So, instead of focussing on tonight’s shellacking to Houston, let’s look back on some of the good Jays days of the past. In the spirit of the All Star Game, I present to you the All Time Blue Jays All Star Team. The best of the best over the first 42 Toronto years…Last time we looked at Ernie Whitt and Carlos Delgado. Tonight, we move around the diamond for two more “no brainers”.
It would be hard not to name Alomar on the All-time Jays team given that as of now, he’s the one and only person you’ll see honored in Cooperstown wearing a Blue Jays cap. Yet, that doesn’t mean I didn’t pause to consider this one. It’s by no means worth suggesting Alomar wasn’t great with Toronto, but it does bear noting he only played five years here. That said, the brief greatness of Aaron Hill or the very decent but less-than-spectacular long years put in by Damaso Garcia in the early days don’t match up to Robbie.
Alomar came up with San Diego in 1988 and came over to the Jays in the winter of 1990, in perhaps the biggest trade in Blue Jays history. As soon as he arrived (along with Joe Carter), the team’s prospects rose, with them winning the AL East for the first three seasons after, and of course, the two World Series wins in ’92-93. Alomar played for Toronto only 1991-95, but that was still a longer stretch than he put in with any of his other teams before he retired after 2004. He had no hesitation going into the Hall of Fame representing Toronto, which has to win him some added respect in Canada!
A career .300 hitter and the only 10 time Gold Glove winner at second base in MLB history had some decent years with Cleveland and Baltimore, he played his greatest games with Toronto. In his five years in Jays’ blue (Gold Glove each season) , he hit .307 with 206 stolen bases, 342 RBI and an .833 OPS. In the ’93 championship season, he hit .326 with 93 RBI and a .900 OPS. He was fast, he was smart, he could lay down a bunt like few others then or now.But there was more to him than that.
Alomar was brash, confident, some might say “cocky”, and was the defacto team captain in the Championship years. He has a career .313 average in the post season, in the Jays tenure it was .373. Never was he bigger than the 1992 ALCS, in which he hit a homer against (equally cocky) Dennis Eckersley effectively sinking the A’s and making Roberto the series MVP. Going 11 for 26 with 5 steals in 6 games will do that!
Then there was the glove. Alomar had range and grace like few other middle infielders – hence the Gold Gloves – despite the absolutely impossible to explain Baseball-Reference calculation that show him as being a negative dWAR during those five years (which is to say they feel his defence cost the team games compared to if he was replaced with a minor leaguer!). Which surely tells more about the computations that result in the “WAR” statistic than they do about Robbie! Because those of us who remember seeing Alomar play second know how good he was and are not going to believe that opponents would rather see him out there than some no-name minor league player!
A player similar to but also the polar opposite of Alomar. A great, Latin American defensive star.Unlike Alomar however, Fernandez seemed a little introverted and was taken for being aloof and unfriendly although those who knew him would suggest he was probably just shy and not too comfortable speaking in English.
Mr. Blue Jay seemed to play just about forever, and was much-traveled but played his best for, and always seemed to come home to, Toronto. The lanky Dominican (6’2”, generally around 160 pounds through most of his career) came up with the team just as they were getting competitive, in 1983, and played through 1990 after which he was traded to San Diego (for Alomar etc, see above). He came back from the Mets mid-season 1993 to give the team a post-season boost, played with them again in ’98-99 before finishing his big league career here at the tail end of 2001. When all was said and done, he was the team’s all-time leader in games (1450), hits (1583) and triples (72) and he was a four time All Star. His 17 triples in ’90 was a single season high for them as was his 16 pinch hits, when pushing 40 years old, in 2001. He had six .300 years with them, none more memorable than 1999, when at age 37 he carried a .400 almost to the All Star break (he dropped below .400 in game 79). During the regular seasons he hit .297 with Toronto but during the post-seasons, he rose to the occasion as greats do, hitting .333 with 29 hits and drove in 13 through 24 games.
While late in his career he was shifted to third base, where he was average, in his prime he was a graceful shortstop with great range as well, winning Gold Gloves in 1986-89 inclusively, after committing only 6 errors in 140 games in 1985.
Alomar and Fernandez, two very different but also strikingly similar middle infielders who were huge pieces of the puzzle that was Blue Jays’ World Series. Next up, we’ll look at the other infield position…