Jose Bautista and the Most Prolific Sluggers in Toronto Blue Jays History
The Toronto Blue Jays have only been around for 34 years, but they have a rich and storied history when it comes to the long ball. Of course, there's Joltin' Joe's series-winning shot in 1993, but that's not all.
Through August 4, the Jays have hit 5,561 homers since their inaugural season in 1977. That's the most by any franchise that debuted after 1969. Their historical per game average (1.01) is the highest of any active franchise, other than the Colorado Rockies (who've played half their games at Coors Canaveral), and the Arizona Diamondbacks who came into existence at the height of the steroid era in 1998.
Doug Ault collected the first hit in Jays history — a home run. In 2010, Toronto hit 257 bombs, good for third all-time. They're the only team in history to hit 10 in a single game (September 14, 1987). And on June 20, 2000 they tied an American League record with seven different players each hitting a home run.
Let's take a look at some of the most prolific sluggers in Toronto Blue Jays history. These are the bats upon which this franchise was built and continues to grow.
A fan favorite during his tenure with the Blue Jays, Shawn Green ranks tenth in franchise history with 119 home runs. His best season came in 1999 when he went deep 42 times in 153 games. That year, he became the second Blue Jay — joining Kelly Gruber — to win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award in the same season. No other Jay has achieved that since.
He's one of only a handful of members of the 500-level Club — players who have hit a home run into the fifth deck of the Rogers Centre (then Skydome). He routinely tossed his batting gloves to a kid in the stands after every home run trot.
He's definitely one of the greatest sluggers in Blue Jays history.
Jose Cruz, Jr.
Jose Cruz Jr. has the most home runs of any switch hitter in Blue Jays history. He's ninth on the team's all-time list with 119 dingers. In 2000, his first full season in Toronto, he swatted 31 homers, teaming with Carlos Delgado, Brad Fullmer and Tony Batista to become the second team in league history to have four players with 30+ home runs in a season.
His best season, however, came in 2001. That year, he belted a career high: 34 home runs in 146 games, and was named team MVP by the Baseball Writers of America.
There's even a street in a Toronto suburb named after him.
Fred "the Crime Dog" McGriff played only four seasons in Toronto, but topped 30 home runs in all but one. With 125 home runs in 578 games, he owns the second best per-game average of any player with over 400 at-bats.
1989 was a memorable season for McGriff. He led the American League with 36 home runs and a .924 OPS. He finished sixth in MVP voting and won his first Silver Slugger award. On top of that, he christened a new ballpark. It was June 5, 1989 when McGriff hit the first ever home run at Skydome.
He remained with the team through 1990, before being shipped off to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar — the most important transaction in club history.
The man with the Golden Arm is also one of the greatest free-swingers in Blue Jays history. He not only hit 20+ home runs four times while in Toronto, he also topped 140 strikeouts three times as a Jay.
In 1986, he led the league with 40 moon shots, and that same year, he blamed a dropped fly ball on a U.F.O. sighting. Apparently he was joking, but the press took him seriously and it went into print the next day.
He's the proud owner of the first pinch-hit grand slam in team history. He also teamed with the next player on this list to form one of the most feared outfields in all of baseball.
George Bell has many memorable moments as a Blue Jay. There's his 47 home run MVP season in 1987; his opening day performance in 1988, when he took Bret Saberhagen yard three times to become just the second player in history to hit that many in the first game of the season; and his inclusion on Toronto's Level of Excellence.
Bell had an on-again, off-again relationship with the fans in Toronto, which lead to possibly his most memorable moment with the team. After a particularly harsh chorus of boos, he told fans they could "kiss his purple butt." The fans responded the next game with a sign in left field, which read, "George, we're behind you all the way."
He almost single-handedly closed a significant chapter in the history of Toronto baseball. On May 28, 1989, Bell hit a walk-off home run in the final game at Exhibition Stadium. Within a week, the Jays played their first game at the stadium formerly known as Skydome — and the rest is history.
In nine full seasons with the Blue Jays, Wells averaged almost 25 home runs a season. He is second on the all-time list with 223. He has three 30+ home run seasons and currently sits 223rd in league history. While he'll always be remembered for his albatross of a contract, he's one of the most prolific sluggers in Blue Jays history. He's also a really nice guy.
Wells is the epitome of selflessness. When traded from the Blue Jays in 2011, he was asked by a local paper what his favorite moment during his time in Toronto had been. He spoke of Carlos Delgado's four home run game; Brandon Morrow's 17 strikeout, near no-hitter; and John MacDonald's Father's Day home run. So it's fitting that his most memorable HR came when his team needed him the most.
On July 20, 2006, one day after the Jays cut Shea Hillenbrand, and amid rumors of clubhouse turmoil, Vernon Wells hit an eleventh inning walk-off home run off none other than Mariano Rivera. The home run breathed life back into the club and they outscored their opponents by 16 runs over their next five games. They quickly came crashing back down to earth, losing seven straight and falling out of contention. But that home run stood out as the greatest Blue Jays moment of 2006.
The case for Joe Carter can be made using a single sentence: "Touch 'em all Joe, you'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!" Tom Cheek's call after Carter's World Series-clinching blast still resonates in the minds of Blue Jays fans nearly 18 years later. But Carter hit more than just that one home run as a Jay — 207 to be exact (including the post-season).
Carter's 203 regular season jacks rank third all-time in Jays history. He averaged 29 home runs a season while in Toronto and hit less than 25 only once, making him one of the more consistent power hitters the Jays have ever had. With the Jays, he was named to five All-Star games, won two Silver Slugger awards and finished in the top 12 in MVP voting four times (including two top-five finishes in 1991 and 1992).
Even with future Hall of Famers passing through during his tenure with the Blue Jays, Joe Carter remained the face of the franchise. He's the only Blue Jay to seal his legacy with a single swing.
Joey Bats has 87 home runs since the start of 2010 — that's 23 more than any other player during that span. He has 103 home runs in just 395 games with the Blue Jays. He already ranks fifteenth on the Jays all-time homer list, and should crack the top 10 by the end of the year. With just two more seasons like this, he'll vault all the way into the top three. He doesn't turn 31 until October and should be a 30+ home run player well into his 30s.
It takes a special kind of hitter to become one of a franchise's greatest sluggers ever in just 2.5 seasons with the team. Bautista is just that good. No one thought he could ever come close to his league-leading 54 home runs in 2010. But he's been even better in 2011.
Upon his retirement, he'll be mentioned alongside the next player on the list as one of the most prolific sluggers in Blue Jays history.
If he's not the greatest Blue Jay ever (see: Dave Stieb and Roy Halladay), he's definitely the greatest hitter. He holds virtually every offensive team record, including home runs with 336. He never hit fewer than 25 home runs in each of his nine seasons as a Jay. He stands alone atop the perch with eight 30-plus and three 40-plus home run campaigns.
On September 25, 2003, he became just the 15th Major League player to hit four home runs in a game. He accomplished the feat in consecutive at-bats, going 4-for-4. Nobody's hit that many in a single game since.
Surprisingly, he only made two All-Star appearances in his career (each with the Jays), but was recognized with three Silver Slugger Awards (also all with the Jays). Despite not receiving the attention of many of his peers from around the majors, Delgado is one of the greatest hitters of his generation.
He's also the most prolific slugger in Toronto Blue Jays history.