Ranking the 10 Greatest Toronto Blue Jays Moments Since the 1993 World Series
We all know what the two greatest moments in Toronto Blue Jays history are.
But in the nearly twenty years since the Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, the team has failed to reach the postseason and achieve the same level of success the organization enjoyed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Not since the franchise's defining moment when Joe Carter hit his game-winning home run off Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series have the Blue Jays experienced a similar moment of euphoria and great magnitude.
However, the last two decades of Blue Jays baseball has not been without its share of exciting moments, amazing individual performances, and impressive team achievements. Of course, nothing compares to making the playoffs, but these moments of the last 20 years are deserving of some praise and will be reminisced here.
It is important to note the word "moment" is not used in a literal sense. Some moments will be more than just a single play or a split-second moment in time and will encapsulate entire games, seasons, and players' careers. But all of these moments symbolize some form of success achieved by the organization over the last two decades.
As we appear to be on the horizon of a new era of Blue Jays baseball in 2013, I'll look back on what I consider to be the 10 greatest moments since the Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.
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Although the last 19 seasons have not been overloaded with incredible moments of Blue Jays baseball, there were enough noteworthy instances to fill a top-10 list and then some. Although these moments did not make the top 10, I thought they still deserved to be recognized.
Joe Carter wins AL Player of the Month after setting MLB record with 31 RBIs, April 30, 1994
Coming off back-to-back World Series titles, Blue Jays fans had no idea they were embarking on a 19-season playoff drought. Joe Carter picked up in 1994 right where he left off in 1993 by showing why he was one of the best sluggers in team history.
Carter set a then-MLB record by driving in 31 runs in the month of April en route to being named the American League Player of the Month. There was even talk he might break Hack Wilson's single-season RBI record.
Don't think winning the AL Player of the Month is that impressive of a feat? Just consider that no Blue Jay would win the award for another 16 seasons, until Jose Bautista accomplished the same feat in July 2010.
Blue Jays' only 2nd place finish in the Wild-Card Era, October 1, 2006
When your team doesn't make the playoffs for 19 seasons, the best you can hope for is a second-place finish in your division. Unfortunately for Blue Jays fans, that has only happened once since the creation of the new American League East.
In 2006, coming off an offseason in which the franchise made a big splash in free agency by signing A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan and trading for Troy Glaus, the Blue Jays had their best regular-season finish.
Generally, no one remembers who finished in second, but at the time it was a significant achievement for a team who had finished third or worst for 12 straight seasons and appeared to be on the precipice of success.
Of course that success never came, but the team could take some pride in pulling ahead of a Red Sox team that was just two years removed from winning the World Series.
J.P. Arencibia hits two home runs in Major League debut, August 7, 2010
Perhaps the most impressive Major League debut by a hitter in Blue Jays history belongs to J.P. Arencibia. In his first-ever game in a Toronto uniform, the catcher went 4-for-5 with two home runs, three runs scored, and three RBI. He even homered on the first pitch he saw in his Major League career.
According to MLB.com, Arencibia became the first player since 1900 to have two home runs and four hits in his first-ever Major League game. It was a historic performance and one that keyed a 17-11 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in one of the most exciting games of the last five years.
Tom Cheek posthumously receives Ford C. Frick Award, December 5, 2012
The voice of the Blue Jays, Tom Cheek, was posthumously awarded the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence in 2012, after appearing as a finalist for the award in seven straight seasons.
Though Cheek, who passed away in 2005, wasn't alive to receive the honor personally, it was a very touching moment for Blue Jays fans who grew up listening to him call the first 4,306 games in Blue Jays history.
Cheek was there for the very first game in franchise history on April 7, 1977 and didn't miss a single game right up through June 2, 2004. No Blue Jay fan will ever forget hearing his call as Joe Carter rounded the bases to clinch a World Series victory in 1993.
Nos. 9 and 10
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No. 10: Frank Thomas hits 500th career home run, June 28, 2007
Although Frank Thomas's career as a Blue Jay wasn't very long and ended in tumultuous fashion, the future Hall of Famer had a very productive and memorable debut season in Toronto in 2007.
The most memorable game came on June 28, 2007, when The Big Hurt became the 21st player in Major League Baseball history to hit 500 career home runs. He became the first player to join the elite club as a Blue Jay, and it was one of the most career-defining home runs in team history.
Though the Blue Jays went on to lose the game to the Twins, Blue Jays fans got to witness perhaps the greatest moment in the career of one of the greatest natural hitters of the last 25 years.
He may go into the Hall as a member of the White Sox one day, but his greatest career milestone came as a Blue Jay that day in 2007.
No. 9: Roger Clemens becomes first pitcher to win five Cy Young Awards, November 17, 1998
This is one of those moments that encapsulated more than just the moment itself. Roger Clemens spent just two seasons as a Blue Jay but may have had the two greatest single-season pitching performances in franchise history during his time in Toronto.
Winning his second Cy Young in as many seasons exemplified just how good Roger Clemens was as a member of the Blue Jays. It also served as another historic moment in baseball history as Clemens then became the first pitcher to ever win five Cy Young Awards.
Before he forced his way out of Toronto with a trade and later became reviled by many fans for his alleged involvement in PEDs, Clemens had one of the greatest two-year spans of pitching in modern baseball history.
Clemens began his Blue Jay career with an 11-0 start in 1997, en route to winning his first Cy Young and, according to Baseball-Reference, both of his seasons in Toronto rank in the top three all-time in single-season WAR for a pitcher in franchise history.
Although Clemens' tenure with the team ended not long after, winning his record-setting fifth Cy Young award of his career and back-to-back Cy Young awards in Toronto in 1998 symbolized just how historically good Clemens was as a Blue Jay.
Nos. 7 and 8
No. 8: Brandon Morrow's 17-strikeout, complete game one-hitter vs. Rays, August 8, 2010
Perhaps the greatest single-game pitching performance in franchise history occurred just over two years ago when Brandon Morrow put together a virtuoso outing against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The numbers speak for themselves. Morrow struck out 17 batters while allowing one hit and throwing a complete game shutout at the Rogers Centre. Morrow's only allowed hit came in the ninth inning with two outs—one out shy of a no-hitter—when Evan Longoria hit a sharp single to right field.
Other than that last-minute hit to break up the no-hitter and two walks allowed, Morrow was nearly perfect on the day. According to Bill James' "Game Score"—a metric that grades individual starts by a pitcher—Morrow's historic showing ranked as the fourth-best pitching performance since 1920.
Morrow may have had his best season in 2012, but the best pitching performance of his career—and possibly in Blue Jays' history—came on that fateful day in 2010.
No. 7: Roy Halladay wins American League Cy Young Award, November 12, 2003
The greatest Blue Jays pitcher since the 1993 World Series—and arguably the greatest Blue Jay of all over the last two decades—is Roy Halladay.
On what was a solid Blue Jays team in 2003, Halladay was the most valuable player, according to Baseball-Reference, posting a 7.7 WAR.
The Blue Jays went 86-76 under Carlos Tosca that year, but Roy Halladay frequently carried the team on his back that season, throwing 266 innings of ace-quality pitching. Halladay went 22-7 in 2003 with a 3.25 ERA and an amazing 202/34 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He was rewarded with the first Cy Young Award of his illustrious career after the season on November 12, 2003.
Though his award-winning season wasn't defined by one particular moment, getting crowned as the AL's Cy Young winner symbolized just how effective and reliable Halladay was and how instrumental he was to the team's success in 2003.
Of all the great seasons Halladay gave the Blue Jays, 2003 may have been the best of them all, and the day he won his only Cy Young in Toronto was perhaps the greatest moment in a very great Blue Jay career.
Nos. 5 and 6
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No. 6: 2,000th win in Blue Jays franchise history, August 19, 2002
The Blue Jays defeated the Royals in a 2-0 game on August 19, 2002. The game itself was nothing special. The teams were a combined 42 games under .500 and both far removed from playoff contention by that point in the season.
Pete Walker, who is currently the Blue Jays' pitching coach, threw seven innings of shutout ball, and Kelvim Escobar recorded a dicey save. It would not have been a memorable game if it weren't for the fact that it was the 2,000th win in Blue Jays franchise history.
Although it was a simple milestone that didn't differ much from the 1,999th win or the 2,001st win in team history, it was symbolic of the success the franchise had in its 25-year existence up until that point.
That win—pushing the franchise over the 2,000 mark—was a victory every member of the organization, from Doug Ault and the 1977 squad through Vernon Wells and the 2002 squad, could celebrate.
It was a win that was earned through the struggling teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the glory years of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the competitive but playoff-less squads of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
No. 5: Blue Jays acquire four veterans in blockbuster trade with Marlins, November 13, 2012
Depending on what the Blue Jays do in 2013 and the combined impact of the players acquired, this trade could one day rank much higher on a list of definitive moves that reshaped Toronto Blue Jays team history.
Right now, however, it still ranks as a great trade that catalyzed what should be a new and improved era in Blue Jays baseball.
On November 13, 2012, GM Alex Anthopoulos acquired shortstop Jose Reyes, starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, utility infielder Emilio Bonifacio, and catcher John Buck for a bevy of top prospects.
The trade drastically improved the franchise's chances of ending their playoff drought in the immediate future, and without the trade, the Blue Jays may have never gone out and acquired outfielder Melky Cabrera and reigning National League Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey.
The Blue Jays were starting to stagnate under John Farrell, and this injection of veteran talent has seemingly energized the fanbase and revitalized the organization. The organization desperately needed to go in a new direction, and this massive haul provided that opportunity.
This trade may be what ushers in a new phase where the Blue Jays reinvent themselves as playoff contenders, which is why it deserves top-five placement in the franchise's greatest moments of the last two decades.
No. 4: Roy Halladay's Final Month as a Blue Jay, September 2009
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Not surprisingly, Roy Halladay reappears on this list—this time for his accomplishments in his final month as a Toronto Blue Jay.
This is a great "moment" given what Halladay accomplished and how it culminated his fantastic career in the organization, but it is also a bittersweet moment for Jays fans.
Many of us fully expected Halladay would be traded after the 2009 season, which made us appreciate even more his last remaining starts as a Blue Jay that year. We knew Halladay was probably leaving the organization, and he showed us exactly how much we would be miss him over the last month of the season.
That month—September 2009—was one of many brilliant months of pitching by Halladay, but it was also mesmerizing baseball for a fanbase that knew it was on the verge of losing the best pitcher that many of them had witnessed during their fandom.
Halladay started the month off with a one-hit, complete game shutout against a red-hot Yankees team (that would go on to win the World Series). It was a masterful performance that rivals Brandon Morrow's aforementioned one-hitter as the greatest individual pitching performance in franchise history.
The Yankees came in having won seven straight, but Halladay shut them down and made it look easy. He allowed one double to Ramiro Pena and three walks, while striking out nine and did so in efficient fashion, throwing only 111 pitches.
Three more solid September starts later, Halladay made his final start as a Blue Jay in the Rogers Centre against the Seattle Mariners. Predictably, it was another unstoppable performance in which Halladay threw a complete-game shutout, striking out nine without walking a single batter.
Finally, in his very last as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Halladay went into Fenway and silenced the big bats of the Boston Red Sox, with yet another complete-game shutout. This time, Halladay allowed only three hits while striking out six and ended his Blue Jay career in incredible fashion.
Roy Halladay will never be forgotten by the Blue Jay faithful, and we'll all remember how he ended his tenure in the organization by doing what we became so accustomed to him doing throughout his Blue Jay career—dominating opposing lineups and finishing games.
No. 3: Blue Jays Acquire Jose Bautista for PTNBL, August 21, 2008
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The jury is still out on the blockbuster deal that netted the Blue Jays four veteran players from the Marlins this offseason, but no one is going to question just how great of a deal the organization pulled off with the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2008.
On that date, the Blue Jays acquired a well-traveled hitter who had yet to achieve much success in the majors by the name of Jose Bautista. The cost was a player to be named later. That player became Robinzon Diaz, who has since recorded only 129 at-bats in his Major League career.
In that span, however, Jose Bautista has quickly climbed the ranks of the greatest hitters in Blue Jays history. In 536 games as a Blue Jay, Bautista has racked up 140 home runs and 342 RBI while becoming one of the most feared right-handed power hitters in the game. He is also currently second all-time in SLG and OPS in franchise history.
Bautista has become the heart and soul of both the lineup and the clubhouse. We saw how much the team missed him after his wrist injury last season and just how much of a game changer he can be when he's in the lineup.
He is, almost indisputably, the most valuable player on the Blue Jays, and the organization's hopes of ending their playoff drought in 2013 hinge more on him than any other player.
And all that it cost the Blue Jays to acquire their biggest and brightest superstar was a player to be named later—a career minor-league catcher. The deal has already paid dividends but could become indelibly-etched in the annals of Blue Jays history if he can lead the team back to the postseason for the first time in nearly 20 years this season.
No. 2: Carlos Delgado's Four Home-Run Game, September 25, 2003
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There may be some debate as to what is the greatest single-game pitching performance, given the impressive one-hitters thrown by Brandon Morrow and Roy Halladay (and even, Dustin McGowan).
However, there should be no debate as to what is the greatest single-game hitting performance by a Toronto Blue Jay since the start of the 1994 season. That honor goes to Carlos Delgado, who on September 25, 2003, became only the 15th player in Major League history to slug four home runs in one game.
With just four games remaining on the 2003 schedule, Delgado went a perfect 4-for-4, hitting four home runs and scoring four runs. He also drove in six runs, just to break up the numerical monotony. His historic offensive performance led the Blue Jays to an exciting 10-8 win over Tampa Bay on that memorable night.
Delgado became the only player in franchise history to hit four home runs in a game, and though the game was not otherwise relevant, some fans reminisce about the night as one of the greatest in Blue Jays history.
When a single-game performance is so momentous, historic, and dominating—even if the game was a meaningless September game—it deserves placement near the top of almost any greatest moments list.
Delgado, like Halladay, would leave shortly after a pinnacle, defining moment in his career as he joined the Marlins after the following season. But before he left, he gave the Blue Jays and their fans one of the most memorable individual batting performances in franchise history.
No. 1: Roberto Alomar Inducted into the Hall of Fame, January 5, 2011
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The greatest moment for the Blue Jays organization and its fans over the last two decades since their last World Series title didn't happen on the field or the club house or even in the front office. It didn't even happen in Toronto.
It happened in Cooperstown, New York when Roberto Alomar became the first player to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Toronto Blue Jay.
The man responsible for so many big plays during the Blue Jays' title years—including the famous catch in Game 1 of the 1993 World Series and game-tying, momentum-changing home run in Game 4 of the 1992 ALCS—was rewarded for a brilliant career by getting elected into the Hall of Fame in his second time on the ballot.
Alomar's career spanned seven Major League teams, but his longest stint came with the Blue Jays from 1991-1995 and earned him the only two World Series rings of his career. During those 1992 and 1993 championship runs, he was just as integral to the team's success as any other Blue Jay.
Alomar may not have been the most likeable player to ever put on a Blue Jays jersey, but no one disputes that he is one of the greatest second basemen of all-time and if not for his contributions in the early 1990s, the franchise may have never achieved the level of success that it did.
So while Alomar's induction to the Hall of Fame was a tribute to his well-traveled career, it was also a very exciting, nostalgic moment for Blue Jays fans who have longed for a return to playoff baseball.
After three-and-a-half decades of baseball in Toronto, the organization was finally able to celebrate one of its own entering Cooperstown and becoming a part of baseball immortality. That is a monumental occasion for any franchise, but especially for one with 35 years of history, including some of the greatest teams assembled in the last half-century.
Roberto Alomar's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame two years ago gave the fans a reason to feel nostalgic about the franchise's past success as it now looks to emerge from mediocrity and begin a new era of success going into the future.
We don't know yet what the legacy will be of those who created the other great moments since the Blue Jays last World Series title in 1993, but we learned on January 5, 2011 that Roberto Alomar will be forever immortalized in baseball history and rightfully so.