Best Blue Jays Ever: Third Base


Jul 12, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays hat and glove lay in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time again for another instalment of Best Blue Jays ever. Last time out we looked at the best Secondbasemen in Blue Jays history. Today we shift out focus to the hot corner.  Here’s the rules we’ll be using to determine eligibility,  and remember please, no wagering.

  • We are looking at only the player’s career with the Jays
  • Must have played at least 3 full seasons in Toronto (no one-year wonders here)
  • Must have been a fairly regular player (we’ll say average of 81 games/season)
  • Historical impact with the club will be considered as well as overall statistics (it can’t just be about numbers can it?)
  • WAR will not be considered (otherwise what’s the point? I could just list them in order of WAR, and that’s no fun

With that out of the way let’s get things started with…

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5.)Ed Sprague

Career Line with the Jays: .245/.315/.413, H: 773, 2B: 170 HR: 113, RBI: 418,  OPS+: 89

Sprague was a mainstay at the hot corner during the mid to late nineties, and was the regular thirdbaseman on the ’93 World Series team. One thing this exercise has taught me is that players aren’t always as good as I remember them. I knew Sprague wasn’t a great player, but I at least thought he was better than this. Still, he sits second all time in HRs and RBIs by a Blue Jays thirdbaseman. He also hit a huge HR off of Jeff Reardon in Game 2 of the ’92 Series. It was, at the time, probably the biggest homerun hit in Jays’ history.

4.) Roy Howell

Career Line with the Jays: .272/.335/.407 H: 532, 2B:101, HR: 43, RBI: 234, OPS+: 102

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of Roy. I’m old and even I don’t remember him. He played for the Jays during the inaugural season and played 4 years in total with them. As you can see he wasn’t exactly a fiend with the bat, but he was solid. He really was the team’s first regular third baseman. He had four soild if not spectacular seasons in Toronto and even made the All-Star team in 1978. He still ranks in the Top 10 in many offensive categories for the Jays thirdbasemen including Hits, Doubles and Walks. He also didn’t hurt you in the field, which is more than I can say for most of the players on this list.

3.) – Eric Hinske

Career Line with the Jays: .259/.337/.437 H:584, 2B: 146, HR: 78, RBI 313, OPS+: 100

Trust me, no one is more surprised by this than me. Trading for Hinske was the first major move by new G.M. J.P.

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Riccardi. He was a highly touted prospect from the Oakland system at the height of Billy Beane’s Moneyball powers. Hinske was  lauded for his terrific on base skills and decent power.  Right fromt he start it looked like we fleeced Oakland, as Eric hit .279/.365/.481 with 24HRs in his rookie season, which was good enough to earn him Rookie of the Year in 2002. To this day he is one of only two Blue Jays to win that award. He played through a few more mediocre season before being dealt to Boston partway through the 2006 season.

2.) Kelly Gruber

Career with the Blue Jays: .259/.307/.432, 2B: 148, HR: 114, RBI: 443, OPS+: 102

I know there are some people out there that probably want to lynch me right now for not putting Kelly at #1. He was one of the most popular players on those teams in the late 80’s/early ’90s, and that’s saying a lot considering the teams around him. He was also one of the most frustrating players on those teams. His career is mirrored in what the Jays went through with Brett Lawrie, I think. Both were players with a ton of talent and charisma, but just couldn’t get the injury monkey off of their backs. While Lawrie’s issues stemmed from an all-out style of play, Gruber was often criticized for being too soft and not playing through minor injuries. When he played, though, he was sure fun to watch. He leads Blue Jays thirdbasemen in many offensive categories including HR, 2B, 3B, RBI and SB. He was also the first Blue Jays player to hit for the cycle.  He was an All-Star twice, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner and even finished 4th in MVP voting in 1990. His talent should have put him higher on this list, but instead he sits at number two.

1.)Rance Mullinicks

Career with the Jays: .280/.365/.424 H: 843, 2B: 204, HR: 68, RBI: 389, OPS+: 114

Some of you may think this decision is a bit controversial considering all that Gruber brought to the team. Rance played 11 seasons with the Jays, and he was there as the team morphed from a lowly expansion team to a dominant force in the American League. Rance was never a dominant force at the plate, his career high in HRs was only 12. He was never an All-Star, nor did he win any awards. He was a below average fielder and had to eventually transition to DH. So, you may ask, why is he tops on this list? That’s a good question and the answer is: consistency. One of the trends of all of the players on this list is that they had one or two good or great seasons and then stumbled into mediocrity. Mulliniks on the other hand was consistent almost to a fault. Starting in 1983 his year by year OPS+ was: 125, 124, 125, 103, 127, 143. Except for that blip in 1986 and his career year in ’88 he was right around the same area every year. Not to mention he leads all Jays thirdbasemen in Avg, OBP, and Hits.

So that’s my list. As always feel free to post your opinions in the comments. Next episode Shortstop.