Sportsnet revealed the results of their Top 40 Blue Jays list on Sunday, naming the top 20 after 40-31 came out on Friday, and 30-21 was released on Saturday. Jimmy Key, one of the more underrated Blue Jays in club history, was listed at #9.
In an exercise that required some of the Blue Jays’ most prominent writers, broadcasters, and reporters to Blue Jays’ history, Sportsnet revealed it’s top 20 players on Sunday afternoon. Not surprisingly, Roberto Alomar topped the list, and considering he’s the only player to dawn a Blue Jays cap in the Hall of Fame, it would stand to reason that he earned that spot.
The list was made up of the opinions and consensus of: Kevin Barker; Jeff Blair; Stephen Brunt; Jamie Campbell; Tommy Craig; Shi Davidi; Jerry Howarth; William Humber; Jonah Keri; Arash Madani; Hazel Mae; Buck Martinez; Larry Millson; Ben Nicholson-Smith; Dave Perkins; Dan Shulman; Joe Siddall; Pat Tabler; Tom Valcke; Mike Wilner; and Arden Zwelling, all notable baseball minds with some relation to the team.
To round out the top 10, Alomar was followed by Dave Stieb, Roy Halladay, Carlos Delgado, Jose Bautista, Tony Fernandez, George Bell, Joe Carter, Jimmy Key, and Josh Donaldson. For a full list and links to the entire top 40, check it out here.
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Beyond Alomar, it’s no surprise to see the names of Stieb, Halladay, Delgado, and Bautista in the top 5. especially when you look at the longevity of their contributions to the team. That certainly appeared to be a factor throughout the list, with some better players (i.e. Paul Molitor at #17), taking a back seat to John Olerud at #14. With all due respect to Olerud, Molitor is a Hall of Fame, but when you look at his short stint of three years with the Blue Jays’ compared to Olerud’s eight, the rationale makes some sense.
I’ve been a Blue Jays fan for as long as my conscious memory takes me back, and even though I’ve read through their team records many times, I was still surprised by a few of the performances among the top 40. For instance, how good was Jimmy Key?
I remember being a big fan of Key’s and even mimicking his delivery while I was growing up (I’m 33), but I honestly didn’t realize he was as good as he was in a Blue Jays’ uniform. In his nine seasons in Toronto, Key went 116-81 with a 3.51 ERA. In those 9 campaigns, he threw more than 200 innings six times, topping out at 261 in 1987, when he also finished with a 2.76 ERA and the AL ERA crown. He finished second in Cy Young voting that year, and as you can see from the above tweet, he accomplished an awful lot during his tenure.
I understand that each generation will have it’s bias about who the greatest are, but why doesn’t Jimmy Key get more of plug? Obviously he earned a high ranking at #9, but why did he pop out so much to me as the surprise of the group? Don’t get me wrong, I knew he was good, but we’re talking about a guy that is tied for the lowest starter’s ERA for the Blue Jays. That’s some serious company.
Speaking of serious company, one gander at Sportsnet’s top 10 list also reveals something else about Key, as he is the only retired Blue Jay in the group not among the “Level of Excellence” at the Rogers Centre, other than Roy Halladay. It’s expected that it’ll be a matter of time before Hallday is enshrined in Toronto as well, as his absence would be even more of a head scratcher, but there has been plenty of time to include Key. Jose Bautista has all but cemented his place there one day, and the only other absence would be Josh Donaldson, who could earn his way to the honour someday as well.
I know they have to make the cut off somewhere, but after taking another close look at his stats, it would seem that the left-hander did plenty enough in Toronto to earn a spot with the others. Maybe this exercise will bring new attention to his accomplishments, or maybe he’ll always be on the outside looking in. Either way, he was a damn good pitcher.