Thursday, May 25, 2017

Javier Vazquez Jersey Card

Javier Vazquez had many highlights with the Montréal Expos.

His first shutout came on my birthday - September 14th - in 1999, against the Los Angeles Dodgers. By his third season with the team, in 2000, he was already the opening day pitcher, and had accumulated 8 wins in his first 11 starts that year, though the team being as bad as it was ended up catching up with him, as he finished with an 11-9 record. The following summer, he led the National League with 3 shutouts.

Following his final season with the team, in 2003, he told reporters he didn't like playing for "a team without an owner who couldn't afford to trade for a player to help down the stretch". That was actually putting it lightly: Major League Baseball actually forbade the team to even recall players from their minor leagues, essentially tanking a playoff-caliber team that finished 83-79 (fourth in the NL East), enabling the Florida Marlins (91-71) and Philadelphia Phillies (86-76) to pass them, and securing the division title for the Atlanta Braves (101-61). It was one of the most unsportsmanlike and deliberate fixing situations I've ever seen - and I follow hockey and the Arizona Coyotes situation.

For the 2004 season, he signed on with the New York Yankees, and many sportswriters saw him as that year's eventual Cy Young winner; he wasn't in contention, but he did play in his only All-Star Game that summer.

He played for the Puerto Rican team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic (while with the Chicago White Sox) and finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting in 2009 while with the Braves. In 2010, in his second stint with the Yankees, he became the third active pitcher to beat all 30 MLB teams.

Still, seeing as I stopped following baseball after he left town, this is how I remember him best, wearing the Expos' pinstriped white (home) uniform:
That's card #DC-JV from Topps' 2003 Bowman Heritage set, featuring a grey game-worn jersey swatch.

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