The 12 Franchise Club

Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports

Matt Stairs

Matt Stairs is the only position player on this list. For a guy coming up as an infielder, his poor defense eventually led him to being an outfielder/first baseman and ultimate pinch hitter. He’s not the biggest guy in any lineup, at 5’9″ and 200 pounds, but could he pack a punch on a baseball. He really lived up to fans cries of “in case of emergency use Stairs.”

Even for a player known for his pinch hitting, Stairs had a pretty solid career. The Saint John, New Brunswick native is not the first baseball player from that area. Heck, he’s not even the most famous person from there, with Stompin’ Tom Connors and Donald Sutherland hailing from the small city. Yet, Stairs is second in career home runs for a Canadian with 265, only trailing former teammate Larry Walker (383).

Montreal Expos (1992-1993):

An undrafted free agent, Stairs was originally a shortstop for the Canadian national team. He made strides in the Expos’ farm system, even winning the Mexican Pacific League batting title and MVP in the Eastern League. Baseball America named him one of the top 10 prospects in the Eastern League and the best second baseman in Double A.

Stairs made his major-league debut on May 29, 1992 as a pinch hitter in an extra inning game against Cincinnati. He struck out swinging against Rob Dibble. Two days later, he would notch his first hit, a two-run single off Jose Rijo.  From there he was just a utility player/pinch hitter. In his brief stint with the Expos, Stairs hit .211 with seven RBIs in 46 plate appearances those two seasons.

The Expos sold Stairs to the Nippon League’s Chunichi Dragons. Getting more chances to play, Stairs teased some of that pop from his bat but was a disappointment. For a gaijin, or a foreigner, putting up a .250 average in 142 plate appearances with six home runs and 23 RBIs, it is a poor showing. Stairs frustration in Japan led him back to the minor leagues and a new organization.

Boston Red Sox (1995):

The Red Sox bought Stairs outright from Montreal. Stairs regained his form moving up from Double A to Triple A to even a bench spot for the Red Sox postseason run. Earning time as a backup left and right fielder, half of his play came as a late game pinch hitter. While he only hit one homer the entire year, a .327 average with a .858 OPS for his 60 plate appearances as a left fielder made him valuable enough for a team to take a chance.

Oakland Athletics (1996-2000):

A free-agent signing before the rise of Moneyball fame, Oakland became the spot where Stairs turned into a quality pro hitter. The former infielder was now a corner outfielder and making a few appearances at first base. Along the way, the “Muscle Hamster” was using that swing to crush pitches. In five seasons, Stairs hit 20+ home runs four times (including 38 in 1999), had two 100+ RBIs seasons, had 25+ doubles three times and had an OPS+ range from 127-153 during the last four seasons there. Heck, Stairs received a vote for AL MVP in 1999. He was not going to win it but it was nice for the recognition.

Chicago Cubs (2001):

Oakland traded Stairs to Chicago for Eric Ireland. For the brief stay he had at Wrigley, Stairs looked good in 128 games for the Cubs. Slugging a 115 OPS+, 17 home runs and 61 RBIs, Stairs was on the move again.

Milwaukee Brewers (2002):

The Brewers signed Stairs as a free agent. While his RBI total dropped to 41 that lone season, he still slugged 16 homers in 315 plate appearances.

Pittsburgh Pirates (2003):

A free-agent pickup during the Pirates’ dark years, Stairs put up another fine season at the plate. In 357 plate appearances, he hit a .297 average with a .950 OPS and 20 homers. He was a steal for $900,000. Yet, despite his hitting, the Pirates’ management refused to re-sign Stairs.

Kansas City Royals (2004-2006):

The next three seasons, Stairs took his bat to K.C. While he was getting more at bats for the Royals, his numbers took a small dip. He slugged 39 home runs, had 164 RBIs with a .801 OPS in 330 games. By the 2006 trade deadline, he was off to Arlington.

Texas Rangers (2006):

His month long stint in Arlington was not fruitful for Stairs. In 26 games, he went 17 for 81, though he did hit three home runs. The Rangers waived him in September, only to be quickly snatched up.

Detroit Tigers (2006):

To help the Tigers clinch the AL Central, Stairs was hired to be an extra bat with the expanded roster. He did fine in 14 games, platooning against right-handed pitching with a .244 average, including two home runs and eight RBIs. Unfortunately, the Tigers give him no chances in the postseason. Who knows, maybe some at bats in the World Series could have turned the tide against St. Louis?

Toronto Blue Jays (2007-2008):

Free agency brought Stairs back to, now, Canada’s only team. For the season and a half in Toronto, Stairs excelled with a strong heart of the lineup, slugging 32 homers and picking up 108 RBIs. It’s no wonder his best moments were on deck.

Philadelphia Phillies (2008-2009):

The Phillies knew that an added left-handed bat would be valuable for a pennant run. Joining the team in late August, Stairs played a pivotal role of being a late game pinch hitter. While his stats do no justice to his worth to the Phillies, I’m fairly certain that World Series banner hanging will beg to differ. Stairs made every at bat in the playoffs matter, then followed it up with a legendary quote. That created a folk hero following for Stairs in Philly.

San Diego Padres (2010):

The last two seasons, saw Stairs play the role of mercenary left-handed slugger. Even at 42, Stairs cranked out six long balls for the Padres. Unfortunately, none were at home.

Washington Nationals (2011):

Stairs rode out in the sunset, with a 56-game campaign for the Nationals. This was a forgettable experience, where we did not get to see any deep blasts. Well, he almost did.

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