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…
This coming July should hold a special moment for Blue Jays fans, no matter how the team is faring on field. It should mark the second time we see someone inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with a Blue Jays cap on. Because folks, in 2019, the late great Roy Halladay should be in.
When I first started working on this piece, I actually wasn’t entirely sure of that last statement. Don’t get me wrong. Halladay was my favorite Blue Jay in his dozen years with Toronto and made me cheer on Philadelphia when he was traded. I’d say few were as elated as me when “Doc” pitched that no hitter in the NL playoffs in his first year there (2010) , but in fact I bet half of Canada was. We all loved Halladay.
That said, did his numbers really merit being in Cooperstown? If he gets elected will it be merely a pity vote due to his unfortunate and accidental death last year? The answer to those questions is A) yes he does, and B) no it wouldn’t be. Let’s examine that. And let’s keep in mind some of the starting pitchers likewise voted into the Hall this decade – Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Jack Morris – and one who missed out last year (with about 63% support), Mike Mussina.
To recap Roy’s career, he pitched in 16 major league seasons, pitched 416 games, 390 of them starts, with a 203-105 won-lost record. He hurled 2749 innings, with 2117 strikeouts to a measly 592 walks (which one notes, is fewer than 2 per start.) He completed 67 games and had 1 save to boot. Career ERA was a stellar 3.38. And of course there was the Phillies magnificence with the regular season perfect game and playoff no-hitter, only the second one of those ever tossed. In the limited time he got to appear in the post-season he was 3-2 with a 2.37 ERA over 5 starts. To point out the obvious there, big-game star that he was, he pitched more effectively (lower ERA) in the post-season than in the regular. He led the league in the K:BB ratio 5 times and innings pitched four. All that added up to 8 All Star game selections and a pair of Cy Youngs, one AL, one NL. Baseball Reference company calculate his career WAR (wins above replacement) at 64, or 4 per season.
So how do those numbers compare? Well, his career .659 winning percentage bests the likes of Greg Maddux (.610) and even Randy Johnson (.646). It was even more remarkable when you consider that Toronto, in the Halladay seasons, never made the playoffs and were basically just a .500 team – 977 wins, 966 losses. Take out his atrocious 2000 year (in which he had an ERA of over 10, leading to his demotion to single-A the beginning of the next season and a rapid ascent to the top afterwards) and his career ERA drops to 3.20.
He averaged 6 2/3 innings per start, essentially identical to Maddux and Johnson. And let’s not forget those 67 complete games. It will be a long time ,and require many changes to prevailing managing strategies for us to see the likes of that again. For comparison, Justin Verlander, as fierce a competitor as one’s likely to find on the mound these days, has 24 over 15 seasons. “Doc” went out there with the mindset that he was starting the game, he was finishing the game and his team was going to win.
His 3.6 strikeouts to a walk is a better ratio than Maddux’s or Glavine’s (Glavine was only 1.7). But perhaps the crowning achievement was the 3.38 ERA over those 16 years, most of them years when longballs and offense-is-everything philosophies were king. That number falls right between Randy Johnson (3.29) and Tom Glavine (3.54, despite pitching in the “easier” National all his career.) What’s more, his adjusted “ERA+” is 1.31, meaning his number was typically 31% better than the league average , which worked out to 4.42 during the seasons he was active. Glavine was only 18% better, Morris a piddly 5%. If you’re thinking, “well, that’s good but it’s not Bob Gibson –good” well guess what? Over his 17 years, the Cards’ superstar posted a 2.91 ERA which was only 29% better than average. Clearly all of Halladay’s stats point towards being very much Hall of fame-bound.
Is there an argument against Roy? Yep, two…and we’ll deflate both.
First, the “yes he was good, but he didn’t pitch long enough” one. I must admit, I thought this could be true. Greg Maddux pitched 23 seasons, Johnson went 22, hanging up the glove at age 45. But that old grinder Jack Morris lasted only 2 seasons more (18) and as just mentioned, one of the all-time greats, Bob Gibson only had one extra year on Halladay. And among recent position players, catcher Mike Piazza had 16 years as well and Blue Jays infield inductee Roberto Alomar, 17. We would have liked to see him hang in there for a couple more years if he felt up to it, but it’s clear 16 seasons is enough for a player with such a high level of success during them.
Last but not least, an argument I imagine many Bronx and Baltimore fans might make: Mike Mussina was good too, and missed out by about 12% of the vote last year. Mussina logged 18 seasons, going 270-153, an average of 15 wins per season and he went the distance 57 times. He’s the only recent pitcher to match Halladay in the strikeouts to walk category and had an OK ERA of 3.68, pitching exclusively in the tough AL East (an ERA we add that was .22 better than Jack Morris’). Basball reference cite Mussina for an 83 career WAR, or better than 4 wins added to his team every season.
Yes, those numbers are impressive. But when looked at in context, all it really tells us is that Mussina was likely ripped off. Somehow he didn’t have the image of a “Superstar” and enough voters must have looked at it that way to exclude him. In time, he’ll probably make it to Cooperstown… as should the late Roy Halladay.
Mariano Rivera should be in unanimously with this winter’s ballot; there are good arguments for the likes of Todd Helton … but whomever is there, we should see Brandy Halladay up on the podium next summer, representing her departed husband, and the Blue Jays organization.
Today is the final day of voting for Major League Baseball’s current nod to its past, the “Franchise Four.”
The Franchise Four, if you’re not aware, is a fan vote whereby we can pick the four greatest players ever to play for each team. Let the debates begin and armchair critics chairs become airborne.
Some franchises would appear to be relatively simple to pick. Chicago Cubs? How about Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg. Others are trickier because there is so much history; take the Yankees for instance. Maybe Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter. But it’s hard to forget Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio or Mariano Rivera. Others are difficult for the opposite reason. Try picking four greats for Tampa Bay. And there’s Washington where my guess is none of the Franchise Four ever played for the Nationals (Larry Walker, Tim Raines, Gary Carter, Steve Rogers… Montreal, you can now begin sobbing unapolagetically.)
My particular interest is , not surprisingly, the Franchise Four for the Blue Jays. Now in their 39th season, there’s a surprising number of viable options to represent Toronto. For me, three are fairly simple choices.
Carlos Delgado played for the Jays for a long time (1993- 2004) and at a high level. He is second in all-time games played for Toronto, with 1423, over which he hit a solid .283, with a club record 336 home runs- more than a hundred more than second -place Vernon Wells. He’s the alltime Jays RBI leader as well, with 1058 and second in on base percentage, behind only John Olerud, who’s tenure was much briefer.
His 145 RBI in 2003 not only led the league but is a team record that still stands. Nine years of 120+ games, a two time All Star, three time Silver Slugger. Although he doesn’t join George Bell on the list of American League MVP winners, he was the runner-up in ’03 to Alex Rodriguez who was at the time using PEDs by his own admission. Unfortunately JP Ricciardi ran him out of town prematurely and a bad back cut short what would have otherwise likely been a Hall of Fame career. He may not be Cooperstown, but he’s on the Jays “Level of Excellence” and can’t be anything other than one of the “f4.”
Roy Halladay is a no-brainer to me. First appearing at the end of 1998 in dramatic fashion (coming oh-so-close to a no-hitter on the last day of the year) and being the face of the franchise most of the time until he ended up being traded for 2010, he was always a classy individual off the diamond and a top-flight pitcher on it. Well, actually, to be accurate, he was the latter after a brief stint back in A-ball in 2001 to retool his delivery. After doing that, he was a stellar 135-62 (or a .671 winning percentage on a team that hovered around .500 continuously) with a 3.32 ERA. That’s a good ERA in any era, but remarkable in the early 2000s, when the steroids were shooting as fast as the balls were out of the parks and the league average ERA was 4.39. Add in his durability, (266 innings pitched in ’03) such as his 47 complete games and two 20-win seasons and it’s no wonder he was a six-time All Star for the Jays, their Pitcher of the Year five times and was in the top 5 for Cy Young voting four times besides the one he won in 2003. Overall he’s third in games started all-time and second in wins for Toronto. Arguably no other Blue Jay received as much attention across the league as Roy did in ’09 when rumors abounded of him being traded… until
Jose Bautista, my third pick, started hitting dingers when given the chance to play every day. Joey Bats hasn’t yet accumulated career numbers with the Jays to rival Delgado or a few others, but he’s clearly become the Face of the Franchise, and has had unparalleled popularity which continues to grow, as do his numbers. Since arriving from Pittsburgh, he’s played in 833 games and counting, and is tops of the current roster in games, hits, home runs… his 54 homers in ’10 is a team record and the 529 walks over the span is incredible and puts his OBP at .384, fourth best among all Jays. Two times leading the majors in long balls, league leader in slugging percentage in ’11, three Silver Slugger awards, five time All Star (including last year when he became the first jay ever to lead fan voting across the AL), he’s brought respect to a team often overlooked Stateside. Moreover, as noted in a blog here recently, he brings an intangible along with him. In the lineup, the team seems confident and capable of racking up huge tallies; when he’s absent, the team deflates. One might argue that he isn’t the best Blue Jay of all-time, but he probably is the best-known one… and he’s not far down the list on the talent list!
Three down, one to go. This is where it gets tricky. Certainly we can give a nod of appreciation to Mr. October (93 edition), smilin’ Joe Carter, to Vernon Wells, to the closer of the glory years, Tom Henke, but it’s hard to argue for them in the top four. It’s hard not to put Dave Stieb up there. For the entire decade of the 80s, he was among the premiere pitchers in the AL, and still leads the team in all-time wins (175), starts and innings. He also tossed our one and only no-no, in 1990, the year his win total topped out at 18. In his 16 non-consecutive year career, he only logged four games in any other uniform (with the White Sox in ’93.) He came out of retirement in 1998 to pitch out of the Jays bullpen, for lawd’s sake! A 7-time All Star, he had a great 1985 when he led the league in ERA and then started 3 games in Toronto’s first playoff series. He belongs on the Level of Excellence, where he is honored… but falls just short of the Franchise Four.
My most controversial ommission is bound to be Roberto Alomar. Alomar was charismatic and well-liked in Toronto, was a sparkplug for their back-to-back World Series wins (a .381 post-season average with the Jays, stealing 8 bases in both ’92 and ’93 playoffs and of course, being remembered for one memorable homer off Dennis Eckersley that turned the team’s fortunes around in the ALCS) and won five Gold Gloves in his time in Toronto. From ’91 to ’93 he had at least 170 hits a season, and his .326 average in ’93 was third best on the club… and third best in the league! And let’s not forget, he is the only person in the Hall of Fame depicted wearing a Jays cap.
For all that, as much as I loved watching him turn the double play and appreciate his contribution to the success of the early ’90s team, i find it hard to put a player who only played for the club for five years up there with players who contributed much longer. His 703 games doesn’t even crack the top 30 on Jays all-time.
No, my pick for the final member of the Franchise Four is another middle-infielder with remarkable dexterity and speed…Tony Fernandez. If ever there was a player who bled blue jays blue, it’s Tony. After all, he started his career with Toronto in 1983, was disappointed to be traded to San Diego after 1990, and returned for three more stints in Ontario, eventually retiring a Jay in 2001. His 1450 games played is far and away most by anyone in a Jays uniform, and his 1583 hits in those games is likewise tops. Although not a power hitter, his 613 RBI ranks him sixth. In 1986, he managed to play in 163 games; four years later he led the majors with a team-record 17 triples. Eight times he stole bases in double digits and he sported a nifty .298 average over his many years of Blue Jaydom. Four-time All Star, four Gold Gloves, four years in the AL Top Ten in hitting. In 1999, at age 37 he managed to hit .328 and drive in 75 runs for the team he’d just rejoined. Happily he managed to get a World Series ring with the ’93 club after being traded back from New York midseason. It’s worth noting that he managed to collect 10 RBI in 12 games that post-season. Tony , like Halladay, was always polite and classy off the field and brought goodwill to the club through his charity work.
So there you have it : Delgado, Halladay, Bautista, Fernandez. My Blue Jays Franchise Four. Have you picked yours yet?