Best Blue Jays Ever: Shortstop


It’s time for Best Blue Jays ever. In this edition we look at Shortstop thus completing our trip around the infield. This group was more difficult than I had anticipated and I ended up having to do another short list, just like I had to with catcher. The reasons for the short list surprised me though. In the 38  years that the Toronto Blue Jays have been in existence, these four guys were on the field for 32 of them. That’s pretty amazing considering the revolving door they’ve had at other positions.Enough of all that, though, it’s time to begin. As always the same rules apply, reprinted below for your convenience:

  • 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

So, let’s get things started:

4.) Alex Gonzalez

Career with the Jays: .243/.302/.391 2B: 172, HR: 83, RBI: 350, OPS+: 77

I know, we’re not exactly off to a rousing start here. Gonzalez was the team’s primary shortstop for eight years during the mid to late nineties. He was known as being a low average/high strikeout kind of player with not much to offer with the bat. As you can see his stats kind of bear that out. He did have a reputation as a solid defender with a strong arm (though modern defensive metrics don’t necessarily agree). One thing that can be said about him was he had the most power of any of the other entries on this list. In fact he has more homeruns than any other Blue Jays shortstop in history…by a large margin. I have to tell you I was a bit surprised by that.

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3.) Alfredo Griffin

Career with the Jays: .249/.280/.327, 2B: 127, HR: 13, RBI: 231, OPS+: 64 

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Alright, I know some of you are thinking right now “Steve, you jackhole, why does Alfredo Griffin rate above Alex Gonzalez? He’s worse in almost every conceivable way. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.” You’d be partly right, statistically Gonzalez is better than Griffin. So, why then, did I place Alfredo higher? Well, he rates higher for one simple reason. He has the distinction of being the first Blue Jays to win one of the 3 major offseason awards. In 1979 he shared the AL Rookie of the Year award with  John Castino of the Twins. Regardless of what you may think of that award, that’s a pretty significant accomplishment. Especially for a two year old ballclub still struggling to be relevant. Historical significance that’s why ol’ Fettuccine Alfredo gets the number three spot.

2.) Manuel Lee

Career with the Jays: .254/.304/.323, 2B: 67, HR: 16, RBI: 249, OPS+: 73

Ah, what to say about Manny Lee? He was a mainstay on the infield during the glory years and was the starting shortstop for the ’92 World Series Champions. Like the players before him on this list he was not a good hitter. He didn’t walk much, he had absolutely no power to speak of and he didn’t really make consistent contact. What Lee did have going for him was that he was pretty good defensively. He wasn’t flashy like a certain double play partner, but we was solid.  Let’s face it the main thing you want out of your shortstop is the ability to catch the ball. That’s why historically so many who played the position had fairly light bats. That’s why Lee is the runner-up here, because he did at least one thing well.

1.) Tony Fernandez

Career with the Jays: .297/.353/.412, 2B: 291, HR: 60, RBI: 613, OPS+: 106

Obviously this was a non-brainer. When you think of Toronto Blue Jays shortstops, you think of Tony. In eight season with the Jays he went to four All-Star Games, won four Gold Gloves and he even finished as high as 8th in the MVP voting in 1987. Tony holds the franchise record for hits with 1583 and triple with 72, he’s also played more games in a Jays uniform than anybody else. He also sits in the Top 10 in other offensive categories including Runs (4th), 2B (3rd), RBI (6th), BB (5th), SB (4th), AVG (3rd) and OBP (8th). His name sits on the Blue Jays Level of Excellence.  No matter how you slice it, Fernandez was not only the best Blue Jays shortstop, but he was one of the best Blue Jays ever.

So, there’s the list. Agree? Disagree? There’s a comment section for that. Next time we move into the outfield.