Since 1977, many pitchers have taken the mound for the Jays, so the list of greats needs to be whittled down to the final four. To be considered as one of the greatest of all-time, you need to consider great individual and team seasons, length of service, and of course the contribution of the pitcher to a winning team.
Some of the players that were on the short list of greatest of all-time and would definitely get a loud round of applause from the fans during a “Flashback Friday” at the Rogers Centre included Jimmy Key, Jim Clancy, Duane Ward, Juan Guzman and the one man every Toronto fan loved when he was in a Jays uniform, but couldn’t stand when he was wearing another jersey, David Wells.
Two other pitchers made big impacts on the Jays while they were here, one contributed to a World Series title, the other won back-to-back Cy Young awards and set several single season pitching records, Jack Morris and Roger Clemens. Although, either could be considered the best pitcher to ever suit up for the Jays, neither made their home in Toronto long enough to gain the status of an all-time Jay.
Drafted by the Jays in the 1986 amateur draft, Hengten made it to the majors in 1991, and started his first game at the age of 22. Hengten pitched nine seasons in Toronto, where he was a three time All-Star, helped the team to two World Series titles (a little more in ’93 than ’92), and won the Cy Young award in 1996 when he went 20-10.
He was only the second Jay, after Jack Morris to win 20 games. Hengten is fifth on the all-time Jays win list with 107.
The Terminator as he was affectionately called by fans during his tenure as the Jays' closer from 1985 to 1991, Henke was the first big name closer the Jays ever had. After a successful rookie campaign in 1985 where he saved 13 games, he garnered Rookie-of-the-Year honor and most valuable player votes. This all came as while helping the Jays to their first division title.
A two time All-Star and closer on the 1992 World Series team, Henke did hold the single season saves record (34) and is still the all-time ERA+ (167) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.29) leader for the club.
Another life long Jay, Halladay was drafted by the Toronto in the first round of the 1995 draft and worked his way into the big leagues for good in 1998. “Doc” has been the leader of the pitching staff since his 2002 breakthrough season where he went 19-7 and earned his first of five all-star nods.
Since then, Halladay has earned his keep as the ace of the staff, winning a Cy Young award in 2003 and finishing in the top five in Cy Young voting three other times. He is quickly moving up the list in several all-time Blue Jays pitching categories (2nd in wins, 3rd in innings pitched, and 2nd in strikeouts) and will no doubt ascend to the top of the list if he continues to pitch for the double blue.
And the Greatest Jays pitcher of all-time is…
Steib was the main reason the Jays started to find success in the mid ‘80s. After making his debut in 1978, Steib was a fixture on the bump at Exhibition Stadium and Rogers Centre until 1992. He was a seven-time All-Star, was the first Jay to throw a no-hitter, and is the all-time Jays' leader in wins with 175.
Other statistics that prove Steib’s worth as one of the greats is that he led the league in ERA (2.48) and ERA + (172) in 1985 and also ERA + (145) in 1984. Steib is still the single season Jays record holder for innings pitched at 288.3 in 1982. No other player is even close and with today’s tight pitch counts and late inning specialist, it would tend to reason that no one will break his mark.
How else can you tell that Steib is one of the best Jays of all-time, they made certain he stayed a Blue Jay at his peak by making him the highest paid player in the American League in 1980 and then again from 1982 to 1984.
While some fans in Toronto may have short memories, and want to anoint the current ace as the best ever, when you look back through the years, Dave Steib is the all-time No. 1.