The Toronto Blue Jays have been one of the most interesting MLB franchises ever since they won the World Series in 1993. After winning their second-straight Fall Classic, the team embarked on a forgetful 21 years. They didn't make the playoffs between 1994-2014. In fact, they didn't come close in any of those seasons.
Despite that, they managed to field many stars (whom we won't name, as we want to avoid spoilers). But another reason the Jays struggled was because they had too many players who did more bad than good...and were held onto by the Jays for far too long.
Looking back, it's not hard to see how the Jays avoided being such a horrible team for 20 years while also not exactly being a great one either. They had a great balance of star players and very mediocre or quite terrible players. Here's a look at the 10 best and 10 worst guys to play north of the America since they last won it all.
20 Best: Josh Donaldson
Well, this was a tricky decision.
Josh Donaldson has only played two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, so one could make a case that someone like Tony Fernandez should be on the list instead. On the other hand, some may believe Donaldson should be higher on the list. But I'll stick to my guns and place Donaldson as the 10th-best Jay, with room to move up.
The 2015 American League MVP has been among baseball's elite-of-the-elite players. He posted a ridiculous 8.8 WAR in 2015, mashing 41 home runs and batting .297. He followed it up with another MVP-like season in 2016 with 32 home runs, a .284 batting average and 7.4 WAR. Donaldson helped turn the Blue Jays from a mediocre unit into one of the American League powerhouses. In two years time, we can assume he'll be top-five on this list. But we can't put him much higher after just two seasons.
19 Worst: Jesse Chavez
Jesse Chavez appeared in nine games for the Blue Jays in 2012, allowing a horrendous 20 earned runs in 21.1 innings. That accounted for a pathetic 8.44 ERA and -0.9 WAR. After three solid seasons with the Oakland Athletics, the Blue Jays brought him back to shore up their bullpen woes in 2016. And by shoring up, I should say make one of their weaknesses..much weaker.
Chavez pitched 41.1 innings over 39 games for the Blue Jays in 2016, and allowed 21 earned runs. He posted a 4.57 ERA and blew two saves. Don't let his seven holds fool you - he was a huge disaster with the Blue Jays. Once they traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Jays bullpen turned it around and got them to the playoffs.
That is not a coincidence. Chavez was one of the many messes in the Jays bullpen to open up 2016, as you'll read about later.
18 Best: Roberto Alomar
Okay, he probably is the greatest Blue Jay to ever live, but Roberto Alomar only played two more seasons with the Jays after the 1993 World Series. I'll clarify that we're basing this list on what players did after the championship season, not what they did beforehand..
1994 was another great season for Alomar, who batted .306 with a WAR of two. He also drew 51 walks and stole 19 bases while striking out just 41 times. Unfortunately, the lost 1994 season due to the strike prevented the Jays and Alomar from a chance of repeating.
His last season in the Jays with 1995 was one to remember. Alomar batted .300, posted a 2.4 WAR and stole 45 bases while racking up 24 doubles. He finished his career in Toronto with a bang before heading to the Baltimore Orioles.
17 Worst: Drew Storen
Allow me to do an impression of my favorite WWE Superstar, Chris Jericho...
You know what happens when the Blue Jays give up a legitimate leadoff batter in Ben Revere for your services? You know what happens when you turn out to be a major disappointment on the team? You know what happens when the Blue Jays have to end up trading you mid-way through the season?
Drew Storen... YOU JUST MADE THE LIST!
But yeah, the Jays thought adding Storen (29 saves for the Washington Nationals in 2015), would be the ideal setup man for Roberto Osuna in 2016. Storen pitched in 33.1 innings over 38 games. He allowed 23 earned runs, posted a 1-3 record, blew one save, posted a horrible 6.21 ERA and finished with a -0.6 WAR with the Jays.
Of course, once he was traded to the Seattle Mariners, everything got better. He finished with a 3-0 record and 3.44 ERA over 18.1 winnings of work. But that doesn't prevent him from making The List of Alex.
16 Best: Vernon Wells
Though Vernon Wells was one of the rare bright spots on a mediocre Jays team throughout the 2000s, Blue Jays fans often forget that. The only thing they remember is his ludicrous $126 million contract signed over seven years back in 2006. The other thing they remember is GM Alex Anthopolous somehow convincing the Angels to take it on.
Well, allow us to remind you that Wells played in three All-Star Games as a member of the Blue Jays. He was a consistent home run threat: 23 in 2002, 33 in 2003, 23 in 2004, 28 in 2005, 32 in 2006 and 31 in 2010. He also batted .270 or better in seven seasons with the Blue Jays.
Wells also posted an incredible WAR of six during the 2006 season, which led the Jays to finishing second in the ultra-difficult AL East division. Do not let his terrible contract remind you of what Wells did for the franchise. He was a bonafide star.
15 Worst: Corey Koskie
Back when I was a kid, having a Canadian play on the Toronto Blue Jays was literally the coolest thing in the world. Only the Anola, Manitoba native had a rather forgetful tenure with the Blue Jays, unlike other Canadians like Russell Martin (so far) and the controversial Brett Lawrie.
Corey Koskie played just one season with the Blue Jays, back in 2005. In 97 games, he batted a mere .249 with just 11 home runs and 90 strikeouts. Koskie posted a WAR of 1.1. Now, those numbers don't seem so bad. But you take a look at his career with the Minnesota Twins, and you see why he's on this list. From 1999-2003 in Minny, Koskie batted .267 or better, and hit above .300 twice. He also had a 5.9 WAR in 2001.
But when it came to his home and native land, Koskie saw his career go downhill and he was finished in the majors a year later.
14 Best: Roger Clemens
Ah, back in the day where the Blue Jays actually knew you had to pay superstars to win.
Back in 1996, the Blue Jays got themselves one of baseball's greatest players ever - signing him to a $40 million deal over four seasons. In 1997, he posted an insane 21-7 record with 292 strikeouts, 2.05 ERA and a WAR of 11.6 (!)
The following season, Roger Clemens went 20-6 with 271 strikeouts, a 2.65 ERA and 7.8 WAR. For some reason, they ended up trading him to the New York Yankees in 1999. He led them to a pair of World Series rings in 1999 and 2000. Even though Clemens played just two seasons with the Jays, they were simply ridiculous numbers to the point where he had to go higher than expected on this list.
13 Worst: Frank Francisco
Mike Napoli has been one of baseball's best power hitters since 2011. He had 30 home runs that year, then followed it up with 24 in 2012, 23 in 2013 and had 34 with the Cleveland Indians in 2016 - nearly helping the franchise win its first World Series in 68 years.
What does Napoli have to do with this article? Well, the Jays got Napoli in the Vernon Wells trade with the Angels, then flipped him for reliever Frank Francisco, who lasted just one season with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2011, Francisco appeared in 54 games and pitched 50.2 innings. He posted a lackluster 3.55 ERA (for a closer, that's pretty bad), and went just 1-4. He blew four saves and allowed seven home runs.
12 Best: Edwin Encarnacion
Too bad the Toronto Blue Jays didn't feel like paying Edwin Encarnacion the money he deserved, but who am I to say anything?
Encarnacion was your average Joe of a first basemen with the Cincinnati Reds from 2005-2009. The Blue Jays brought him on board in 2009, but by 2011, his 21 home runs and .272 batting average suggested he was reliable enough, though not quite a superstar.
But Encarnacion broke out in 2012 with 42 home runs. The following seasons, he hit 36, 34, 39 and 42. Encarnacion helped the Jays reach the ALCS in 2015 and 2016, and everyone will remember his walk off home run in last season's wild card game against the Baltimore Orioles.
It's a shame the Blue Jays didn't find a way to keep Encarnacion, who was far-and-away their best hitter in 2016. Not only that, he's one of the greatest and most beloved players of all-time. Then again, the Jays have never really kept around any of their franchise icons for that long anyway.
11 Worst: B.J. Ryan
The 2005 offseason was one of the rare years where the Toronto Blue Jays actually made some big moves to get better. They overpaid for starting pitcher A.J. Burnett and signed B.J. Ryan to a five-year deal worth $47 million. At the time, that was the richest contract for a reliever in MLB history.
Ryan made the All-Star Game in 2006 - his first season as a Blue Jay. He racked up 38 saves (a career-high), with 86 strikeouts and a ridiculous 1.37 ERA. It was like the Blue Jays found their own Mariano Rivera. Except in 2007, reality came back into light.
Ryan missed most of 2007 after needing Tommy John Surgery. When he returned in 2008, he allowed 19 earned runs in just 58 games pitched while blowing four saves. Ryan tried turning it around in 2009, but he posted a woeful 6.53 ERA and had a -0.4 WAR. He retired after the season, essentially taking money from the Jays and running away with it.
10 Best: Carlos Delgado
The Blue Jays were among baseball's worst teams from 1995-2004, but it didn't stop the Puerto Rican slugger from being one of the league's best home run hitters. Carlos Delgado broke out in 1996 with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs. But as far he was concerned, Delgado was only getting started.
Delgado then slugged 30 home runs in 1997, followed by 30, 38, 44, 41, 39, 33, 42 and 32. From 1998-2003, he hit over 100 RBIs each season. Delgado was a two-time All-Star and is the franchise all-time leader in home runs (36), and RBIs (1,058). Delgado was one of the greatest ball players of his era and gave Jays fans (including myself when I was seven), something to cheer about on an otherwise terrible team.
And by the way, the Jays didn't bring him back in 2005, because of, you guessed it, a refusal to pay up big money for the superstar.
9 Worst: Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson was an underrated pitcher of the '90s. He reached the 1995 All-Star Game as a member of the Boston Red Sox and posted 1,175 career strikeouts. The Blue Jays tried their usually-strong bargain shopping and signed Hanson to a three-year deal worth $9.4 million.
Though that's not the biggest contract in the world, the Blue Jays surely wished refunds were available back then. Hanson was a major liability for the Jays. In his first season with them (1996), he went 13-17 with and alarming 5.41 ERA. The next season, he appeared in just three games.
1998 was the final year Hanson would pitch in the majors. He went 0-3 with a terrible 6.24 ERA, allowing 34 runs in 49 innings pitched. Hanson had just 21 strikeouts and 29 walks. But the Jays were lucky to only give him a short-term deal, as Hanson really failed to do much of anything in Toronto.
8 Best: Joe Carter
Though many Blue Jays fans born after the 1993 World Series will only think of Joe Carter as the man who hit the walkoff home run in Game 6 to help the team successfully defend the championship, Carter was actually one of baseball's best hitters. He should be remembered for more than that one homer.
In 1994, Carter batted .271 and hit 27 home runs and 103 RBIs. He followed it up with 25 home runs, though his RBIS and batting average dropped way down. Carter rebounded in 1996 with 30 home runs, 107 RBIs and a .475 slugging percentage. In his last year with the Jays, Carter hit 21 home runs with 102 RBIs.
Carter would play his final season with the Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants before retiring in 1998, but not before becoming one of the greatest Jays of all-time.
7 Worst: Kelly Johnson
The Blue Jays and Arizona Diamondbacks flipped struggling second basemen, with Aaron Hill heading to the desert while Kelly Johnson headed to the Great White North. Johnson posted a solid stat line in 2011 with the Jays, batting .270 with nine RBIs in 33 games. It appeared as though the Jays had an answer at second base for the long-term.
After a hot start in 2012, Johnson became one of baseball's worst hitters. He batted .235 in April with four home runs and 15 RBIs. In May, he batted .273 with five home runs and 18 RBIs. To put it nicely, Johnson would finish the season with 16 homers, 55 RBIs and a woeful .225 batting average.
The reason I put Johnson this high is I followed every single Jays game in 2012, and I recall Johnson striking out almost every single time there were guys on base with two outs. Really - I do not have the advanced stats with me, but I remember fearing the worst with him at the plate every time. And 90-something percent of the time, he would strike out swinging.
The Jays luckily didn't bring him back. Then he became a Tampa Bay Ray in 2013 and seemed to always hit off the Jays after that. Go figure.
6 Best: Pat Hentgen
Pat Hentgen played with the Blue Jays from 1991-99. He was a three-time All-Star and won the American League Cy Young in 1996. Hentgen remained one of baseball's greatest pitchers after the World Series, as our historical evidence will show you.
In 1994, he went 13-8 with 147 strike outs, a 3.40 ERA and posted a ridiculous 5.1 WAR. 1995 was a letdown year, as he went 10-14 with a 5.11 ERA. But vintage Hentgen returned for 1996 and beyond. He finished with 20 wins, 10 losses, 177 strike outs, a 1.25 WHIP, 3.22 ERA and 8.2 WAR (that's really good for a pitcher, by the way). Hentgen went 15-10 in 1997 with a 3.68 ERA and followed it up with 12 wins in 1998 and 11 wins in 1999.
Yeah, he was pretty good.
5 Worst: Russ Adams
Russ Adams only played five years in the majors, all as a Blue Jay. Unfortunately, he wasn't much of a utility player that the team needed. They moved him around to play shortstop and second base, but Adams wasn't able to find his ground in Canada.
In 2004, he appeared in 22 games and batted .306 with 22 hits, one home run and four RBIs. But keep in mind what a "short sample size," is. Adams played 139 games in 2005, batting .256 with eight home runs and 63 RBIs. He did show some signs of being a regular in the lineup, but then things changed.
In 2006, Adams played just 90 games and batted .219, striking out 41 times. He had a -1.2 WAR, which means the Jays basically lost an extra game just from playing him for those 90 games. Adams would play just 35 games over the next two seasons, finishing with 18 total hits and 15 strikeouts. He was out of the majors a short while later.
4 Best: Jose Bautista
Well, for all of the negativity brought by myself about this franchise over the last two decades, at least former GM Alex Anthopolous got Jose Bautista for a little-known prospect named Robinzon Diaz.
What else is there to say about Bautista that hasn't already been said? The fact he led the MLB in homers back-to-back years with 54 in 2010 and 43 in 2011? Or his 27 home runs in just 92 games during the 2012 season? How about his 35 home runs in 2014? That was pretty good.
Okay, now the fun stuff. Joey Bats hit 40 home runs in the 2015 regular season, and everyone remembers his signature blat flip against the Texas Rangers in the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS. He also hit two clutch home runs against the Kansas City Royals in Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS, though the rest of the Jays lineup failed to bail him out.
Even though 2016 was a letdown year and Bautista may never be a Jay again, he brought back excitement, greatness and legendary moments to the Jays. He's easily the best hitter they've had since Alomar left.
3 Worst: Carlos Garcia
Carlos Garcia was an All-Star with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1994. The Blue Jays acquired him in 1997 and hoped the second basemen would be able to somehow replace the legend of Alomar in one way or another.
As it turned out, Garcia would only play one season for the Blue Jays - in 1997. In 103 games and 350 at bats, Garcia batted just .220 and struck out 60 times. He finished with just 77 hits and 23 RBIs that season. His wins-above-replacement was also a terrible -2.2. Yep, putting in this guy at second base basically cost them two wins.
Garcia would play two more seasons in the majors (none with the Jays), and was out of the league by 1999. That ended a rather painful tender with the Jays.
2 Best: Roy Halladay
The Blue Jays were incredibly mediocre in the late '90s and early 2000s, but they at least held onto arguably baseball's most dominant pitcher of his generation. Roy Halladay was a six-time All-Star with the Blue Jays, led the league in wins once and took home the 2003 AL Cy Young.
That year, Halladay went 22-7 with 204 strikeouts (!), a 1.07 WHIP (!) and 3.25 ERA with a 7.7 WAR (!). We didn't even mention his 19-7 2002 season that Doc strike out 168 batters while posting a 2.93 ERA.
Halladay also went 12-4 in 2005 with a 0.96 WHIP, 2.41 ERA and 5.3 WAR. 2006 saw him go 16-5 with a 3.19 ERA. 2007 saw Halladay go 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA. 2008 saw him go 20-11 with a 2.78 ERA. And his last year with the Jays? 17-10, a 1.13 WHIP and 2.79 ERA. The Blue Jays would trade him to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010 to give him his chance at a ring, which sadly was never won.
It's okay, the Doc became the Jays greatest player after the World Series victory.
1 Worst: Josh Towers
For some reason, the Blue Jays took on Josh Towers in 2003 and kept him until 2007. If they had access to a Delorean time machine, they would have went back to 2003 and probably trade him. Before we go into his career stats with the Jays, it's important to know that Towers went 45-55 in his career with a 4.95 ERA. Ready? Alright, to the Jays career part.
Towers showed a lot of promise in 2003, going 8-1 with one save, 51 strikeouts and a 4.48 ERA - much better than the 7.90 he posted the year before with the Orioles. 2004 was a letdown year, as Towers went 9-9 with a 5.11 ERA.
Towers went a respectable 13-12 in 2005 with a 3.71 ERA. Just when the Jays thought they had someone special, Towers went 2-10 in 2006 with an AWFUL 8.42 ERA while allowing 17 home runs (!) in 62 innings pitched (!). Towers went 5-10 the following season with a 5.38 ERA and played one more season with the New York Yankees, before his MLB career came to a close.
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