Grange: Adam and the eve of a new Jays era

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty

On Adam Lind, poster boy for the past decade of Toronto baseball—both the good and the bad.

HE LEFT US for Milwaukee.

Well, he didn’t really leave. Adam Lind was sent away. The second-longest serving Toronto Blue Jay was traded to the Brewers by GM Alex Anthopoulos in return for Marco Estrada, who in some ways is the pitching version of Lind: really good at some things, but with some glaring flaws.

Toronto has had its share of bad breakups with departing athletes of long standing, but the end for Lind and the only MLB team he has ever known came and went quietly. The Blue Jays picked up the option on his $7.5-million contract, figured they could shuffle some pieces around and get some version of his production a little cheaper, and Lind was gone, like a paddle leaving a still lake.

Statistics don’t make the man, but when it comes to Lind and the strengths and weaknesses that balance almost perfectly into a deep state of averageness, they do tell the story of a middle-of-the-lineup player on a middle-of-the-road ball club that failed to gain any significant traction but never really slid entirely off the road either.

During Lind’s tenure, the Blue Jays won 727 regular-season games and lost 733, with four winning seasons, four losing seasons and one season in the middle of his run at Rogers Centre when they went 81-81.

And Lind? He had one incredible year and one awful year. He crushed right-handed pitching, and eventually looked at lefties and decided they weren’t worth the struggle. Defensively he needed to be hidden, as he moved around from left field to first base to ultimately the bench, where he spat seeds as a DH.

At his best, Lind’s WAR was 3.9; at his worst it was -1.0. The total for his nine seasons in Toronto was 8.6, or just less than one win above replacement per season, which is sabermetrics for treading water.

Lind wasn’t the team’s fulcrum—more a cog in a machine that reflected his shortcomings right back at him. Like the player, the team was never really whole, or whole enough. The years they could hit, they couldn’t pitch. The years they could pitch, they couldn’t hit. The years they could hit OK and pitch OK, their bullpen crumbled or they fielded batted balls like they were sharp.

To his credit, Lind played hurt, limping around for a handful of games this past summer before he took his mom’s advice, got an MRI and learned his foot was broken. He got paid pretty well and kind of earned it, and remained the same friendly, approachable presence throughout. “I never really get caught up in things like that,” he once said about his good fortune. “I just happened to become a baseball player, happened to get a lot of money. But it’s not like I’m really excited. I’m just chillin’, man.”

What to make of a ballplayer from small-town Indiana who married the first girl he met in the big city after being called up to the bigs for good in 2007? Of the only Blue Jay who has in-laws in Richmond Hill?

His nickname was Sleepy, and his clubhouse neighbour in his last season was the frenetic Brett Lawrie. Together they balanced the universe. Which way the Blue Jays axis will tilt in his absence, no one knows.

You can make Lind the quintessential player of his era, an era where even the slimmest hints of promise yielded frustration; where the club was not often awful enough to be declared a construction project but never quite finished to the point they were real contenders.

Adam Lind is Blue Jays yin and yang tied up in a tidy little bundle. He was club property for 10 years and we watched him advance from baseball puberty—he spent several of those years experimenting with facial hair, with varying degrees of success—to comfortable middle-aged corpulence before our very eyes.

So long, Adam Lind. We feel like we knew you well.

This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.

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