Player: Jesse Barfield came up with the Blue Jays in September of 1981 and joined leftfielder George Bell and centerfielder Lloyd Moseby to form a youthful triumvirate that would patrol the Toronto outfield for most of the 80's. Barfield, a 9th round pick in '77, hit two homers and batted .232 in the last month of '81.
He started about two-thirds of the time in '82 and hit 18 HR with a .246/.323/.426 line. He made a quick impression on opposing baserunners as he gunned down 15 to lead all Junior Circuit rightfielders despite starting just 104 games.
Barfield was limited to 95 starts in RF in '83 as Barry Bonnell, who was enjoying his best year, infringed on his playing time. He gunned down another 17 runners and hit
27 HR in 420 plate appearances. Barfield found playing time even harder to come by in '84 as he, Moseby, Bell, veterans Dave Collins, Cliff Johnson all enjoyed seasons with OPS+ over 120. In 360 trips to the plate Barfield hit .284/.357/.466 with 14 HR.
Barfield locked down the starting job in '85 and began a three year run with a cumulative 18.3 WAR. He not only possessed a cannon-arm (59 assists) but also displayed great range leading AL rightfielders in putouts all three years. Newer metrics like Total Zone show Barfield saving over 60 runs from '85-'87. He hit .289/.369/.536 with 27 home runs in '85 and hit an AL leading 40 dongs in '86 while repeating his .289 average. He followed that up with 28 homers in '87 but saw his average slip to .263.
While he continued to supply power and defense, Barfield's average never again topped .250. After hitting 18 HR in '88 and a slow start in '89 he was traded to the Yankees for Al Leiter. He finished '89 with 23 HR and hit 25 more in 1990.
A stress fracture in his left foot ended Barfield's '91 campaign in July and he hit just .225 with 17 homers. He struggled with a sprained wrist in '92 and played in only 30 games with a .137 average. Barfield spent '93 playing in Japan. A comeback with the Astros in '94 didn't make it past spring training. Barfield retired with a .256/.335/.466 line and 241 HR in 12 seasons.
Oddball: While he was with the Yankees in '91 Barfield threw a ball out of Yankee Stadium. On the wrong side of a lopsided score, he picked up a home run ball that bounced back on the field and fired it onto the subway tracks outside the stadium.
History: Barfield is often regarded as having the best outfield arm in baseball in the 80's. He threw out 162 runners in his 12 year career and nearly a third of his WAR came from his defense (11.7/37.2). Barfield was recognized for his outfield prowess with Gold Gloves in '86 and '87, and should have already had a few on the mantle before that.
He helped the Blue Jays to their first playoffs in '85 and hit .280/.357/.440 in a losing cause against the Royals. He only topped 20 stolen bases once but when he swiped 22 in '85 he became the Jays first 20/20 player. He was an All-Star in '86, won a Silver Slugger award, and finished 5th in AL MVP voting.
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