My Favourite Player: Chris D’Angelo on Danny Jansen

Whether they’re willing to admit it or not, every baseball fan has a favourite baseball player. Maybe it’s their favourite team’s current ace, the random right fielder whose jersey they received as a Christmas gift when they were eight years old, or a promising prospect whose career was cut short by injury.

In this new series, we’ll be asking British baseball fans to tell us how their favourite player came to be their favourite player and a whole lot more. Next up, Toronto native and UK-based Blue Jays fan Chris D’Angelo tells us about his love of Danny Jansen.

Every summer day growing up in Toronto, Canada, there would be a conversation about who the best players across the MLB were. As a group of kids, we all played baseball and idolised different players across different teams and positions. We talked about stars like Roy Halladay, David Ortiz, Mariano Rivera, and many more.

I moved to the UK as an adult and have been here nearly two years. For a few months, baseball talk evaporated, as many British folks don’t follow baseball (fair enough; I now know how tough it is staying up until midnight or later to catch the start of most prime time North American sports). Over time, I discovered the wonderful and committed baseball community that exists all across the UK. I live in the South West and baseball excitement is alive and well in this area of the country. I found myself having baseball chats that exceeded the depth and detail of the conversations I had back in Canada. And British baseball fans got me thinking – it’s easy to talk about the stars. It’s easy to say how special Shohei Ohtani is, or how Aaron Judge missing time for a broken toe was devastating for the Yankees. What I’ve noticed here is the detailed observations fans make about players further down the depth chart, not just on one team but across many teams. Stars might drive people to become fans, but it’s those middle of the roster players that put in the effort every day and make the difference between being a good team and being a World Series-winning team. So my entry for ‘my favourite player’ goes to Danny Jansen of the Toronto Blue Jays, one of those underrated pieces who has the heart that I hope will one day drag my Blue Jays to their first World Series in 31 years.

The Jays have a lot of talent on their roster. In 2023, they fielded one of the best pitching rotations in baseball, with the fourth best team ERA in baseball. They also had stars in their lineup, such as Bo Bichette, George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (who had a down year in 2023 compared to his lofty expectations). But less often mentioned is the clutch production provided by catcher Danny Jansen, who was quietly an offensive powerhouse while Guerrero Jr., Matt Chapman and others were ice cold at the plate.

Don’t get me wrong, Danny Jansen may not be the most special player in the league, or even on the team. However, Jansen is special for his ability to hit when it’s needed most. His underwhelming .228 batting average in 2023 shoots up to .254 with runners in scoring position (RISP). Furthermore, he smashed nine of his 17 home runs with runners on base, good for 2nd on the team behind Guerrero Jr. Seven of those home runs were hit in tied ball games, indicating the clutch nature of his approach at the plate.

Aside from his plate production, which trends upwards year over year, Jansen is perhaps most impressive for his perseverance and determination, fighting through injury after injury, and still returning to play with the same fire every time. In 2023, Jansen had the misfortune of taking a foul ball off the finger, which required surgery to fix the break. The year before that, he missed a month with an oblique injury. When he returned from that injury, Jansen blasted two homers, good for six RBI, in a 28-5 embarrassment of the Boston Red Sox.

Altogether, Jansen is a player who isn’t flashy, he’s not a superstar, and he likely is not the one driving jersey sales or selling out crowds. But what he does provide is what drives teams to greatness – consistent, important production out of the spotlight when the team needs it most.

What makes baseball so great is that one good player can’t win a championship. Eight others need to take their turn at the plate, so the highly paid, superstar core may be important, but you can’t win a World Series without players like Danny Jansen pulling their weight and bringing their best.

So this piece is dedicated to the brilliant baseball fans in the UK, who have the enthusiasm to talk not only about the Ohtanis, Sotos and Trouts of the league, but the Jansens as well. Take a moment, think about your favourite team, go past the stars, and give some respect to that player batting sixth or lower, who gets little attention, but just might one day be the difference maker in a World Series.

Photo: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Sean Guest is the Chicago Cubs correspondent for Bat Flips & Nerds. You can follow him on Twitter @SW_Guest

One comment

  1. Let me add another few things about Mr. Jansen. I was vp of our local Babe Ruth league when he was 14. He and his teammates had a a ball player who lived in a car with his Dad. They let us know about this and the league provided equipment at no cost, Danny and the team provided friendship, extra practice time , help with being an accepted part of the team and just acceptance. This in my mind makes him an exceptional human being and a guy that we who were coaches and what not are very proud to say he came thru our program. He set a standard that others have tried to emulate and it cost him nothing. They did that plus he captained our all stars and they played in a world series and finished second. They played ball for 3 months that year and the Arizona team they lost to played year round every year. Thank You Danny , there is more to life than hitting 300 and throwing out everyone who tries to steal

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