Adrián Beltré
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Baseball’s best personalities

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Late this morning, I went down a YouTube rabbit hole, as one does, clicking baseball video after baseball video. I happened upon one of MLB’s compilations of fun Adrián Beltré moments, which got me thinking: pound-for-pound, I don’t think any player has made me smile based on his personality alone more than Beltré. I’m a Phillies fan, so naturally players like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Cole Hamels have brought me plenty of smiles, but many of them due to displays of skill or other successes on the field. Which is not to say that they didn’t have personalities —  Rollins certainly did — but they weren’t quite like Beltré’s.

Beltré, who debuted in 1998 and retired after the 2018 season, was mostly known for how he hated having his head touched, which only made his teammates want to do it more. Especially shortstop Elvis Andrus. One time, during a May 2013 game in Seattle, the Rangers infielders were congregated around the mound during a pitching change. With Beltré’s attention focused elsewhere, Andrus stealthily touched Beltré’s head with his glove. Beltré playfully tried to kick Andrus in retaliation but was too slow, so Beltré did the only thing he could: he took off his glove and hurled it at his teammate.

In late July 2017, during an interleague series with the Marlins, the Rangers got shelled, trailing 18-6 in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Rangers, to their credit, mounted a bit of a threat, loading the bases with two outs. With Nomar Mazara at the plate, Beltré was next in the batting order, taking his practice cuts on the warning track behind home plate. Umpire Gerry Davis told Beltré he needed to be on the batting circle, closer to the dugout. Beltré lifted up the batting circle and dragged it to where he had been taking his practice cuts. Davis didn’t like the joke and ejected Beltré. Then-manager Jeff Banister argued the ejection and got tossed himself.

Once I got done with the Beltré video, I started thinking about other great personalities in baseball. Joey Votto immediately came to mind for me. I’ve written about his antics quite a bit here. Votto is a future Hall of Famer and one of the absolute best hitters of his generation, but he has never taken himself too seriously.

Votto, in fact, wants to be a bus driver (or a crossing guard) when his playing days are over. How many baseball legends do you know that have wanted to do that?

Former Marlins pitcher José Fernández was on his way to becoming arguably baseball’s biggest personality. Through four seasons, the right-hander won the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Award, finished third in NL Cy Young voting in ’13, was a two-time All-Star, and never finished a season with an ERA above 2.92 (though he was hobbled by injuries). Sadly, he was killed in a boating accident in the offseason ahead of the 2017 season. Despite a brief career, Fernández was responsible for plenty of memorable moments for otherwise very forgettable teams.

Perhaps Fernández’s best moment was in August 2013 when the Marlins were hosting the Rockies. With two outs in the top of the first inning, Troy Tulowitzki lined a Fernández fastball right back up the middle. It’s a single 99 times out of 100, but Fernández was a great fielder and had lightning-quick reflexes, so he snagged the liner out of the air. Tulowitzki, stopped dead in his tracks, asked Fernandez, “Did you really catch that?” Fernández, flashing his million-dollar smile, nodded joyously in response.

I made an incomplete list of other great personalities baseball has had in recent years and also asked my Twitter followers who has made them smile (without taking into account the players’ skill or on-field accomplishments). Some of the answers I received included Munenori Kawasaki, Carlos Gómez, Brandon Phillips, and Adam Jones. I would add Javier Báez, Andrew McCutchen, Kiké Hernández, and Francisco Lindor to the list. As I mentioned, it’s a woefully incomplete list, so help round it out: which players’ personalities have given you the most smiles over the years? They don’t have to be recent players.

Blue Jays clinch 1st playoff spot since 2016, beat Yanks 4-1

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Barred from playing in their own ballpark this year because of COVID-19, the vagabond Toronto Blue Jays have found a home in the playoffs.

The slumping New York Yankees, meanwhile, look likely to play on the road in the postseason, where they’ve struggled all year.

Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games following a 10-game winning stretch and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

“We’ve got to get it rolling again, obviously, if we’re going to get to where we want to go,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I’m confident we can do it.

New York went 21-7 at home this season but was 11-18 on the road. Boone said he’s not concerned about that split even as a potential road playoff series looms next week.

“We’ve got to get ourselves in order and start playing really good baseball if we’re going to give ourselves a chance,” Boone said.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason. The Blue Jays had endured three losing campaigns since their previous playoff trip, going 67-95 last season.

“I’m just so proud of my club and everything we’ve gone through all year,” second-year manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Canada’s federal government refused to allow games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre this season, citing the closed Canada-U.S. border and the travel risk associated with the pandemic. Stuck on the road to start the season, the Blue Jays eventually ended up at their Triple-A ballpark, Sahlen Field in Buffalo, but didn’t gripe about their fate.

“They never complained,” Montoyo said. “They had their mind set on getting to this moment right now.”

Blue Jays players embraced after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it, donning blue T-shirts that said “Respect Toronto.”

“This is something we want to make an every year thing,” infielder Cavan Biggio said. “For us, we’re happy, we’re excited we’re able to put ourselves in this position, but this is only the start of hopefully something special for a long time.”

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo this weekend while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest streak since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

“I’m concerned with the way we’ve played recently,” outfielder Brett Gardner said. “Any time you’re not playing your best baseball and the postseason is right around the corner, something needs to be corrected rather quickly.”

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

“It’s good to see him get a really good swing off in a big spot,” Boone said of Sanchez. “Just unfortunately, that short.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto, his eighth.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out, and retired Gio Urshela on a groundball.

“He’s an ace and he did what an ace does,” Montoyo said.

The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Guerrero opened the scoring with a solo homer off left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3) in the second.

The Blue Jays extended their lead when Biggio and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back, two-out doubles in the third.

Toronto made it 4-0 in the sixth. Grichuk chased Montgomery with a single and Guerrero singled off Adam Ottavino before rookie Alejandro Kirk hit a two-out, two-run double.

Montgomery lost for the first time in four starts. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) was activated off the injured list and RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment. . RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a second bullpen session Friday.

Yankees: Aaron Judge came on as a pinch-hitter but is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, Boone said.

SHARED DUTY

Boone said he expects to use both Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher in the postseason. Higashioka has hit well while working with ace Gerrit Cole, while Sanchez has struggled with both offense and his defense down the stretch.

SEVEN UP

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh. It had been an MLB-record 88 games since RHP Jacob Waguespack pitched into the seventh at Dodger Stadium last year.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25) starts Friday as New York returns home to begin a three-game series against Miami. RHP Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12) starts for the Marlins.

Blue Jays: RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. The Orioles have not named a starter.