Sometimes the plans we have in our career seem to unfold perfectly. And other times they take an unexpected detour. When things don’t go your way, you can handle them with patience and grace, or you can handle them like Damaso Garcia.
Garcia was born in the Domincan Republic in the late 1950s and became a soccer and baseball star in his native country. Now the Blue Jays of the 1980’s became one of the major franchises (along with the Dodgers) who invested in scouting and training in the Domincan Republic. But Garcia actually was not part of their academy program.
He was originally a New York Yankee signing and he saw a little bit of playing time in the Bronx. But with Willie Randolph in place at second base, Garcia was essentially a trade chip. After the 1979 season, he was sent packing to the Toronto Blue Jays along with Chris Chambliss for Rick Cerone. (If you don’t remember Chambliss playing for the Blue Jays, don’t worry… Toronto flipped him to Atlanta before he played a game in Canada.)
Now without an All Star like Randolph blocking him, Garcia became a starter in Toronto. He finished 4th in the 1980 Rookie of the Year voting. Paired with the 1979 Co Rookie of the Year Alfredo Griffin, the Blue Jays appeared to have their middle infield set for a long long time.
By 1982, the 25 year old Garcia blossomed, winning the Silver Slugger at second base, batting .310 and stealing 54 bases. Back then a high batting average and stealing a lot of bases made someone an ideal lead off hitter. The team was starting to plant the seeds of a contender as Dave Steib and Willie Upshaw were also starting to develop.
Today, he would bat lower in the order. He seldom walked, taking only 21 the whole season, and was caught stealing 20 times. Think of that. He was caught stealing almost as many times as he took ball 4 and he was leading off. Just to show you, we look at stats differently now.
Garcia made the All Star team in 1984 and in 1985, the year the Blue Jays came within one game (and in Game 6 of the ALCS, one swing) of the World Series. So all looked like the best made plans of Blue Jays excellence were coming together.
However the tandem of Garcia and Griffin was broken up before 1985. Griffin was dealt to Oakland for reliever Bill Caudill. That seemed to affect Garcia as did his reputation of not taking advice from his coaches.
In 1986, he slumped badly and with Manny Lee and Garth Iorg and Kelly Gruber pushing for playing time, Garcia’s locked in spot in the lineup looked shaky.
He was dropped from the leadoff spot and found himself clashing with new manager Jim Williams.
So what did he do? He started a fire of course. Now depending on who you talk to, it was either him setting his uniform ablaze to burn away bad fortune or it was a temper tantrum where he set a lot of equipment on fire.
But in the end, does it matter? When someone asks “How does he deal with adversity?” the answer should never be “Well he starts fires.”
He was sent packing to Atlanta for 1987 and missed out in the Blue Jays glory from 1989 to 1993. (FYI, Alfredo Griffin, who never set stuff on fire, returned to Toronto for the 1992 and 1993 World Series years.)
After a cameo with the 1989 Expos and another shot with the Yankees, he finished his career. His post playing career saw him surviving a terrible brain tumor in the 1990s. After his recovery, he came back to Toronto to throw out the first pitch in a 1992 playoff game.
To my knowledge, he lit nothing on fire.