All sports fans love to reminisce to the good old days, maybe it was a better period or span of time for their favourite or local team or quite possibly it was just a simpler and more carefree time in their own lives. Whatever the reasons nothing gets the argumentative juices flowing like a good old fashioned ‘All-Time Top 5’ list – let’s get our own going.
I decided to embark on a new five part series in which we will debate and argue the merits of the top five Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays as well as the top five overall athletes in Toronto sports history and finally as a contrast we will do the top ten athletes currently residing in the ‘Big Smoke’. Feel free to comment and please post your own opinion on any of the top five lists, I am sure there will be seriously differing opinions across the board and people definitely place a different emphasis on things like winning, personal stats and overall impact on the city.
Part III – Top 5 Blue Jays of all time
Part IV – Top 5 Toronto Sports Athletes of all time
Part V – Top 10 Current Toronto Athletes
Part III – Top Five All-Time Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays have been around since 1977 and for a team in a sport with deep, rich history have had a pretty impressive 30+ years of tradition, winning and excellence. Their record is currently 2654 wins and 2691 losses for a .497 winning percentage (ranking 15th in baseball history among current teams) and their back-to-back World Series titles give them as many championships as the storied franchises in Philadelphia, New York (Mets) and Chicago (Cubs). In fact, there are currently eight teams in the MLB that have not even won a single championship, for a relatively junior franchise, the fan base of this team has been spoiled with the five AL East titles and two World Series championships.
Sure there have been numerous ups and downs just like any other franchise but the team has also had its lion’s share of impressive talent come and go over the years and of the three major sports teams (Maple Leafs, Raptors and Jays) this was by far the toughest list to not only compile but to ultimately finalize the overall rankings and I probably had about 3-4 change of heart moments before settling on the list I am about to unveil. Let’s get to it.
Can you believe Vernon Wells is currently playing in his 12th major league season (all with the Toronto Blue Jays)? Wells inclusion on a Top Five All-Time list might surprise a few people (myself included) but let me tell you (and show you) he deserves it. The right handed centre-fielder currently ranks 4th in games played, 2nd in runs scored, 2nd in total hits, 2nd in homeruns, 2nd in RBIs and by season’s end will rank 1st in doubles. Throw in 3 All-Star appearances, 3 gold gloves and a silver slugger and yeah, there you have it.
Drafted 5th overall by the Jays in the 1997 Amateur draft, Wells quickly rose up the Jays ladder and by the end of 2002 was the Blue Jays full-time centre-fielder and outside a few injury-riddled seasons has provided the Jays a ton of value with plus defense and good power from a premium position. Since 2003 Wells has hit 23, 33, 23, 28, 32, 16, 20, 15, 22 HRs respectively and owns a very solid .472 SLG% for his career. Outside of his massive contract extension, Vernon Wells has been one of the greatest Blue Jays to ever play.
Not including the all-time Jays leader in hits would be a disgrace to one of the most loyal, hard working and beloved Blue Jays of all time in Tony Fernandez. Fernandez ranks 1st in game played 1st in total hits, 4th in runs scored, 6th in RBIs, 4th in BBs, 4th in stolen bases and has a 297/353/412 triple slash line with the Jays. Impressive statistics for a middle infielder in the late 1980s and early 1990s Fernandez was a 5 time All-star and 4 time gold glove winner and had three different (successful) stints with the team over his 17 year playing career.
Signed by the team in 1979 as a 17-year old out of the Dominican Republic Fernandez was the Jays fulltime starting shortstop by 1985 and one of the most consistent and steady contributors on and off the field before being dealt away in 1990 (with Fred McGriff for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar) before the ‘Championship’ years, that deal was integral for the Jays two titles (obviously) that has to be worth a few extra brownie points.
#3 – 1B Carlos Delgado, born June 25th, 1972 in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Delgado played 12 seasons with 1423 games, 1413 hits, 336 homeruns, 1058 RBIs and 889 runs scored. Ranking 1st in homeruns, RBIs, extra-base hits, run scored, total bases, on-base & slugging percentage and base on balls over a span of 12 extremely productive seasons (including two MVP seasons in 2000 and 2003, damned the writers) with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Signed by the team out of Puerto Rico as a 16 year old Delgado came up through the system as a top catching prospect but was quickly moved full-time to first base as it became evident the bat was too valuable to waste on a player with borderline defensive capabilities as a backstop. Delgado burst onto the Toronto sports scene as a 22 year old in 1994 with 9 HRs in the final month or so of the season and all signs pointed to him becoming the teams fulltime starting first basemen the next season in 1995 but Delgado struggled out of the gate and it was not until 1996 that he finally took over for good.
Delgado never looked back and was the Jays best hitter year after year and now in franchise history, since 1996 he has cranked 25, 30, 38, 44, 41, 39, 33, 43 and 32 homeruns respectively, all while drawing his fair share of free passes, playing adequate defense at first and managing to stay out of the whole steroids controversy.
Delgado put together an MVP calibre season in the 2000 season batting 344/470/664 with 57 doubles, 41 HRs and 137 RBIs but finished 4th in voting (behind two admitted steroid users Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez). In 2003 he hit a robust 302/426/593 with 42 HRs and 145 RBIs and finished 2nd in the MVP vote to, you guessed it, Alex Rodriguez (just more reasons for Jays’ fans to dislike him).
Delgado was a monster for the Blue Jays and the best hitter to ever play for the team, by a wide margin. Delgado was not re-signed when his contract ran out and the Jays were experiencing severe budgetary limitations, however after his departure he still went on to have four more extremely productive power seasons (33, 38, 23 & 38 HRs) until chronic injuries eventually caught up with him though he recently signed with the Boston Red Sox on a tryout basis.
#1 – SP Dave Stieb, born July 22nd, 1957 in Santa Ana, California.
Halladay or Stieb – was there any doubt in who would battle it out for the top spot in Blue Jays history? These are the two preeminent players in franchise history who have now become the benchmark to which young Blue Jays hurlers are compared to. Halladay was drafted in the 1st round in 1998 (15th overall) while Stieb was drafted in the 5th round in 1978. Stieb found almost instant success, Halladay had to be remade. Stieb was a fly ball pitcher; Halladay was a ground ball pitcher. Stieb was more guts than stuff; Halladay is the model of pitching efficiency and mechanics.
Though Dave Stieb was a poor man’s version of Jack Morris and Roy Halladay is on an almost certain path to Hall of Fame greatness, they were both great, for the Toronto Blue Jays. Stieb was a 7-time All-Star, ditto Halladay however ‘Doc’ also took home a Cy Young Award and was close on several other occasions.
Take a look at some numbers and how the two stack up against each other:
Some of their other ratio’s compared:
This of course is not to argue who the best overall pitcher is, as that is a competition easily won by Roy Halladay, one of the best pitchers of the past 25 years, but more to argue which pitcher in fact contributed more to the Blue Jays organization during their respective tenure with the team. For this list, considering that Stieb started 121 more games, pitched 826+ more innings (roughly 4 seasons worth of innings for Halladay based on his track record) and won 27 more ballgames than Roy Halladay I have to rank Dave Stieb as the best all-time Blue Jays pitcher (and player) in team history, though it was obviously not an easy selection. Historical WAR numbers peg Stieb worth approx 50 wins above replacement while Halladay put up around 55 wins above replacement during his time with the Blue Jays.
Roy Halladay’s overall excellence and superior statistics to Stieb all while pitching in the “steroid era” rank him an extremely close second. Halladay pitched in an exceptionally more difficult offensive environment against far superior versions of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox and in an era where complete games have gone by the waist side threw a complete game 17% of his starts, Stieb was roughly 25% in an era that promoted the pitcher finishing what he started. Halladay’s incomparable stats across the board almost tilted the ranking in his favour and Roy’s winning percentage of .661 alone was almost enough to give him the nod, almost.
So there you have it, my top five All-Time Toronto Blue Jays players are 5) Vernon Wells, 4) Tony Fernandez, 3) Carlos Delgado, 2) Roy Halladay and #1 was Dave Stieb.
Up next I will take a look at the Top Five Athletes in Toronto Sports history, with the list based around talent and overall greatness with less emphasis on tenure alone.