The Toronto Outfielders: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

Times Staff Writer

George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield. Recognize the names?

Maybe not. Even though the three Toronto Blue Jays comprise one of the best outfields in baseball, they are hardly celebrities. In fact, Bell, Moseby and Barfield are better candidates for an American Express commercial than for the cover of Sports Illustrated.

This lack of notoriety hasn't affected their play, however. On the contrary, the absence of respect from media and fans alike has motivated all three to play harder and try to bring the Blue Jays their first division title. When that happens, they say, their membership in Outfielders Anonymous will be revoked.

"The lack of attention doesn't bother me," Moseby said before Saturday night's game against the Angels in Anaheim Stadium. "It's just a reality, and part of the reason is that we play half our games in Canada.

"The media and fans still take us lightly, but after we come to town and sweep their team, we leave them muttering. They don't want to see us again."

Not many opponents want to see the Blue Jays right now. Toronto, a 1977 expansion team, leads the American League East, considered baseball's toughest division, by 3 1/2 games. Sure, the Blue Jays have been getting strong pitching and are playing good defense, but the firm of Bell, Moseby and Barfield has as much to do with the Blue Jays' success than anything else.

Bell, who like Moseby and Barfield is just 25, went into Saturday's game with a .294 batting average, 18 home runs, 57 RBIs, 50 runs scored and 12 stolen bases.

Moseby was hitting only .239 (well below his career average of .263), but had 6 homers, 31 RBIs, 47 runs scored and 23 steals while Barfield was batting .255 with 13 homers, 39 RBIs, 44 runs scored and 11 stolen bases.

Blue Jay Manager Bobby Cox doesn't need to look at the statistics to know the value of his outfield.

"You've got to like Bell, Moseby and Barfield," he said. "They're all young, they all can run, they all can throw and they all can hit with power."

None of the three are particularly vocal, especially Bell, who is refusing to talk to print reporters these days. Which is probably another reason why you've never before heard of the clean-up hitter for baseball's winningest team.

But ask Moseby or Barfield to assess the Toronto outfield, and they'll honestly tell you without sounding cocky they are just about the best around.

"We are good," Moseby said. "From some people's perspective, Boston has the best outfield, because (Jim) Rice, (Tony) Armas and (Dwight) Evans hit a lot of home runs.

"But I think our outfield does more things. We can all steal a base and we're all good outfielders. We don't give away runs, and to me, defense is just as important as offense."

Barfield: "We're going to have about 80 home runs between us this year, and I don't see any other outfields doing that. But what I think really sets us apart is our speed, which is very important on Astroturf.

"When we're at home or when we go to Kansas City, we fill the gaps better than anyone."

Left fielder Bell, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillie organization in 1980, is probably the most talented player of the three. Born in Dodger Pedro Guerrero's hometown of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, he has been hitting like Guerrero of late. In addition to his team-high 18 home runs, he has 15 doubles and 4 triples.

Cox, who formerly managed the Atlanta Braves, compares Bell with Bob Horner and Dale Murphy, whom he saw break into the major leagues.

"Those are the only two other guys I've seen that young with as much talent as George," Cox said.

Moseby has been fighting a slump much of the season, but the Blue Jays' first-round selection in the June, 1978 free-agent draft said he figures to end the season around the .280 mark, which is what he hit last year, along with 18 homers and 92 RBIs.

Moseby's best year was 1983, when the center fielder hit .315 with 104 runs scored.

Barfield has been something of a surprise to Toronto. He was the team's ninth-round selection in the June 1977 free agent draft, and at the time was not considered to have great potential.

But he made it to the big-league roster by 1981 and last year, after three average seasons, batted .284 with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs and a part-time player. Barfield has already matched his 1984 home run totals this year and is no longer taken out of the starting lineup when the Blue Jays face a right-hander.

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