Tony Fernandez, Seibu Lions, 2000 Calbee card
I meant to post this around the time I did Japanese related posts for Jesse Barfield, Cecil Fielder, and Munenori Kawasaki. With Baseball Reference announcing yesterday that they now have Nippon Professional Baseball stats going back to the NPB’s inception in 1936, this seemed like a good time to post.
Tony had his third go-round with the Blue Jays in 1998 and 1999 and hit .321 and .328 in those seasons with his two highest career OPS+ numbers (121 and 125). In his 1999 season he was hitting .400 as late as June 29, and made the All-Star game by hitting .372/.464/.514 as a third baseman. He cooled off with a .264 average after the break but wound up 8th in BA (.328), 5th in OBP (.427) and 5th in doubles (41). Pretty great for an age 37 season and full value for the $2,250,00 he made.
In the off season he signed with Seibu Lions for $2,275,000 and the potential for $800,000 in bonuses for the 2000 season. Tony continued to hit well in Japan, finishing 4th in the Pacific League batting title race and compiling a .327/.418/.486 slash line while contributing 11 HR and 74 RBI in only 103 games.
Looking to fill their search for a leadoff hitter and third baseman, the Milwaukee Brewers invited Tony to spring training in 2001. He made the team, in part due to an injury to SS Mark Loretta. In his time with the Brewers, he pinch hit more than he started, but did hit .281 with a .352 OBP. His last game with the Brewers he went 2 for 4 with a home run on May 16, but then Loretta came off the DL May 19 and Tony sat for almost 2 weeks before the team released him on May 29.
The Blue Jays signed him on May 8 for his fourth stint with the team, and he hit .305 the rest of the 2001 season as a 39 year old to finish his MLB career with 2,276 hits - at the time the most by any player born in the Dominican Republic.
(photo source: The Trading Card Database)