The Toronto Blue Jays Mount Rushmore is the fifth in a series revealing the top four players for each franchise as selected by writers and fans.
Canada’s sole remaining (for now) major league team has accomplished much in its 45-year big league history. The club won back-to-back World Series with another six postseason appearances. Along the way, Toronto has featured some of the game’s biggest stars, including three Golden Hallers (one with a plurality of his games in a Blue Jays uniform).
What defines a franchise?
Toronto has fielded a professional baseball team since 1885. As was common in the early days of the professional game, the original club adopted the simple nickname of the Torontos. Subsequent monikers included the Canucks, Royals, and Maple Leafs before settling on the Blue Jays.
Most historians and fans count these as distinct entities.
For the purposes of this series, however, OTH is embracing the idea that these iterations are one club telling a shared story. These teams represented Toronto in professional baseball. They played with Toronto written proudly on their uniforms. They share a common fanbase that enjoyed successes and lamented failures.
This series of articles serves, in part, as an attempt to recapture the legacy of those earlier teams. OTH recognizes that while an owner may move the corporate structure, the legacy belongs to the fans and the city for which the team played.
The NBA and NFL have recognized the validity behind this line of thinking. The modern Charlotte Hornets inherited the legacy of the Hornets that moved to New Orleans. The modern Cleveland Browns inherited the legacy of the Browns that moved to Baltimore. Now Rob Manfred and MLB need to do the same.
1885 in the minors; 1977 in the majors
- Torontos (1885)
- Canucks (1886-1895, 1897-1898, 1900)
- Royals (1901)
- Maple Leafs (1896, 1899, 1902-1967)
- Blue Jays (1977-2021)
World Series (2)
American League pennants (2)
Junior World Series (2)
International League pennants (11)
Toronto Blue Jays Mount Rushmore
After counting votes from OTH writers and baseball fans, here are the top four players in Toronto Blue Jays history.
- Toronto Years: 1998-2009
- Toronto Stats: 48.4 WAR, 3.43 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 1.198 WHIP, 1,495 K
Perhaps the most impressive item to consider in Roy Halladay’s storied career is his bounce back from the disastrous 2000 season. Doc set a major league record for worst earned run average by a pitcher with 50 or more innings thrown. His 10.64 ERA seemed like a potential end to his career after a promising start in 1998-1999. Demoted, his problems continued with the Syracuse SkyChiefs, posting a 5.50 ERA. Working with pitching coach Mel Queen, Halladay adopted what is quite often a successful long-term strategy for a pitcher: giving up reliance on strength and the fastball to gain control, movement, and deception.
These adjustments more than worked and allowed Halladay to become a workhouse. He led his league in innings pitched four times, thrice with the Blue Jays, and complete game seven times, five times with Toronto. His 2008 WHIP and strikeout-walk ratio were the best in the majors that season on his way to a second-place Cy Young Award vote. The Coloradan won two Cy Youngs and received votes in another five campaigns.
- Toronto Years: 1979-1992, 1998
- Toronto Stats: 56.9 WAR, 3.42 ERA, 1,658 K, 1.241 WHIP, 3.82 FIP
Pitchers that talk to themselves on the mound are all too rare. There is just something about watching an athlete speaking loudly to no one but himself in a stadium full of fans that conjures up observer reactions that question his sanity while simultaneously recognizing his complete commitment to the game and task before him. Dave Stieb was one such pitcher, and he was able to translate this intensity into success north of the border.
The Californian became arguably the first big league star in Toronto. Joining the club just two years after its entry into the American League, Stieb was a predecessor workhouse to Halladay, pitching inning after inning and twice leading the league in innings pitched and once in complete games. Though Stieb was not part of the World Series-winning team, he did earn Most Valuable Player Award votes in three campaigns and Cy Young Award votes in four seasons.
- Toronto Years: 1991-1995
- Toronto Stats: 22.3 WAR, .307/.382/.451, 206 SB, 152 2B
Roberto Alomar played a critical role in Toronto’s only two World Series titles. Slashing a sublime .423/.464/.692 in the 1992 AL Championship Series, Alomar earned series MVP honors in the Blue Jays’ victory over Oakland. While his subsequent World Series performance was adequate at best, he did provide a crucial game-tying home run in game four. His 1993 return proved his on-the-diamond worth. The Puerto Rican slashed .480/.519/.640 on the way to Toronto’s repeat championships.
- Toronto Years: 2008-2017
- Toronto Stats: 38.3 WAR, .253/.372/.506, 288 HR, 2,210 TB
Jose Bautista ushered in a new era of joy and exuberance in Major League Baseball. Though he met fierce resistance, increasingly gone are the days where home runs hitters are expected to circle the bases in stoic fashion. Instead, today’s sluggers can celebrate their successes, enliven the crowds, and commence the joyous moment with a flip of the bat.
Along the way, the Dominican led the majors twice in home runs, led the American League twice in walks, and the majors once each in adjusted on-base-plus-slugging percentage, total bases, slugging, and OPS. Bautista received MVP votes four times and posted a .904 OPS in postseason play.
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