Toronto Baseball Guys
Thursday, August 11, 2011
  The Age of Lawrie
Sportsnet's coverage of the opening game of the Baltimore series was wall-to-wall Brett Lawrie.

From cameras following him all over the field - whether or not he was involved in the play - to shots of his family, to his sister joining the broadcast team for a couple of inning, to the breathless coverage of his first major league hit, and his first major league chance (an error), the 21-year-old third baseman was the story of the game from first pitch to last.

On its face, such treatment seemed like overkill, as though the Jays had never produced or brought up a top prospect before.

On another level, it was brash and refreshing to have the network treat a player like a big star and the game like a big moment for the club. The X factor is that Lawrie is Canadian, playing for his country's only major league team, a team that has been aching for a homegrown star for 35 seasons.

For what seemed like an eternity, Rob Ducey was THE Canadian Blue Jay - a nice little player, but reduced to bench duty behind the likes of Moseby, Bell, Barfield and later White and Carter.

Then Rob Butler, the Canadian who won a World Series (!) was anointed as the Canadian that would be a regular and perhaps a star. Both he and his brother Rich fizzled. Vince Horsman, Denis Boucher and Paul Spoljaric all had brief and unremarkable stints with the club.

Paul Quantrill had some fine seasons with the Jays, and even gave them their first Canadian All-Star in 2001, but as a middle reliever posed some obvious marketing problems. You couldn't announce when he would pitch, as with a starter, and if the game went well for the Jays, you weren't supposed to see him at all.

J.P. Ricciardi went out and acquired a Canadian everyday player in 2005 with the acquisition of Corey Koskie, but he was injured throughout the year and later dealt to Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, the Canadian stars within the game never intersected with the Blue Jays. Larry Walker passed into legend without ever donning Toronto colours, as did Eric Gagne. Others like Jason Bay, Justin Morneau and Joey Votto are unlikely fits and would be either impractical or exorbitantly expensive additions at this point.

The Jays finally got a meaningful season out of a Canadian, from Wonder Hamster himself, Matt Stairs who, at the age of 39, slammed 21 homers while posting a .289/.368/.549 line.

Which leads us to Lawrie. Sufficed to say, it would be a gross disappointment if he didn't become the most accomplished Canadian Blue Jay. He should get there within 2-3 seasons. There are few 21-year-olds who can play regularly in the major leagues. A great many of them turn into all-star or MVP calibre performers. If the Blue Jays have that in Lawrie, they may also have the marketing tool that can re-energize a fan base and create a new generation of Blue Jay fans, as the native son that leads the team back into the post-season hunt.

Now, he just has to live up to the hype.

Through Wednesday's games, here is the all-time home run leader board among Canadian born Blue Jays:
Matt Stairs     32

Corey Koskie 11
Dave McKay 10
Brett Lawrie 2
Rob Ducey 2
Paul Hodgson 1
Simon Pond 1

So far, so good.




 
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