Best Blue Jays Ever: Centerfield

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Aug 3, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; A view of a Toronto Blue Jays batting helmet before the game between the Houston Astros and the Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. The Astros defeated the Blue Jays 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Well it’s time for another installment of Best Blue Jays Ever. Today we look at centerfield. After being somewhat disappointed by our trip around the infield, my spirits were lifted a bit by our list of leftfielders. The Jays have had some pretty good players roam center over the years, so let’s hope that trend continues. For those just joining us here are the rules:

  • 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

Once again I wasn’t able to find five good candidates who fit into the above criteria, but I did find a pretty solid quartet for our list. Let dive right in with:

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4.) Jose Cruz

Career with the Jays: .250/.331/.462, 2B: 136, HR: 122, RBI: 355, SB: 85 OPS+: 102

I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest Jose Cruz fan. He bugged me for some reason. I think it was because you could see that the guy had incredible talent, but he could never put it all together in a Blue Jays uniform. Nevertheless, he was a stalwart in the outfield for 6 years in Toronto during the late-90s and early 2000s. Cruz had an impressive combination of power and speed. He ecliped the 30 homerun plateau twice while in Toronto and even was a 30/30 guy in 2001, which was by far his best year. All of that power came at a price though as he was never able to hit consistently for average. He was a decent fielder, though (a trend which flows through this list), but he didn’t really come into his own as a defender until after he left the team. Had he been able to put it together he might have made it further up the list, as it is he sits at #4 just behind…

3.) Lloyd Moseby

Career with the Jays: .257/.332/.414, 2B: 273, HR: 169, RBI: 797, SB: 280, OPS+ 102

Most Blue Jays fans my age remember ‘Shaker’ Moseby. He was the team’s starting centerfielder as it rose to prominence in the mid-eighties. One thing I was a bit surprised about was how similar statistically Moseby is with Cruz. Sure Lloyd has a bit of an edge on the accumulative stats, but he played in Toronto twice as long. I actually went back and forth a few times as to what order I should place them. In the end Moseby won out, mainly due to the fact that he had a bigger historical impact with the Jays than Cruz did. Moseby is the franchise leader in Stolen Bases and he sits in the top 10 in many other offensive categories including Games (4th), Runs (3rd),  Hits (4th), Doubles (4th), Triples (2nd), Homeruns (8th) and Walks (2nd). He was also a very good defender. As it stands though Shaker only get as high as #3.

2.) Devon White

Career with the Jays: .270/.327/432, 2B: 155, HR: 72, RBI: 274, SB: 126, OPS+: 102

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Alright, I know I’m going to catch some heat for this. Devo was a favourite among Toronto fans for the 5 years he played there. Trading for White is one of the most underrated moves of Pat Gillick’s career. Everybody talks about the trade that brought in Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter as the big move that offseason, but picking up White filled the void left vacant by Moseby’s departure. Devo was a decent hitter as his stats can attest to, but the reason why was so well-loved was because of his defence. The was something about watch Devo out in the field. He didn’t run, really, he glided out there. One thing I always found strange about Devo was that he never, and I mean never, dove for a ball. He didn’t have to. He was always where he needed to be. If it was in the air and in the park, White stood a better than average chance of catching it. It was a pleasure to watch him ply his trade. Also there’s this.

1.) Vernon Wells

Career with the Jays: .280/.329/.475, 2B: 339, HR: 223, RBI: 813, SB: 90, OPS+: 108

Poor Vernon. If there was ever a guy that didn’t deserve what he got it was him. Coming off of a pretty good year in 2006 he signed a 7 year contract extension worth $126 million dollars, and that was pretty much it for him. Don’t get me wrong, he still had some pretty good years, despite suffering through some injury issues. Unfortunately when you sign the 6th largest contract in MLB history, fans are going to be pretty critical of you, and they were. The sad part was, it wasn’t as if Vernon got his paycheck and just mailed it in, he really did give it his all to try and justify his salary. In retrospect that’s probably why he was always getting hurt. At any rate Wells was a great player during his tenure in Toronto. He sits second in most major offensive categories including Runs, Hits, Doubles, Homeruns, and RBI. There was a part of me that felt bad for him when AA managed to trade him to the Angels especially considering how his career unfolded from there. I think time will show just how good of a player he really was, and hopefully we’ll be able to look at his performance rather than his paycheck.

So there’s the list. Like it? Love it? Think I’m nuts? Let us know in the comments. Stayed tuned for next episode where we look at rightfield. Ooooh…I’m already excited!

Next: Has Jamaal Charles Lost a Step?

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