Diamondbacks All-Time Top 10. #6: Jay Bell


Jay Bell

Acquired: 11/17/97. Signed as a Free Agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Career with AZ: .263/.355/.458 - 91 HR, 304 RBI
Best year 1999: .289/.374/.557 - 38 HR, 112 RBI
Records: Single-season runs (132, 1999)
Other facts: 2nd in OBP (.355), 3rd in OPS (.812) and walks (303), 4th in games (616), HR (91), RBI (304) and runs (360)
Biggest moment: Winning Gylene Hoyle $1m, for predicting Bell's grand slam on July 11, 1999. Said Bell, "I had a 20-year career and without a doubt this was my #1 most enjoyable experience in baseball. Scoring the winning run in the World Series was amazing. I also hit a home run in my first at-bat in the majors. But this was special because I was able to do something that changed somebody's life. There is no better feeling."
Departed: 10/29/2002. Granted Free Agency.

Bell and our #7, Matt Williams, are largely linked in fans' minds, and not always for good reasons. Both infielders had one excellent season in 1999, but perhaps didn't live up to their long-term contracts: Bell signed to a 5-year, $34m deal before the franchise threw its first pitch. However, Bell is perhaps better-remembered - his decline was less sharp, and many fans will also have a "Jay" moment.

Personally, I particularly remember a collision with Mike Piazza at homeplate in Shea Stadium: Bell delivered a thunderous, but totally clean, hit that seemed to come from a player twice his size. Mind you, this pales in comparison to that of Mrs. Hoyle (see above - and at her first ever D'backs game, too), though less favourably impressed is probably umpire Larry Young, plunked in the head by a throw from Bell in April 2001, an injury which required 14 stitches and several weeks out of action.

Still, there's no question Bell's 1999 season was gargantuan: he switched from SS to 2B, and the move agreed with him. His OPS of .931 is bettered only by Gonzo over a 400+ PA season; that, and the 38 home-runs he dispatched, are among the all-time best for second basemen. With Matt Williams driving him in relentlessly, he crossed home plate 132 times: only once in six seasons since, has any player come even within 20 runs of matching that. That career year is probably the main reason why the team had a franchise-record 100 wins. [The Big Unit "only" won 17]

However, as much as his power, Bell's strength was perhaps his patience, with his OBP in Arizona 92 points above his batting average. He was an integral part of the 2001 World Series, scoring the winning run in Game 7, but the final year of his contract was derailed by calf injuries to both legs. Bell appeared in only 32 games, losing his place to Junior Spivey, and made his final appearance on September 28th, 2002. In a 17-8 blowout of the Rockies, fittingly enough, he drove in his 304th RBI with a pinch-hit single in his last at-bat.

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