Cyanocitta cristata is a showy, noisy bluebird with a crest. The baseball club that honors this fine feathered friend hasn't shown anything, much less a crest, in five years in Toronto.
But there is one Blue Jay worthy of the name. Pitcher Dave Stieb made a lot of noise in the spring, mostly about migrating. He doesn't want to wait around until the Blue Jays hatch a winner. "I'll probably be retired by then," Stieb chirps.
A lot of teams would like to bag the talented young righthander. Pat Gillick, Toronto's vice-president, says he has received at least a dozen offers for Stieb. "I don't really want to trade him," says Gillick. "One of the things we need is pitching, and what's the sense of trading a pitcher for a pitcher. It would have to be an awfully good deal."
Fortunately for the Blue Jays, Stieb is such a competitor that he doesn't let little things like losing in arbitration affect his performance. His 1981 numbers might not seem impressive: an 11-10 record with a 3.18 ERA. But as a team, Toronto batted .226 and finished last twice. Stieb lost his first three starts because his teammates failed to score in his first 21 innings. No wonder he wants to leave.
The funny thing is, the Jays don't need that much. Stop laughing. New Manager Bobby Cox says, "When I first got here, I thought that people were being overly optimistic about the team's talent. But now that I've seen the players, I think they may be better than I was told."
The Jays envision Jesse Barfield, George Bell and Lloyd Moseby as their outfield of the future, but only Moseby is ready to solo now. In the meantime, Moseby will play center flanked by Alvis Woods in left and Barfield and Barry Bonnell in right. Otto Velez and Wayne Nordhagen will DH. In addition, Toronto has Anthony (Call Me A.J.) Johnson, drafted from the Expos. Johnson stole 60 bases at Memphis the year after Tim Raines stole 59 there. "I should get at least 40 here," says A.J. At the corners of the infield are Big John Mayberry and the righty-lefty platoon of Garth Iorg and Ranee Mulliniks. Pushing Mayberry at first base is Mr. March, Willie Upshaw, who has 13 career homers in spring training and six in 190 regular season games.
Damaso Garcia is a very fine second baseman, and his fellow Dominican, Alfredo Griffin, is the shortstop—for now. The Blue Jays are trying not to rush the graceful Tony Fernandez, who comes from Griffin's hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, but the temptation is almost overwhelming. Griffin was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1979, but his batting average slipped to .209 last season. Also, he stole only eight bases in 20 attempts and led his league (minor or major) in errors for the fifth straight year. Last season reliever Joey McLaughlin was adroit at bailing out the pitching staff, saving 10 of the team's 37 wins. On this team every little bit helps.—S.W.
Since their founding in 1977, the Blue Jays have had won/lost percentages of .335, .366, .327, .414 and .349 for an overall .359. By comparison, Detroit's .358 in 1975 represents the only time in the last 27 years that any other American League East team has had a single-season percentage as bad as the Blue Jays' five-year average. Toronto has finished last every season.