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The Flip Side: John Jaso

In which we use advanced forensic techniques to identify the play captured on a baseball card photo

John Jaso remains a beloved former-Ray (even if Tropicana Field ushers feel differently) whose left-handed bat and laid back attitude were a key part of the 2010 team.

A 12th round selection by the Devil Rays in the 2003 draft, Jaso quickly provided the team with reasons to be excited by him as he showed a knack for working hard at bats and a propensity for getting on base. His defense was well behind his offensive capabilities, but Jaso worked hard to improve upon his abilities behind the plate. He did also suffer some ailments during his ascent through the Rays system, but was not deterred and reached the big leagues by the end of the 2008 season.

In 2009, the Rays pushed Jaso into further improving his defense to stick as a catcher, or upping his offense enough to serve as a designated hitter. He spent all of the 2009 season in the minor leagues, but once the calendar turned to 2010, Jaso became one of the Rays leading offensive contributors and registered a 115 wRC+, mostly serving out of the leadoff spot. However, his defense was still considered to be among the worst in baseball.

Jaso struggled in 2011 and produced -1.3 fWAR over just 89 games. The Rays decided to cut ties with the catcher and traded him to the Seattle Martiners for Josh Lueke; with the Mariners, Jaso enjoyed the best season of his big league career, accruing 2.0 fWAR.

From 2013 to 2017, Jaso played with three different organizations, sandwiching the Rays between the Athletics and Pirates. His days behind the plate came to an end during his tenure in Oakland after he suffered multiple concussions. He rejoined the Rays in 2015 as an outfielder and DH, but he was injured during the first game of the season after diving into second base and sprained his left wrist, sidelining him for half of the 2015 campaign.

After his two seasons with the Pirates, Jaso retired from the game and announced his decision to sail all around the world on a sailboat.

Now, onto the baseball card.

This is 2012 Topps #271 featuring John Jaso from the 2011 season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Early context clues make is easy to figure out when this moment was captured by the photographer for Topps.

The Rays are obviously the away team, evidenced by Jaso being attired in the dark navy blue uniforms. We are able to discern that they are playing in New York, with the player at the dish wearing Yankee pinstripes.

However, there is another important detail to note about the above picture. The Yankee player at the plate has a patch sewn into his uniform. The patch was to pay tribute to the late, legendary owner of the Yankees, George Steinbrenner, who passed away in July, 2010. The Yankees wore the patch on their uniforms through the rest of the 2010 season, but left if off once the 2011 season commenced, meaning that even though this card is from 2012, the picture was taken during the 2010 season.

During the 2010 season, Jaso was behind the plate at Yankee Stadium a total of five times, but only four of those came during the time the Yankees wore the Steinbrenner patch: July 17th-18th, and September 20th-21st.

Only twice during those four appearances did Jaso make a play on a ball at the plate, and both of those came during the contest on September 20th.

One of the plays was a groundball from Brett Gardner, in which Jaso easily threw out the speedy Yankee outfielder.

The other play came during the bottom of the fourth with Alex Rodriguez leading off the frame against Matt Garza.

With a 1-0 count, Rodriguez knicked a slider from Garza and hit it straight down.

The ball danced harmlessly around in front of the plate as Rodriguez remained in the box not quite sure what to do. He started to run, then stopped and just stared down at the ball as Jaso quickly swiveled around him to scoop it up.

Once realizing the ball was fair and he would easily be tagged out, Rodriguez seemingly tried a last ditch effort to toss his bat down at the ball to make it go foul, or to make it a dead ball, or something.

Jaso quickly barehanded the ball before the bat was able to make contact and he placed a swift tag to Rodriguez’s chest for the out.

That is the moment that was captured on the baseball card.