Jimy Williams 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for October 5, 2017

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Jimy looks exhausted in this picture. Maybe it is because he has to explain to people that his first name has only one M.

Why?

What is the advantage of having it with only one M? I used to write (sic) after his name when I typed it or pronounce his name JIME-y.

But perhaps it is fitting that a look of exasperation and utter confusion is on his face. Toronto fans and Boston fans had that expression when he managed those teams.

Look, I hate to speak ill towards a baseball lifer. And truth be told, he managed two of my favorite Red Sox teams of all time: the 1998 and 1999 Red Sox. And I felt he got a bit of a bum steer when he got fired.

That being said, he created a lot of head scratching.

His real name is James Francis Williams, so the one M thing is not some family name or something. He played for a bunch of organizations as a middle infielder, including 7 games with the 1966 Cardinals and 1 game with the 1967 World Champion Cardinals. Needless to say, he wasn’t on the World Series roster.

Injuries cut short his playing career and he became a manager. Eventually he was part of Bobby Cox’s coaching staff in Toronto and was on the squad when they nearly won the 1985 pennant. Cox, a rancid human being, left Toronto for Atlanta after 1985 and Williams took over.

The Blue Jays were an outrageously talented ballclub with excess players at the major and minor league level at every position.

Under Williams, the Blue Jays seemed to underachieve. They finished far behind the Red Sox in 1986. Then in 1987, they collapsed down the stretch to the Tigers, losing the Division on the final day of the season.

Blue Jay fans scratched their heads as their talented squad finished 2 games out in 1988 while playing in a mediocre AL East. In 1989, the Blue Jays began the season 12-24 despite once again clearly having the most talent.

Williams, to the delight of Toronto fans, was let go. Hitting coach Cito Gaston took over as a temporary fix. Instead, they went 77-49 under Gaston and won the Division in 1989. They would also win the AL East under Gaston in 1991, 1992 and 1993, winning back to back World Series in those last two seasons.

Whether fair or not, Williams’ firing was considered to be a turning point of the franchise. As in “Once they got rid of him, they could win.”

He was reunited with Cox in Atlanta where he served on his coaching staff again, including during the 1995 World Championship season. Williams rehabilitated his reputation as a coach and a managerial prospect.

The Red Sox hired him in 1997 when their efforts to court Jim Leyland fell short. William seemed like a disappointing consolation prize and the Red Sox did indeed have a losing record in his first year.

Then Pedro Martinez arrived. That’s right, the peak of Pedro’s career had him playing for Jimy Williams. In 1998, Williams could pencil in Mo Vaughn and Nomar Garciaparra into the lineup and every 5 days, hand the ball to Pedro Martinez and had Tom Gordon close out games. It was quite a team and they managed to win the AL Wild Card.

They fell short in the Division Series to Cleveland. He brought in Tom Gordon for a 6 out save in Game 4 that would have forced a deciding game 5 with Pedro Martinez on the mound. The strategy backfired as the Indians rallied, but it wasn’t a bad move.

In 1999, the Red Sox lost Mo Vaughn and had a makeshift pitching staff that Dan Duquette seemed to be shuffling all year long. The Red Sox responded with a 94 win season, thanks in big part to Pedro Martinez’s mind boggling season and big hits from Nomar Garciaparra.

In the Division Series, the Red Sox fell behind 2-0 and looked like they lost Nomar and Pedro to injuries. The team stormed back and forced a Game 5. Pedro was only available to relieve, but he made the most of it. He threw 6 no hit innings of relief in Game 5 and brought the Sox into the ALCS.

The ALCS against the Yankees was super frustrating. They lost close games in the Bronx even though they played tougher than the 4-1 series result would show.

Williams won the AL Manager of the Year in 1999. No really. He did.

In 2000, however, the strain of Williams and Duquette was clear, just like it was with Duquette and Kevin Kennedy before. Carl Everett clashed with Williams and Duquette seemed to take Everett’s side. And Williams drove fans, players and front office crazy with his tinkering with the lineup.

By 2001, despite having the team in contention with tons of injuries, the players and front office were at an impasse with Williams. He handled the bullpen in bizarre ways, continuing to use Derek Lowe as a closer even when it was clear he couldn’t do it anymore. He continued to mess with the lineup, upsetting Nomar Garciaparra.

He was let go during the summer. Under replacement Joe Kerrigan, the team collapsed. Williams looked for work again.

He wound up in Houston but once again got the label of underachiever. Williams was fired during the 2004 season with the Astros floundering. Under replacement Phil Garner, they went on a roll and came within one game of the World Series in 2004 and won the pennant in 2005.

Williams retired with the coaching staff of the 2008 World Champion Phillies.

Wherever he went, fan bases scratched their heads and wondered what is wrong. Teams won pennants and titles shortly after he left town. Is that perception of him fair?

Of course not. But he did court confusion. Nobody named Jimmy who spells it with one M can claim they were always clear.

Sully Baseball Podcast Tigers should emulate the White Sox and remembering 1987 Blue Jays – July 13, 2017

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With the second half of the season looming, the Tigers should look at the White Sox wild rebuilding strategy and say “Hey! WE should do that!”

Plus I remember the Blue Jays team that should have won.

You need to fall before you rise on this episode of Sully Baseball.

While we are at it, enjoy the In Memoriam video.

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Rob Ducey 1988 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for June 8, 2017

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In the mid 1980’s, the Toronto Blue Jays had the best outfield in baseball. George Bell was an MVP. Lloyd Moseby was the dynamic centerfielder. Jesse Barfield could win the batting title and had the best throwing arm of anyone not named Dwight Evans in right.

They also seemed to have an unlimited galaxy of stars coming up through their farm system to supplant that magical 3. Junior Felix, Sil Campusano, Glenallen Hill and Mark Whiten all were tearing up the minor leaguers with images of the youngest and most athletic outfield in the game dancing in Toronto fans heads.

But no name seemed to be more destined to be beloved in Toronto more than Rob Ducey. He had 20 homer power, 20 stolen base speed, hit for a high average and legged out doubles and triples. The biggest factor for his potential stardom however had less to do with his stats and more to do with his lineage:

Rob Ducey was Canadian. And not only that, but he was born in Toronto.

The idea of a Canadian superstar on a Canadian team was worthy of drool in the Toronto front office. A hometown kid done good on the Blue Jays? Just try and keep those uniforms on the rack!

In 1984, the 19 year old Ducey was signed by the Blue Jays as an undrafted free agent after playing for a Community College in Florida.

Assigned to Medicine Hat, he belted 12 homers in 279 plate appearances, stole 13 bases and posted a .930 OPS.

By 1986, he was one of the shining stars in the system, tearing up the Carolina League and the Southern League, leap frogging to AA. In 1987 he hit well enough in AAA to get a few cameos on the big league roster.

After 1987, the Blue Jays seemed resigned that the Bell, Moseby and Barfield outfield wasn’t going to last forever and looked to within for replacements. Campusano and Ducey got the biggest looks.

Ducey hit well in short spurts in both 1988 and 1990 but could not break the starting lineup, going back and forth from AAA to Toronto.

When the Blue Jays did a massive turnover of talent after falling short in the 1990 Division Race, Ducey remained and got another shot. But his 1991 performance did not merit a starting job. He did manage his first post season appearance in the ALCS that year, but at age 26, his time to be a regular was running out.

After a poor start in 1992,he was traded to the Angels for reliever Mark Eichhorn. It was Eichhorn who managed to be on a Toronto World Series winner while Ducey, the Canadian kid, languished in Anaheim.

Thus began his nomadic period.

Between 1993 and 1996, he played for the Rangers, Oklahoma City and the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese League. Returning to America in 1997, he played for the Mariners and got his second and final post season appearance. 1999 saw him join the Phillies, be traded to the Blue Jays and then back to the Phillies only to land in Montreal in 2001. The Canadian kid played for both Canadian teams. After a stint of independent ball in 2002 and playing for Team Canada in the 2004 Olympics, he called it a career.

After his playing days ended, he has been a scout or organizational coach for the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays and Phillies.

In 2013, he was elected to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. He may not have been the heir to Bell, Moseby and Barfield, but he was a baseball lifer who experienced a lot and for Canadian Baseball, that is salute worthy.