Ranking the Toronto Blue Jays' Top 5 Players of All Time

Sean Tierney@@seantierney85Contributor IIIOctober 24, 2014

Ranking the Toronto Blue Jays' Top 5 Players of All Time

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    USA TODAY Sports

    For the Toronto Blue Jays, it was another season that began with promise and ended in disappointment. The Jays finished 83-79, third in the American League East and well back in the wild-card standings.

    Sigh.

    As a way for long-suffering Toronto Blue Jays fans to move on and recover from another lost season, let's take a look back through Jays history and rank the top five Blue Jays of all time. It'll be good for the soul.

    Before we dive in, a few words on the criteria.

    If we're talking about the "top Blue Jays," then three criteria are necessary to guide the rankings.

    Top

    "Top" will be taken literally. In order to be considered for this list, a player must have been the winner of a major trophy, which recognizes that player as a "top" player.

    Appointment to the Hall of Fame (Roberto Alomar, spoiler alert!) as well as an MVP award (George Bell), a Cy Young (Roger Clemens), a Rookie of the Year award (Eric Hinske), the Hank Aaron Award (Jose Bautista and Carlos Delgado) or a Silver Slugger award (Vernon Wells, Dave Winfield, Jesse Barfield, Joe Carter, Kelly Gruber and Fred McGriff, among others) will suffice.

    The Sporting News "Pitcher of the Year" award will count too, in order to give pitchers some balance with the Silver Slugger recipients. Pat Hentgen, Dave Stieb and Roy Halladay come into play here. 

    Blue Jays

    In order to be considered for this list, the player must have enjoyed their best seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Though former Jays like Paul Molitor and Roger Clemens were all-time great players, Molitor was a lifetime Brewer and Clemens (despite the Cy Young awards in Toronto) is remembered more for his days as a member of the Red Sox

    Sorry, guys, you won't make this list.

    WAR

    In the age of sabermetrics, this top-five list will also take wins above replacement (WAR) into consideration.

    So, here are the top players who played their best baseball with the Blue Jays and produced notable WAR values.

    Let's march on with the countdown...

Honorable Mentions

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    Joe Carter, an honorable mention in the top-five Blue Jays rankings
    Joe Carter, an honorable mention in the top-five Blue Jays rankingsUSA TODAY Sports

    Before we begin the rankings, let's take a look at some of the honorable mentions. These players were great Blue Jays but, based on the criteria, did not make the cut.

    Joe Carter: "Touch 'em all" Joe is a tough name to ignore. He was a consummate Blue Jay and a key to the team's two Championships. Sadly, despite Silver Slugger awards in 1991 and 1992, Carter didn't make the top 10 in either the single season or career WAR ranks.

    Pat Hentgen: Despite his phenomenal Cy Young campaign in 1996, Pat Hentgen doesn't make the top five. He was very close with an 8.5 WAR in the '96 season, the second-highest WAR posted by any Jays pitcher in a single year.

    Carlos Delgado: The toughest cut, Delgado has registered some of the most impressive offensive seasons in Blue Jays history, particularly his 2000 season. In the end, the other Blue Jays hitters who rank ahead of Delgado were too good to slide out of the top five.

    Now, onto the top five Blue Jays of all time, starting with No. 5...

No. 5: George Bell

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    George Bell, No. 5 on the Toronto Blue Jays' all-time best list
    George Bell, No. 5 on the Toronto Blue Jays' all-time best listAssociated Press/Associated Press
    Major Awards

    1987 MVP Award; Silver Slugger 1985-1987

    Blue Jays Career

    4,883 plate appearances between 1981 and 1990

    Best Single-Season WAR 

    5.0

    Career WAR

    21.1, 10th in club history

    In 4,883 plate appearances, George Bell compiled a 21.1 WAR, good for 10th on the all-time Toronto Blue Jays' position players list. He ranks third all-time on the Blue Jays' home run list with 202 HRs and second in runs batted in with 740 RBI. Offensively, this classifies Bell as a "top" player.

    With almost 5,000 plate appearances during his 10-year career in Toronto, Bell is a true Blue Jay, spending almost the entirety of his career in Toronto.

    But one fact cinches Bell's spot in the all-time Jays list: the 1987 MVP award.

    The only Toronto Blue Jays player ever to win an MVP, George Bell deserves recognition as one of the best Jays of all time.

No. 4: Jose Bautista

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    Jose Bautista, fourth on the all-time Toronto Blue Jays list
    Jose Bautista, fourth on the all-time Toronto Blue Jays listMIKE CARLSON/Associated Press/Associated Press
    Major Awards

    Hank Aaron Award 2010, 2011; Silver Slugger 2010, 2011

    Blue Jays Career

    Team debut in 2008; ongoing, 3,403 plate appearances in seven-year career

    Best Single-Season WAR

     8.1, best in club history for hitters                                  

    Career WAR

     31.6, third in club history for hitters

    Since his unheralded arrival via trade in 2008, Jose Bautista has emerged as the current leader in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse

    But leadership doesn't get you to fourth on this all-time list.

    Bautista's awards don't quite compare with George Bell's achievements. Bautista would likely trade in his Hank Aaron Awards and Silver Sluggers for an MVP. Who wouldn't?

    But Bautista earns the fourth spot on this list because of his stunning statistical contributions. His 8.1 WAR in 2011 ranks as the best single-season position player WAR in Toronto Blue Jays history. What's more, he is already third in career WAR, despite appearing in just over one-half of the plate appearances of Tony Fernandez and Carlos Delgado (No. 1 and 2 on the list).

    With his Hank Aaron Awards and his jaw-dropping statistical contributions, Joey Bats takes fourth on this list.

No. 3: Roy Halladay

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    Roy Halladay, No. 3 on the all-time Blue Jays list
    Roy Halladay, No. 3 on the all-time Blue Jays listKathy Willens/Associated Press/Associated Press
    Major Awards

    2003 Cy Young Award, The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year 2003

    Blue Jays Career

    2046.2 innings pitched between 1998 and 2009

    Best Single-Season  WAR

    8.1 in 2003, third in club history for pitchers

    Career WAR

    48.5, second in club history for pitchers

    At the end of Roy Halladay's run with the Toronto Blue Jays, the 12-year Blue Jay took out a full-page newspaper ad, thanking Toronto fans for their support.

    That classy move perfectly sums up Halladay's time with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Halladay meets the "top player" criteria, having won the Cy Young and The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Awards in 2003

    He also easily fulfills the "best seasons as a Blue Jay" criteria, having pitched more than 2,000 innings in Toronto and compiling a career WAR of 48.5—the second-highest mark in Toronto Blue Jays history. His 8.1 WAR in 2003 is the third-best mark in club history. 

    Finally, Halladay's advanced statistics show that he was a world-class talent throughout his tenure in Toronto. In his 12 years in Toronto, Halladay posted excellent career averages: 3.47 FIP, 1.198 WHIP, 12 wins per season and an exemplary 3.29 K/BB ratio.

    Despite all of these accolades, Halladay was edged out by the next pitcher on this list...

No. 2: Dave Stieb

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    Dave Stieb, No. 2 on the Toronto Blue Jays' all-time list
    Dave Stieb, No. 2 on the Toronto Blue Jays' all-time listAssociated Press
     Major Awards The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year, 1982
     Blue Jays Career 2,873 innings pitched in 15 years between 1979 and 1992
     Best Single-Season WAR 7.9
     Career War 57.4, easily the best career WAR of any Blue Jay

    In terms of awards, Dave Stieb's list is brief. He claimed the 1982 Pitcher of the Year Award from The Sporting News but finished only fourth in Cy Young voting that season. 

    Despite the lack of official recognition, Stieb is the best pitcher the Toronto Blue Jays have ever had on their roster. He tops the team in virtually every significant statistical category:

    • 175 wins
    • 2,873 innings pitched
    • 1,658 strikeouts
    • 408 starts
    • 30 shutouts
    • 103 complete games

    He also owns the only no-hitter ever thrown by a Blue Jays pitcher and famously missed two others with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

    With a career WAR of 57.4, easily the best WAR of any Blue Jay ever, Dave Stieb was a consistent, prolific pitcher. Stieb's body of work is good enough for second place on the all-time Toronto Blue Jays list.

    *A complete bio, along with these stats, can be found here.

No. 1: Roberto Alomar

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    Roberto Alomar, No. 1 on the Toronto Blue Jays' all-time list
    Roberto Alomar, No. 1 on the Toronto Blue Jays' all-time listAmy Sancetta/Associated Press/Associated Press
     Major Awards Hall of Fame class of 2011; 1992 ALCS MVP, 1991-95 Gold Glove (2B); 1992  Silver Slugger
     Blue Jays Career  3,105 plate appearances between 1991 and 1995
     Best Single-Season  WAR 6.6, eighth all-time for Blue Jays hitters
     Career WAR 22.2, eighth all-time for Blue Jays hitters 

    Though Roberto Alomar has an American League Championship Series MVP award, Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger to his name, he cemented his name at the top of any all-time Blue Jays list through his induction to the Hall of Fame in 2011.

    Alomar played only five seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays. Yet, in just five years, he compiled a 22.2 WAR, good for eighth all-time among Blue Jays hitters.

    In addition to his sterling defensive play, Alomar amassed 55 home runs, 206 stolen bases and a .307 average while playing for the Jays.

    Finally, he was a key cog for the 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays, leading the club to its back-to-back World Series championships.

    Great offensive play, outstanding defensive work, two World Series championships, and an induction to the Hall of Fame? No question about it—Alomar is the greatest Toronto Blue Jay of all time.

    Note: Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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