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Matthew Wade Stairs (born February 27, 1968 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada) is a Major League Baseball designated hitter who plays for the San Diego Padres. He married Lisa Astle of Fredericton with whom he has three daughters, Nicole, Alicia and Chandler. In the off-season, he lives in Bangor, Maine where he coaches hockey for John Bapst Memorial High School, a private high school.
Growing up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Matt Stairs showed athletic ability at an early age, playing Beaver League baseball a year before his age eligibility and excelling in hockey. After Bantam & Midget baseball, at age 16 and 17 he played for the local Marysville Royals of the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League, where he was voted "Rookie of The Year" in 1984 and the league's Most Valuable Player in '85. He was also named Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League MVP in 1987 and '88 playing for the Fredericton Schooners.
After attending the National Baseball Institute (NBI) in Vancouver, British Columbia for one year, he joined the Canadian Junior National team after graduating from Fredericton High School in 1988. From there he went on to play for the Canadian Olympic Team at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. He played for Canada at the 1987 World Amateur Championships in Italy where he was named to the "World All-Star" team.
Minor League careerEdit
Drafted as a pitcher/shortstop and signed by the Montreal Expos to a minor league contract, Stairs played AA ball in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where he led the league in hitting and was voted the Eastern League’s 1991 M.V.P. In 1992 and 1993, he moved up to AAA ball (Indianapolis and Ottawa, respectively), with only brief appearances in the majors. Over his long career, Stairs has played for a total of six teams in the minor leagues: The Indianapolis Indians (AA) in 1992, the Ottawa Lynx (AAA) in 1993, the New Britain Red Sox (AA) in 1994, the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA) in 1995, the Edmonton Trappers (AAA) in 1996 and a few rehab games for the Nashville Sounds (AAA) in 2003. His totals in the minors include a .291 batting average with 46 Home Runs and 237 RBI.
Major League CareerEdit
On December 15, 1993 was re-signed as a free agent by Montreal. He ended up only playing in 19 games for the Expos during 1992-93. He was sold on February 18, 1994 to the Boston Red Sox and assigned to Class AA New Britain for the 1994 season.
He started the 1995 season with the Pawtucket farm club until being called up to the major leagues in June 1995. He played in 39 games for the Red Sox, hitting .261 with 1 HR and 17 RBI. At the end of the season, he accepted an offer to play with the Oakland Athletics after becoming a free agent.
Stairs had the best years of his career playing for the Athletics. After being called up from AAA Edmonton, Stairs immediately joined a very elite circle when he tied a Major League Baseball record for driving in six runs in one inning. In 1998, he finished 17th in the American League with a .258 batting average, 38 home runs and driving in 102. He played outfield, mostly as a Right Fielder and Designated Hitter alongside superstars Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi and Eric Chavez throughout his tenure in Oakland.
After five seasons with the Athletics, during which he hit 122 home runs and drove in 315 RBIs, on November 20, 2000 he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Eric Ireland. The trade was largely seen as a cost-cutting move by the cash-strapped Athletics -- Stairs was set to earn $3.2 million for the 2001 season, and his production had dropped in 2000, as he hit just .227 with 21 home runs and 81 RBIs.
He was the First Baseman for the Cubs in 2001. Although he hit just .250, he still hit 17 HRs and drove in 61 runs in 128 games. After 2001, he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers as a free agent for the 2002 season.
In 2002, Stairs had a similar season to the previous one with the Cubs. He finished the season with 16 home runs but still had a low batting average, hitting .244. He elected to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates the following season.
2003 was a strong year for Stairs. He had the best batting average of his career, hitting .292 in 128 games playing as a first baseman and outfielder. He also hit 20 home runs and drove in 57 runs. Stairs' 2003 season included a 3-game set back in Canada against the Blue Jays. In the three games at Rogers Centre (then Skydome), Stairs had 5 hits in 8 at-bats which included 2 long home runs.
Stairs enjoyed a nice 2 years with the Kansas City Royals after signing with them following the '03 season. Despite being one of the worst teams in baseball, Stairs helped some of the younger players like John Buck and David DeJesus to adjust to the majors. He mashed 39 home runs in his 2 and a half years in Kansas City. On July 31, 2006 at the trade deadline, Stairs was dealt to the Texas Rangers for Jose Diaz.
The Rangers hoped that Stairs could provide some veteran leadership on their club but he just played in 26 games before being waived by the Rangers in 2006. He was picked up off waivers by the Detroit Tigers on September 15, 2006.
On the day he was claimed, he immediately went to Detroit, arriving at Comerica Park halfway through the game and immediately took Marcus Thames' place in the lineup. The Tigers picked up Stairs in hopes that his experience could help them hold their Division Lead. The Tigers lost their division lead on the final day of the season but still clinched the Wild Card. Since he was acquired after the trade deadline he was inelgible for the Tiger's playoff run. The Tigers went on to win the AL Pennant and lost in the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. He did not resign with the Tigers following the season.
On December 7, 2006, Stairs and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a one year minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. He made the team and has seen significant playing time as the fourth outfielder, and replaced Lyle Overbay at first base during Overbay's time on the DL. The 2007 season rejuvenated Stairs' career, due to increased playing time following injuries to Reed Johnson and Lyle Overbay. Unexpectedly playing everyday, he performed well above expectations, providing consistency at the plate and a valuable veteran presence in the Toronto dugout; team manager John Gibbons publicly stated "I don't know where we'd be without him". As of September 4, Stairs had the highest slugging average on the Jays at .606 and the highest batting average, hitting .312.
On August 8, 2007, Matt Stairs became the first Toronto Blue Jays player to hit five consecutive doubles in five at bats, and the first Major Leaguer to double in five straight at-bats in fourteen years since Charles Johnson accomplished the feat in 1993.  As of September 8, 2007, Stairs was playing quite well for the Blue Jays, with a team leading .315 average on the season and a .989 OPS.
On November 2, 2007, Stairs and the Jays agreed on a two-year contract worth $3,250,000., which includes a $1.25 million signing bonus and $1 million in each of the 2 seasons. With performance bonuses, Stairs could make as much as $3.50 million based on plate appearances.
He is only the second Canadian born player to ever hit more than thirty-five home runs in a season and only the second to hit more than 25 home runs and drive in more than 100 runs in back-to-back seasons. He ranks either first or second in power hitting categories of any Canadian to ever play in the Major Leagues. Along with former major league outfielder Larry Walker, Stairs is one of only two Canadian MLB players to hit more than 200 career home runs.
Though his age and increasingly poor speed have earned him a reputation as a defensive liability in the outfield. He still possesses a strong throwing arm, however, and is considered a perfectly capable fielder at first. In 2008, Stairs initially platooned in LF with Shannon Stewart however upon the club's release of Frank Thomas, Stairs has become the everyday DH for the ball club.
Noted baseball analysts Bill James and Joe Posnanski have theorized that Stairs is probably a far more talented hitter than his career stats suggest. Stairs didn't have 500 plate appearances until age 29, at which point he recorded 100 RBI seasons and an adjusted OPS of over 130 two years in a row- and never saw 500 at-bats again. James contends, "You put him in the right park, right position early in his career ... he's going to hit a LOT of bombs." Possibly, Posnanski contends, enough to be worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.
- List of Major League Baseball players from Canada
- Top 500 home run hitters of all time
- 2006 World Baseball Classic
- ↑ The Official Site of The Toronto Blue Jays: Team: Player Information
- ↑ Matt Stairs Statistics (Minor Leagues) - Baseball-Reference.com
- ↑ Matt Stairs - Toronto Blue Jays - Split Statistics - MLB - Yahoo! Sports
- ↑ TheStar.com | Sports | Stairs has another big day
- ↑ The Official Site of The Toronto Blue Jays: News: Toronto Blue Jays News
- ↑ The Official Site of The Toronto Blue Jays: News: Stairs, Jays agree to two-year deal
- ↑ James, quoted by Joe Posnanski, "The Hall of Could have Been" Tuesday, April 24, 2007 http://thesoulofbaseball.blogspot.com/2007/04/hall-of-could-have-been.html
- Baseball-Reference.com - Major league career statistics
- The 100 Greatest Royals of All-Time, #65 Matt Stairs