Friday, September 6, 2013

Flashback Friday: Kelly Gruber and Cecil Fielder Switch Places 18 Times

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18 times. Yes, 18 times.

It almost seems like a comical arbitrary amount someone would casually throw out there. But seriously, this actually happened. Kelly Gruber and Cecil Fielder swapped places on the diamond 18 times in one game.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at one of the more interesting platoons in Blue Jays history; a game in which Kelly Gruber and Cecil Fielder did the proverbial dance between second and third base a total of 18 times.

The day was May 2nd, 1988. The Blue Jays kicked off a seven game road swing with the opener at the Kingdome in Seattle. And for those in attendance that day, they were about to see something truly unique.

Blue Jays manager Jimy Williams opted to use Cecil Fielder and Kelly Gruber intermittently at second and third base throughout the entire game. Here's a brief look at the boxscore below:

Play Description
Bottom of the 1st, Mariners Batting, Tied 0-0
Cecil Fielder moves from 3B to 2B
Kelly Gruber moves from 2B to 3B
Bottom of the 2nd, Mariners Batting, Tied 0-0
Kelly Gruber moves from 3B to 2B
Cecil Fielder moves from 2B to 3B
Cecil Fielder moves from 3B to 2B
Kelly Gruber moves from 2B to 3B
Bottom of the 3rd, Mariners Batting, Behind 0-1
Kelly Gruber moves from 3B to 2B
Cecil Fielder moves from 2B to 3B
Cecil Fielder moves from 3B to 2B
Kelly Gruber moves from 2B to 3B
Kelly Gruber moves from 3B to 2B
Cecil Fielder moves from 2B to 3B
Bottom of the 4th, Mariners Batting, Ahead 2-1
Cecil Fielder moves from 3B to 2B
Kelly Gruber moves from 2B to 3B
Kelly Gruber moves from 3B to 2B
Cecil Fielder moves from 2B to 3B
Cecil Fielder moves from 3B to 2B
Kelly Gruber moves from 2B to 3B
Bottom of the 5th, Mariners Batting, Ahead 2-1
Kelly Gruber moves from 3B to 2B
Cecil Fielder moves from 2B to 3B
Cecil Fielder moves from 3B to 2B
Kelly Gruber moves from 2B to 3B
Kelly Gruber moves from 3B to 2B
Cecil Fielder moves from 2B to 3B
Cecil Fielder moves from 3B to 2B
Kelly Gruber moves from 2B to 3B
Bottom of the 6th, Mariners Batting, Ahead 7-5
Kelly Gruber moves from 3B to 2B
Cecil Fielder moves from 2B to 3B
Cecil Fielder moves from 3B to 2B
Kelly Gruber moves from 2B to 3B
Bottom of the 7th, Mariners Batting, Ahead 7-5
Kelly Gruber moves from 3B to 2B
Cecil Fielder moves from 2B to 3B
Bottom of the 8th, Mariners Batting, Ahead 7-5
Cecil Fielder moves from 3B to 2B
Kelly Gruber moves from 2B to 3B
Kelly Gruber moves from 3B to 2B
Cecil Fielder moves from 2B to 3B

There were a few reasons for this unorthodox platoon by Jimy Williams. For one, the Blue Jays starting second baseman Nelson Liriano was sent down to the minor leagues just days prior. And secondly, Manuel Lee was suffering from an injury.

So under those circumstances, Jimy Williams worked with what he had, and so he moved Gruber and Fielder back and forth depending on ... get this, where he thought the Mariners would hit the ball.

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up, folks.

Going into that game, Cecil Fielder had never played second base throughout his entire minor league and big league career. Kelly Gruber however was much more familiar with his alternate position that day, as he spent the better part of his career at the hot corner.

Although it's extremely unorthodox for position players to swap places 18 games in one game, what was even more perplexing is the situations in which Cecil and Gruber switched spots on the diamond.

Not only would Jimy Williams have them change places mid-inning, in one instance he actually switched them during the middle of an at bat. After Jose Nunez uncorked a wild pitch to Mike Cotto in the fifth inning, Cecil Fielder moved from third to second, and Kelly Gruber moved from second to third.

After Nunez eventually walked Cotto, the two then switched back the very next batter. In total, Fielder and Gruber would switch positions four times in the fifth inning alone.

Interestingly enough, this extreme example of position swapping was not an isolated incident for Jimy Williams. He employed a similar strategy the following day; swapping Kelly Gruber and Pat Borders at second and third base a total of 13 times.

Much like Cecil Fielder the night before, Pat Borders had no experience whatsoever at second base. But it didn't stop there; two days later, Williams would once again platoon Cecil Fielder and Kelly Gruber back and forth between second and third base late in the game.

It was only after these three unusual platoon attempts that Jimy Williams would abandon this interesting strategy and go back to playing his players at his natural positions.

So for all the unusual plays some managers employ these days; extreme shifts, five man infields, or a suicide squeeze, just remember there was only one man who ever swapped his second baseman and third baseman 18 times in one game: Jimy Williams.

Remember, if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again.

Hat tip to @James_in_TO for sending in this week's Flashback Friday request. If you have anything you'd like to see from the Blue Jays vault in a future edition, please email bluejayhunter@gmail.com.

1 comment:

  1. Mat Duheme, Hunter Slawek, Sameer Kotwal, Matt Babineau: wow!

    ReplyDelete

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