hitting .244. He elected to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates the following season.

Pittsburgh Pirates[edit]

2003 was a strong year for Stairs. He had the best batting average of his career, hitting .292 in 128 games playing as a first baseman and outfielder. He also hit 20 home runs and drove in 57 runs. Stairs's 2003 season included a 3-game series back in Canada against the Blue Jays. In the three games at Rogers Centre (then called the Skydome), Stairs had 5 hits in 8 at-bats which included 2 long home runs.[7]

Kansas City Royals[edit]

Stairs enjoyed three solid years with the Kansas City Royals after signing with them following the '03 season. Despite being on one of the worst teams in baseball, Stairs helped some of the younger players like John Buck and David DeJesus to adjust to the majors. He hit 39 home runs in his two-and-a-half years in Kansas City. On July 31, 2006 at the trade deadline, Stairs was dealt to the Texas Rangers for Jose Diaz.

Texas Rangers[edit]

The Rangers hoped that Stairs could provide some veteran leadership on their club, but he just played in 26 games before being waived by the Rangers in 2006. He was picked up off waivers by the Detroit Tigers on September 15, 2006.

Detroit Tigers[edit]

On the day he was claimed, he immediately went to Detroit, arriving at Comerica Park halfway through the game and immediately took Marcus Thames's place in the lineup. The Tigers picked up Stairs in hopes that his experience could help them hold their division lead. The Tigers lost their division lead on the final day of the season, but still clinched the Wild Card. Since he was acquired after August 31, the deadline for play-off eligible players, he was unable to play for the Tigers during the playoffs. The Tigers went on to win the AL Pennant and lost in the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. He did not re-sign with the Tigers following the season.

Toronto Blue Jays[edit]

On December 7, 2006, Stairs and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a one-year minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. He made the team and saw significant playing time as the fourth outfielder, and replaced Lyle Overbay at first base during Overbay's time on the DL. The 2007 season rejuvenated Stairs's career, due to increased playing time following injuries to Reed Johnson and Overbay. Unexpectedly playing everyday, he performed well above expectations, providing consistency at the plate and a valuable veteran presence in the Toronto dugout; team manager John Gibbons publicly stated "I don't know where we'd be without him".[8] As of September 4, Stairs had the highest slugging average on the Jays at .606 and the highest batting average, hitting .312.

On August 8, 2007, Stairs became the first Toronto Blue Jays player to hit five consecutive doubles in five at bats, and the first Major Leaguer to double in five straight at-bats in fourteen years since Charles Johnson accomplished the feat in 1993.[9] As of September 8, 2007, Stairs was playing quite well for the Blue Jays, with a team leading .315 average on the season and a .989 OPS. He finished the season batting .289 with 21 home runs and 64 RBIs—good numbers for a 39-year-old with only about 400 at bats in the year.

On November 2, 2007, Stairs and the Jays agreed on a two-year contract worth $3,250,000,[10] which included a $1.25 million signing bonus and $1 million in each of the 2 seasons. With performance bonuses, Stairs could make as much as $3.50 million based on plate appearances.

Though his age and increasingly poor speed earned him a reputation as a defensive liability in the outfield, he still possessed a strong throwing arm, and was considered a perfectly capable fielder at first. In 2008, Stairs initially platooned in left field with Shannon Stewart; however, upon the club's release of Frank Thomas, Stairs became the everyday DH for the ball club. Stairs was designated for assignment on August 28, 2008.

Philadelphia Phillies[edit]

On August 30, 2008, Stairs was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Fabio Castro.[11]

Stairs hit his first career postseason home run on October 13, 2008 in Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers off Jonathan Broxton, allowing the Phillies to take the lead and win the game. In the 2009 season, he once again made it to the World Series.[12]

He won the first World Series ring of his 16-year career on October 29, 2008, when the Phillies won the series against the Rays, 4 games to 1. On April 12, 2009, Stairs's game-winning home run against the Colorado Rockies was the last home run called by legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas, who died unexpectedly less than 24 hours later.

Stairs faced Broxton again in the ninth inning of Game Four of the 2009 NLCS rematch between the Phillies and Dodgers at Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia. Broxton pitched around Stairs, walking him on four pitches. The Phillies won the game later in the inning on a walk-off double by Jimmy Rollins, on which Stairs' pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett scored.

During his time with the team, T-shirts were marketed which touched on Stairs' pinch-hitting prowess in clutch situations. They used a warning which can be found in many elevators: "In Case of Emergency, Use Stairs."[13]

San Diego Padres[edit]

Stairs batting for the San Diego Padres in 2010.

On January 23, 2010, Stairs agreed to a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres with an invite to spring training hoping to crack their 25-man roster out of spring as a left-handed bat off the bench.[14][15] On August 21, Stairs hit his 21st home run as a pinch hitter to break a tie with Cliff Johnson for the Major League record.

Washington Nationals[edit]

On December 14, 2010, the Washington Nationals signed Stairs to a non-guaranteed minor league contract, which included an invitation to Major League Spring Training.[16][17] After spring training, he was placed on the 25-man roster and went north with the team. Mostly used as a pinch-hitter, with four appearances at first base, in 65 at-bats he had 10 hits and two RBIs.[18] He was designated for assignment on July 27, 2011.[19] He was released on August 1[20] and announced his retirement two days later.[21]

Career perspective[edit]

Noted baseball analysts Bill James and Joe Posnanski have theorized that Stairs is probably a far more talented hitter than his career stats suggest. Stairs didn't have 500 plate appearances until age 29, at which point he recorded 100 RBI seasons and an adjusted OPS of over 130 two years in a row- and never saw 500 at-bats again. James contends, "You put him in the right park, right position early in his career ... he's going to hit a LOT of bombs." Possibly, Posnanski contends, enough to have been worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.[22]

Later work and personal life[edit]

In January 2012, Stairs accepted a job with the NESN sports news station to work as a Boston Red Sox studio analyst.[23] On February 11, 2014, the Phillies announced that Stairs and fellow former-Phillie Jamie Moyer would join the team's television broadcasting crew as color analysts, following the dismissal of Gary Matthews and Chris Wheeler. They join play-by-play commentator Tom McCarthy and in-game reporter Gregg Murphy.[24]

He is married to Lisa Astle of Fredericton with whom he has three daughters, Nicole, Alicia and Chandler.[25] He lives in Fredericton and was named the coach of the High School ice hockey team in 2012, a job he had often referred to as his dream.[26]

Stairs was inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in Fredericton in June 2012.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ " Stairs sets record for pinch hit home runs" Reuters, August 22, 2010, accessed June 18, 2013.
  2. ^ Zolecki, Todd "Revisiting top 10 moments of '08 NLCS", MLB.com 05/11/09', accessed June 18, 2013.
  3. ^ Octavio Dotel knows all about changing places – ESPN. Espn.go.com (March 13, 2012).
  4. ^ Canadian player statistics from. Baseball Reference.
  5. ^ Matt Stairs Statistics (Minor Leagues) – Baseball-Reference.com. Minors.baseball-reference.com.
  6. ^ "BASEBALL;Matt Stairs and A's Have a Huge First", The New York Times, July 06, 1996, accessed June 17, 2013.
  7. ^ Matt Stairs – Toronto Blue Jays – Split Statistics – MLB – Yahoo! Sports. Sports.yahoo.com.
  8. ^ Zwolinski, Mark (June 24, 2007). "Stairs has another big day". The Star (Toronto). Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  9. ^ The Official Site of The Toronto Blue Jays: News: Toronto Blue Jays News. Toronto.bluejays.mlb.com (June 19, 2012).
  10. ^ The Official Site of The Toronto Blue Jays: News: Stairs, Jays agree to two-year deal. Toronto.bluejays.mlb.com (June 19, 2012).
  11. ^ Phillies acquire Stairs. Philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com.
  12. ^ "Video of Matt Stairs's Home Run in Dodger Stadium in 2008 NLCS". 
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ Matt Stairs agrees to minor league deal with San Diego Padres – ESPN. Sports.espn.go.com (January 23, 2010).
  15. ^ Padres ink Stairs to Minors deal | padres.com: News. Sandiego.padres.mlb.com.
  16. ^ "Nationals sign Matt Stairs". The Washington Post. 
  17. ^ Nationals agree to terms with OF/1B Matt Stairs | nationals.com: Official Info. Mlb.mlb.com.
  18. ^ Statistics from. Baseball Reference.
  19. ^ "Nationals DFA veteran Matt Stairs". ESPN. July 27, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2011. 
  20. ^ Dierkes, Tim. "Nationals Release Matt Stairs". MLBTradeRumors.com. Retrieved August 1, 2011. 
  21. ^ Links, Zach. (August 3, 2011) Matt Stairs Retires: MLB Rumors. MLBTradeRumors.com.
  22. ^ James, quoted by Joe Posnanski, "The Hall of Could have Been" Tuesday, April 24, 2007 http://thesoulofbaseball.blogspot.com/2007/04/hall-of-could-have-been.html
  23. ^ Bangor’s Matt Stairs gets NESN job as Red Sox studio analyst — Sports — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine. Bangordailynews.com (January 30, 2012).
  24. ^ http://www.mcall.com/sports/mc-phillies-broadcast-moyer-stairs-20140211,0,4243902.story
  25. ^ The Official Site of The Toronto Blue Jays: Team: Player Information. Toronto.bluejays.mlb.com (June 19, 2012).
  26. ^ http://www.cbssports.com/nhl/blog/eye-on-hockey/21041349/video-former-mlb-player-matt-stairs-coaching-high-school-hockey-team

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Jamie Moyer
Oldest Player in the
National League

2011
Succeeded by
Jamie Moyer