One of the favorite pet phrases of Bisons manager Jeff Datz is, "You like to see good things happen to good people." OK, so it's trite. But in the case of Pat Borders, it certainly applies.
In a tough week that has seen Buffalo's dream of a championship three-peat fizzle because of injuries and roster turnover, a feel-good moment came Tuesday when word spread that Borders had been granted his release by the Cleveland Indians and re-signed with his old team, the Toronto Blue Jays.
To outsiders, red flags went up last spring when it was learned that a former World Series MVP was going to be on the Bisons' roster. The word around the club's Florida camp, however, was that Borders was no prima donna and a top-notch organization guy. It proved true.
"It's great. He's such a pro," Datz said after learning of Borders' deal.
Borders was good to have in the clubhouse. He was good with the pitching staff. The media and front office enjoyed their dealings with him as well. And he actually liked being in Buffalo because he got plenty of playing time -- without the day-to-day pressure of performance and media scrutiny -- after sitting on the bench in Cleveland for two years.
Borders never griped, and he had plenty of chances to vent as one of several Bisons with legitimate gripes about the way Cleveland has handled them this season.
When Sandy Alomar was first injured in May, the immediate assumption was that Borders was going to get the call to Cleveland. That was, after all, the arrangement he made with Tribe officials when he agreed to come to Buffalo in the first place.
But Borders was hitting just .170 at the time and Chris Turner, signed over the winter, was at .320. The Bisons were in Toledo when Alomar got hurt and Turner, not Borders, got the call.
"I called Pat into the office in Toledo and told him, 'Hey, as much as I think you're deserving of going (to Cleveland) too, Chris Turner is having a better season and he's the guy right now,' " Datz recalled. Pat said, 'Jeff, I expected you to say nothing other than that because he is playing better than me.' That's what kind of player Pat is."
When Turner left, Borders showed he could still play. He hit .351 for the Bisons in June and .326 after June 1. Borders finally did get a chance, spending six weeks with the Tribe before getting sent back to Buffalo. Again, he accepted the trip with the out clause in his contract that he could earn his release if another club showed interest.
Despite being with them the last two years, the Indians soured on Borders because they are obsessed with having a left-handed hitting catcher to back up Einar Diaz. They've tried Jesse Levis and now Tyler Houston in that slot, leaving Borders out in the cold.
With his chance at the postseason in Cleveland gone, Borders requested his release and immediately started talking to Toronto GM Gord Ash. A deal was struck and Borders was back at home in the SkyDome on Wednesday, hitting a two-run homer and getting a curtain call in his first game with the Blue Jays since 1994.
Borders caught all but two innings of Toronto's 29 postseason games from 1991-1993, the latter two seasons culminating in Series championships. He hit .450 in Toronto's 1992 triumph over Atlanta to earn his MVP award and .308 the next year against Philadelphia.
Borders never regaled the Buffalo clubhouse with war stories of his success. When you'd ask him about it, he'd downplay it by referring to it as just a hot streak with good timing.
Everyone listening knew better. A player who was a big part of the only back-to-back Series champs thus far in the '90s spent most of the summer here without a lot of fanfare. It was nice to see something good happen to a good guy.
Lovullo left off IL squad
The International League all-star team announced this week featured no Bisons, five Columbus Clippers and one glaring omission.
Left off the team was Scranton/Wilkes-Barre second baseman Torey Lovullo, the longtime Bison who is having a career year. Lovullo, 34, became the first Red Baron in the franchise's 11-year history to collect 100 RBIs in a season when he belted his 20th homer in Wednesday's 5-2 win over Ottawa. He entered Friday night's doubleheader against the Bisons in fourth place in the IL with 102 RBIs.
Lovullo was nosed out at second base by Columbus' Brian Raabe and at the utility slot by Indianapolis infielder Jason Hardtke. They both entered the weekend batting above .320 (while Lovullo is only pushing .280), but neither has more than 12 homers or 75 RBIs.
Durham's first baseman Steve Cox, the IL batting and RBI leader, was named the league's most valuable player. Columbus lefty Ed Yarnall was named pitcher of the year and first baseman Kurt Bierek was chosen rookie of the year. Charlotte's Tom Spencer earned manager of the year honors.
Who was that man?
A couple of astute readers have asked about Columbus first base coach Howard Cassady, who was in town with the Clippers earlier this month. The 65-year-old is best known for his days as "Hopalong" Cassady, when he was the 1955 Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, then an assistant coach at Purdue, was the first to inform Cassady he had won the award. Cassady has been with the Yankees in various roles for 26 years, the last eight as a Columbus coach.